Oct 26, 2022 - Sports

The NHL has a new Iron Man

Phil Kessel

Photo: Kavin Mistry/NHLI via Getty Images

Golden Knights winger Phil Kessel, 35, played in his 990th consecutive game on Tuesday night — and scored his 400th career goal — surpassing Keith Yandle to become the NHL's new "Iron Man."

The big picture: The way Kessel's career began in 2006 — with a testicular cancer diagnosis just 27 games into his rookie year with the Bruins — perhaps foretold such an accomplishment as he missed just one month after undergoing surgery.

  • Three years later, in his first of six seasons with the Maple Leafs, his historic streak began.
  • It has spanned 14 seasons, four teams (Toronto, Pittsburgh, Arizona, Vegas), two Stanley Cups and 833 points, the 10th-most among players in that time.

What they're saying: Kessel has consistently stayed on the ice by, among other things, simply avoiding contact. "The funny stat I see every year is that he's the least-hit guy in the league," former Bruins teammate Marc Savard told The Score.

Zoom out: Kessel is the only active player among the "Big Four" to hold his league's all-time Iron Man streak. (All records include regular-season games only.)

  • MLB: Cal Ripken Jr. played in 2,632 straight games 1982–98. (Active leader: Braves 1B Matt Olson, 296 games)
  • NFL: Brett Favre started 297 straight games 1992–2010. (Active leader: Falcons OT Jake Matthews, 134 starts)
  • NBA: A.C. Green played in 1,192 straight games 1986–2001. (Active leader: Suns F Mikal Bridges, 313 games)

Looking ahead: Hurricanes defenseman Brent Burns (685) is the only other NHL player with an active streak exceeding 500 games. Even if Kessel's streak ended tomorrow, Burns wouldn't catch him for nearly four seasons.

Top five:

  1. Kessel: 990 games (2009–present)
  2. Yandle: 989 (2009–22)
  3. Doug Jarvis: 964 (1975–87)
  4. Garry Unger: 914 (1968–79)
  5. Patrick Marleau: 910 (2009–21)

Go deeper: The many legends of Phil Kessel (ESPN)

Go deeper