Call it a fluke, miracle, or whatever you desire. None of that will change the fact that Phil Kessel is about to set a new iron man streak in the NHL.
Kessel, who has never been known as much of a physical specimen, is slated to play in his 990th consecutive NHL game tonight. Assuming he is able to do so, he will pass recently retired defenseman Keith Yandle’s streak of 989, a record in which he was able to set himself just a season ago.
This feat from Kessel is a ridiculously impressive one for anyone, though perhaps even more so that it is him doing so. Over the years, plenty has been made of the veteran forward’s poor conditioning, along with his (alleged) poor diet. He himself has even poked fun at some of the stories, choosing to eat hot dogs out of the Stanley Cup after the Pittsburgh Penguins’ championship in 2017.
That said, those close to Kessel have commented that despite his overall look, there are few that possess the strength he does. On top of that, while he may not look the most conditioned, he is said to be in the gym much more than given credit for. Never one to make things about himself, however, Kessel tried to deflect attention from himself when speaking to media after a Monday night victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“No, going in and just another game, right? Obviously it’s not, but I’ll just go out and have fun,” Kessel told reporters.
He can downplay things all he wants, but the fact of the matter is this is very much a big deal. Very few NHL players are able to have the privilege of suiting up for 990 games in their career, and none, until tonight, have done so consecutively.
To put into perspective just how impressive of an accolade this is, prior to Yandle setting the temporary record last season, Doug Jarvis held the record before with 964 consecutive appearances. The now 67-year-old Jarvis held it for far longer than Yandle, however, as his 964th appearance came back on Oct. 10, 1987.
The good news for Kessel as far as history is concerned is that he will hold onto this record for what looks to be a very long time. The closest active player to him right now is Brent Burns, who has suited up for 685 games. It isn’t likely that he gets anywhere near Kessel’s record given that he is already 37-years-old. On top of that, the Golden Knights forward’s current streak could continue to go on for some time. Each and every game he hits the ice moving forward will continue to break an NHL record. What a fun story for what is looking like a very good 2022-23 season for the Golden Knights.
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