Jay Bouwmeester is on the verge of reaching a very unwelcome milestone. The Flames defenseman has the longest active iron man streak, having played 598 consecutive regular season games. The key words there are ‘regular season’. You see, the other record he’s closing in on is that for the most games played without ever appearing in the postseason.
Bowmeester has appeared in 731 games, none in the playoffs.
“When people bring up you’ve played a long time and not in the playoffs, it’s not something you’re proud of and want to change it,” he told the Calgary Sun over the summer. “Every year, it’s harder and harder to watch (playoff games). This year, I didn’t watch a whole lot of the playoffs until the end, and that’s because I know a bunch of the guys on Boston and wanted to see them do well in the last series. “It sucks every year you’re not in the playoffs, and it does wear on you.”
The only player to have suited up for more regular season action is Guy Charron, who played in 734 games without a playoff appearance. Assuming Bouwmeester doesn’t miss any games, he’ll tie Charron’s record on February 24 against Phoenix and take sole ownership of his spot in the record books on February 26 in Minnesota.
Charron, a former center, had a very respectable twelve-year NHL career, scoring 221 goals and 309 assists for 530 points. He came up through the Montreal Canadiens’ organization. He was traded midway through the season to the Detroit Red Wings as part of the package that landed Frank Mahlovich. The Habs went on to win the Stanley Cup that year; the Wings finished next-to-last. In 1974, Charron was dealt to the expansion Kansas City Scouts, a team with no playoff aspirations. In his two seasons there, the Scouts finished dead last in the conference. There was only one team worse in the National Hockey League: the Washington Capitals. That’s where Charron headed next. He, apparently giving up all hope of playing hockey in April, signed as a free agent with the last-place Caps. He spent the next five seasons in Washington, occasionally helping the team out of the basement, but never making the playoffs.
Charron later spent five-years as an assistant coach behind the bench with the Flames. While he likely isn’t rooting against his former team, he’d probably be happy to get his name out of the record books.
Bouwmeester’s former Flames teammate Olli Jokinen once held this record. It took him 799 regular season games, but he finally made the postseason with Calgary in 2008-09. While it took him longer to get there, Jokinen did see postseason action. Bouwmeester joined the Flames the following season. Calgary hasn’t made the playoffs since.
The playoff bug hasn’t just affected Bouwmeester’s NHL teams either. He played junior hockey with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League (WHL). The team had missed the playoffs only four times since their inception in 1970. When Bouwmeester joined the club in 1998, they missed the playoffs the next four years. They’ve made the postseason ever year since his departure in 2002.
During the 2004-05 NHL lockout, Bouwmeester finally got to see some playoff action. He joined the AHL’s Chicago Wolves, who made it as far as the Calder Cup Finals before falling to the Philadelphia Phantoms in a four-game sweep. Bouwmeester was held scoreless in 18 games with the team.
The Next Ones?
The rest of the players hoping not to fall victim to the non-playoff curse are a few seasons behind Bouwmeester. They have a long way to go to catch him, or to break Charron’s record.
Ron Hainsey, Winnipeg Jets – 558 games
Chris Thorburn, Winnipeg Jets – 439 games
Tobias Enstrom, Winnipeg Jets – 394 games
Clarke MacArthur, Toronto Maple Leafs – 376 games
Bryan Little, Winnipeg Jets – 370 games
Mikhail Grabovski, Toronto Maple Leafs – 335 games
Nikolai Kulemin, Toronto Maple Leafs – 319 games
Interestingly, Bouwmeester’s lack of playoff performance might be one of the things keeping his ironman streak alive. The Flames defenseman has had a bit more time to recover from the rigors of the regular season. His lack of playoff appearances, though, does raise another point. Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin, the player with the second-longest games streak, has played more consecutive games in the same time thanks to the postseason. Sedin currently trails Bouwmeester, with 595 consecutive games in the regular season vs. the defenseman’s 602. When you factor in playoff games, Sedin has played an extra 71 games over that stretch, bringing his unofficial total to a devilish 666 consecutive games.
Well, Mr. Bouwmeester, the countdown is on. Just a few games to go… Remember, you can wipe the slate clean if you can find a way to get into the playoffs. Good luck, sir. May the odds be ever in your favor.