On Monday night, Keith Yandle tied an NHL record which has stood for 35 years as he played in his 964th consecutive game.
Yandle tied Doug Jarvis who played 964 straight games from 1975-87. He will take the record as his own tonight against the host New York Islanders.
The former Florida Panthers defenseman has not missed a game since 2009 when he played for the Phoenix Coyotes.
Yes, Keith Yandle will finally become the NHL Iron Man.
It has been a long and winding road, one that took him from the Arizona desert to New York City then South Florida and now Philadelphia.
Of Yandle’s 964 consecutive games played, 371 came while he was with the Panthers.
“An incredible accomplishment,’’ Flyers coach Mike Yeo said after a 3-1 loss to the visiting Stars to run their winless streak to 12 games.
“No. 1, you have to love the game and battle through sickness and injuries. I thought he played a hell of a game tonight.”
Over the past few years, Yandle has downplayed the importance of the record as he moved closer and closer to it.
Last summer, the Panthers bought out the final two years of the seven-year, $44.5 million contract he signed with the team in 2016. That move saved the Panthers some real cash and gave them some salary cap room to make some offseason moves.
The Panthers had $2.3 million deducted off this season’s salary cap due to the buyout, $5.4 million next season and $1.2 million in the two seasons after that.
Yandle quickly signed a discount deal with the Philadelphia Flyers.
The streak continued even as Yandle said in training camp that he was simply “lucky enough to play one game in the NHL.
“It is truly a blessing to put on a sweater every night,’’ Yandle continued. “I thank my lucky stars every day that I am able to play in the NHL.”
The streak almost came to an end last season when the Panthers appeared ready to scratch him for the season opener against Chicago.
A last-minute change of heart — rumored to have been started with a meeting between a number of his teammates and Florida management — had Yandle back in the lineup where he played all 56 regular-season games.
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) December 7, 2021
Yandle was scratched for a few games in the playoffs, but those did not count against his Iron Man streak.
“It’s incredible, truly incredible,’’ Aaron Ekblad, one of Yandle’s closest friends on the Panthers, said before Yandle played in his 1,000th NHL game last season.
“We have had some great memories together here since he started playing here. Hopefully we can keep him going and hopefully he can play 1,500 games.
“We love the guy here in this room and we’re happy to see him do it, no doubt.’’
Yandle has said in the past his work ethic and want to be on the ice for not only each game but each practice come from his parents.
They never called in sick, Yandle said, so it is not something he would think of doing either.
“I want to be in the lineup and help my team my win,” Yandle said.
“My parents went to work every single day and never complained about anything.
“If they were sick or hurting a little bit, they went to work. That showed me, my brother and sister the right way to do things.
“There have been a few times where the decision to play came down to game time, but when it came down to it, I decided to grind it out.”
The streak almost came to an end in 2018 when Yandle took a shot off the face at PNC Arena in a game against the Hurricanes.
The puck did some damage, leading to intense dental work and oral surgery both at the arena and upon the team’s return to Fort Lauderdale.
After being struck in the face, a hunched-over Yandle skated to the door closest to the locker room leaving a trail of blood and teeth on the ice.
Yandle missed the entire second period as he was worked on by the Carolina team dentist.
Yet when the third started, Yandle was on the ice — wearing a full cage on his helmet. He played eight shifts that period.
“I was surprised to see him come back because it looked so bad,” Ekblad said at the time. “But at the same time, I was not surprised.”
The Panthers had a game the following night against Buffalo and Yandle spent much of his pregame preparation back in a dentist’s chair in Boca Raton.
He played that game as well.
“What he has gone through over the past 24 hours is pretty remarkable,’’ Joel Quenneville said.
A few days ago, Yandle said the voice which kept ringing inside his head — and led to his decision to play against Buffalo despite spending most of the day at the dentist and having his jaw wired shut — came from Hall of Famer Bobby Orr.
“He said, ‘If you can skate, you can play,’ ” Yandle recalled.
“So it was kind of one of those things. When a legend like that is saying it to you, you’ve got to suck it up and play.”
Even if he couldn’t talk so well, Yandle played on.
In that game against the Sabres, the night after busting up his face, Yandle played a game-high 23:38.
After the game, he declined a reporter’s interview request.
Yandle asked if I would mind doing it via text message.
“I didn’t get one minute of sleep,” Yandle texted after that game. “The teeth were hurting a lot today.”
As for the Iron Man streak, while Jarvis held onto it for a long time, Yandle may not.
One of these days, it is going to end and Phil Kessel is just 24 games behind him.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT WINNIPEG JETS
- When: Tuesday, 9 p.m.
- Where: Canada Life Center; Winnipeg, MB
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM, SiriusXM
- Last season: Did not play
- All-time regular season series: Winnipeg/Atlanta Thrashers lead 50-29-8, 5 ties