But had Jacques been selfish and didn't let longtime friend and mentor Roger Neilson coach the final games of the 2002 season, JM would have been at this milestone on Tuesday.
Sarah Rothschild had a very nice story about JM and Roger in today's Herald. Check it out here: JACQUES 1000
Talked to JM a little bit today about how much today meant to him, and basically said it was more about the Panthers getting a win (a victory over the Lightning puts the Panthers only five points back of Carolina/Islanders) tonight and about Roger's legacy in Florida and elsewhere.
People forget what a great ambasador for the game Roger Neilson was, so he was the perfect guy to start a hockey team in South Florida. Fans and players alike loved having him around, and he led the Panthers to the best season of any expansion team in league history in 1993-94.
After the Panthers fired him after two seasons (his team played for the Stanley Cup in Year 3), Neilson landed in Philadelphia before moving on to Ottawa and a job as an assistant under Martin. It could be said that Roger was the most popular assistant coach in league history. The people of Ottawa loved him, and he is still a popular figure there today. One of the legacy's Roger left behind (he passed away in 2003) is Roger's House, a children's care facility at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario.
-- Speaking of Jacques, he becomes the fourth Florida coach to reach 1,000 games. The others: Neilson (whom JM ties at 11th on the all-time list), Bryan Murray and old pal Mike Keenan.
-- The Panthers have some surprises in store of JM tonight, but nothing like this morning. Jacques' youngest daughter, Nathalee, snuck into practice and was taken to his office right after he came off the ice. When asked about the surprise, JM couldn't find the words. He truly was taken aback by it all.