Chris Kunitz was a midseason addition to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009. He helped “Sid the Kid” become the youngest captain to ever raise the Stanley Cup and Kunitz helped the grizzled veteran Sidney Crosby lift back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017. When the puck dropped at the United Center in Chicago, IL Thursday night Kunitz played his 1,000th NHL game.
Kunitz became the 25th active player to hit the 1,000-game mark and 335th in league history.
Kunitz, 39, will soon cap off an unlikely career. Despite an impressive senior season at Ferris State with 79 points, Kunitz was passed over at the 2003 NHL Draft. He began his career as an undrafted free agent with the Anaheim Ducks (then the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim) but struggled to stick with the club even with six assists in 21 games.
Kunitz spent nine seasons with the Penguins after he and Eric Tangradi joined the Penguins in the 2009 trade in which defenseman Ryan Whitney was sent to Anaheim. Kunitz had immediate chemistry Crosby and scored 169 career goals with the Penguins. Kunitz also wore the “A” for six seasons with the Penguins and received praise for being a great teammate and locker room guy.
One of his biggest tallies was the game-winning goal in double overtime of Game 7 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Final.
This season, Kunitz signed a one-year deal with the Blackhawks and continues to mentor young players. Alex DeBrincat credits Kunitz his second-year success and Jonathan Toews noted his leadership ability.
“He’s a great guy and a great teammate, and obviously brings leadership and experience,” Jonathan Toews told NBC Sports Chicago. “We have a young team. A couple of veterans and a lot of young guys that are really developing and showing what they can do at this level and obviously showing there’s a lot more to come down the road. I think a guy like [Kunitz], with his limited opportunity, he’s played really well when he’s gotten the chance.”
After leaving the Penguins via free agency, Kunitz signed a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Despite parting ways with the Penguins, he continued to be fan favorite and received a rousing ovation in his return to Pittsburgh.
Kunitz’ career includes stops with four NHL teams. He also represented Canada at the 2008 World Hockey Championships. He scored 7 points in 9 games, as Canada won a silver medal. In 2014, Kunitz represented Canada as an Olympian. He was a member of the gold-medal winning Team Canada.
Kunitz’s plays sparingly with the Chicago Blackhawks. Kunitz’s wife, Madison is a Chicago native. Chicago purposefully sat Kunitz last game on the road so he could break the record in front of the home crowd and his family. The Regina, SK native has one goal, and three assists in 39 games this year.
His career may be winding down, but he has made a livelihood after being overlooked and under-scouted. Kunitz turned it into a 1000 game career with four Stanley Cup rings. Not bad.
Here is his NHL totals: