Despite the Philadelphia Flyers losing the last 13 straight games and falling even further down in the standings, National Hockey League history was made Tuesday evening as Keith Yandle broke Doug Jarvis’ ironman streak of 964 consecutive games played (GP). Yandle broke the streak as he played in his 965th consecutive NHL game dating back to March 26, 2009, when he was a member of the Phoenix Coyotes. Throughout 13 seasons, he played 448 games with the Coyotes, 103 GP with the New York Rangers, 371 GP with the Florida Panthers, and 43 GP with the Philadelphia Flyers.
“I knew my wife and kids were coming, my parents, and then to see the amount of support I had and people taking their time out of their lives to come and support me, it meant the world to me.
“It hasn’t really sunk in too much yet. It’s something I’m super grateful for, but I’m grateful for playing (even) one game in this league,” said Yandle after the game. “To be a part of the NHL and the NHL family for the last 16 years has been more than a dream come true.”
Playing 965 consecutive games in the NHL is not a small task by any means. There were many bumps and bruises along the way, but he overcame all of that to reach this accomplishment. Without the support of his family, friends, and teammates over the years, none of this would have been possible.
The Support Behind Breaking the Streak
From the beginning, Yandle has downplayed the importance of breaking the ironman streak and gives all the credit to his family, friends, and teammates. If it wasn’t for them constantly pushing him, none of this would have happened. His family and a few close friends were in the stands for the record-breaking game, so the moment was that much more meaningful.
“Them having my back throughout all of this was something that I’m very grateful for,” he said. “(The streak) was one of those things that we never really talked about. They didn’t want to jinx it, and I didn’t really want to talk about it, because nobody likes talking about themselves. Maybe now they’ll say something.”
Close friend and former NHL player, Ryan Whitney grew up playing hockey with Yandle in local rinks around Massachusetts. The pair grew close over the year to the point of considering each other family. He even went as far as painting his face in support of Whitney, a member of the Pittsburgh Penguin during a 2008 Stanley Cup Final game. (from ‘Alone on the Iron Throne,’ Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/26/2022)
“I’m just so proud of him, and it sounds kind of goofy because I’m just a good friend of his, but playing so many games in a row is just so beyond comprehension for me,” said Whitney. “In 2007-08 he was a really immature kid, probably partying a little bit too much. And he just grew up, got older, more mature, more professional, trained so hard and to do this. To break an NHL record is so awesome and for me to be a lifelong friend, I mean I think we consider each other like family, it just makes it so special to me.”
Without the support of close friends like Whitney, the journey to breaking a historic milestone becomes all the more difficult. His friends and family were there for every step along the way, including the extremely tough ones.
Close Calls Along the Way
From the handful of close calls with injuries and dodging missed time during the COVID-19 pandemic, he suited up for every single game since the streak began 13 years ago. He had teeth knocked out in one game that required serious work, but he returned that same night wearing a full-face cage.
“It’s how hockey players are built. You play through as much pain as you can. There have obviously been some times when I have not felt great, when it was tough sledding. But you try to battle through it and help out your team,” said Yandle on Sunday.
Yandle had a handful of close calls over his career, but he came back to play the next game every single time. The mental toughness this takes is the reason he is the new record holder of the ironman streak. He will have the opportunity to continue lengthening the streak as there are still 39 games remaining on the Flyers schedule. He will be able to extend the streak to 1,000 games as long as he continues to stay healthy and remains in the Flyers lineup.
Bobby Bader Jr. is a freelance journalist born and raised in Philadelphia, PA covering the Philadelphia Flyers for The Hockey Writers since the start of the 2020-21 National Hockey League Season. He currently works with the Hershey Cubs Hockey Club (USPHL Premier) as the team’s media coordinator and serves as the Assistant Sports Information Director at Penn State Harrisburg. For interview requests or to provide content info, follow Bobby on Twitter or his social media accounts. They appear under his photo in articles like this one.