ELMONT, N.Y. -- Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Keith Yandle became the NHL's new "Iron Man" on Tuesday night, skating in his 965th consecutive regular-season game to break Doug Jarvis's all-time record.
Yandle, 35, set the record when the puck was dropped for the opening faceoff against the New York Islanders. According to the NHL, all he needed to do was take one shift for the appearance to be official. After the opening faceoff, he tapped his stick once on the ice and skated back to defend the Flyers' goal.
"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, a 4-3 Flyers loss. "To be a part of the NHL and the NHL family for the last 16 years has been more than a dream come true."
Yandle had tied Jarvis's record of 964 straight games in the Flyers' loss to the Dallas Stars in Philadelphia on Monday night.
Yandle's streak began in his third NHL season, on March 26, 2009. For his career, Yandle has now played in 1,075 games with the Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes, New York Rangers, Florida Panthers and the Flyers, who signed him as a free agent last offseason.
"We all said our congratulations. It's such an accomplishment," said Flyers winger Travis Konecny. "He deserves every bit of praise that he's going to get. Our coach [Mike Yeo] nailed it before the game: It shows how much he loves the game. What an opportunity for us to be a part of this."
Jarvis, a forward, didn't miss a regular-season game from his NHL debut on Oct. 8, 1975, with the Montreal Canadiens through the end of the streak on Oct. 10, 1987, with the Hartford Whalers. He officially set the record on Dec. 26, 1986, when he played in his 915th straight game to pass Gary Unger's benchmark.
With 12:36 left in the first period, the Islanders PA announcer told the crowd that Yandle had just set the record for consecutive regular-season NHL games. Fans applauded and cheered, about half of them standing to celebrate the achievement of a visiting player. Yandle skated out from the Flyers bench and raised his stick to acknowledge the ovation, which included many members of the Boston native's family.
"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."
There were close calls along the way. The streak was threatened when the Panthers considered making him a healthy scratch at the start of last season. Yandle had several teeth knocked out in a November 2019 game and required extensive dental work but returned that same night wearing a full-face cage and then played the following afternoon.
"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.
Despite hundreds of NHL players missing time in the last two seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Yandle never missing a game because of league protocols, either.
The veteran defenseman has 13 points in 43 games this season for the Flyers. His 15:04 time on ice per game is his lowest since the 2007-08 season with the Coyotes.
While Yandle owns the "Iron Man" record, there's another player with an active streak right behind him: Arizona Coyotes winger Phil Kessel, 34, who played in his 941st consecutive game on Tuesday night in Pittsburgh. His streak started on Nov. 3, 2009.
It was a bittersweet night for the Flyers, as they regrettably saw another record broken: The loss to the Islanders was their 13th straight game without a victory, setting a new franchise benchmark.
"I don't know what the percentages are for guys who have played this many games. But in a row? It's unbelievable," said forward Gerry Mayhew, who was wearing a T-shirt commemorating Yandle's record that was given to the Flyers players.
"Kudos to him. It sucks that we couldn't win, but that's a great achievement."