Dave Lowry is one of a very small group of select hockey players. He played in over 1000 NHL contests in a career that spanned 19 seasons. Not many players lasted that long. Few who reached the grand milestone had to work harder to get there than Lowry.
Lowry was drafted by Vancouver in the sixth-round in 1983. He put up big point totals - 60 goals and 120 points - in his final season with the Ontario Hockey League's London Knights. But Lowry survived in the NHL by bringing his work boots and working as role player in 19 seasons with Vancouver, St. Louis, Florida, San Jose and Calgary.
"Dave Lowry is the ultimate kid who took his lunch pail to the rink every day. Some days the lunch pail was more full than others but one thing you knew was that at the end of the day, it was empty," said Brian Skrudland, a teammate in Florida.
"He might be one of last true warriors," continued Skrudland, adding that Lowry was "a guy who had the opportunity of playing in the '80s, '90s and now -- three decades of hockey. The game passed a lot of people by because of their skating. Well, it didn't pass Dave by because he was always a good skater. There was a time in the '80s when the game may have passed a lot of people by physically but it didn't pass Dave Lowry by physically. Skill-wise, he's always had it."
"I was fortunate that early on in my career I was told how I was going to have to play if I was going to be successful or if I was to have any hope of staying in the league," says Lowry, who totalled 164 goals, 187 assists and 351 points. "Some guys can adapt, some guys want to continue to be offensive players. They basically told me you're going to check but you're going to have to provide some offence. "
In fact the Canucks gave up on Lowry too soon because all he focussed on early in his career was defense.
"They said: 'You know what? Right now, you're a one-dimensional player. You're totally focusing on defence and if you're going to be successful, you have to chip in on the offensive side as well,' " said Lowry. "That made me expand my game a little bit."
Lowry's game flourished after a trade to St. Louis. He put together a pair of 19-goal seasons and gained great appreciation for his role.
"Everybody wants to be a scorer," acknowledges Lowry. "There's a lot of satisfaction in being an offensive player but I think what really helped me were my years in St. Louis. Brett Hull was scoring all those goals, Adam Oates was setting him up but we were on a team where the role of checker was just as important. You realized it took all kids of different players to make a team work."
That appreciation followed Lowry everywhere he went throughout the rest of his NHL career.
"He's just a good, honest hockey player," said Flames goalie Mike Vernon. "He's a positive guy in the dressing room and that's why he wears the C. He may not score a lot of goals, but he does a lot of the little things right."
"There could be a thousand guys in the NHL but how many are true leaders?" wondered Wendell Young. "Dave is a true leader. He's got the great mindset, the great personality ... he knows how to treat people and people respect him for the way he is. It's tough to find somebody who doesn't like Dave Lowry."
Lowry's biggest moment in the spotlight came in the 1996 playoffs with the Stanley Cup playoffs when his Florida Panthers went on an unexpected run to the Stanley Cup finals and Lowry played a huge role. And Lowry owes it all to country star Garth Brooks, or at least that's how Brooks might tell the story.
In the spring of 1996 Brooks wore Lowry's jersey for the entire concert in Miami. Lowry was in attendance as a special guest of Brooks. Lowry scored a goal the next night. He finished the playoffs with a team-leading 10!