On Sunday, one of the longest ironman streaks in sports history came to an end. St. Louis Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester didn’t suit up for his team’s 4-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets due to an undisclosed “lower body injury.” It was the first time he had missed a game in a decade—a span in which he played a whopping 737 consecutive regular season games.
That is actually insane when you think about it. The last time this guy missed a game, George W. Bush was president, the Pittsburgh Penguins were the worst team in hockey , and nobody had even heard of Justin Bieber.
Cal Ripken’s ironman streak was impressive for it’s longevity. It took 12 years to break Lou Gehrig’s record, then he went another three years without missing a game, bringing the grand total to 15 years. Moreover, in baseball you play six days a week, meaning there is no time to recover from minor bumps and bruises.
All that said, Cal Ripken didn’t have to block 100-mph slapshots with his feet on a nightly basis. (Seriously, last year Bouwmeester blocked 106 shots.) He didn’t have to get stitches to his face because guys slashed him with hockey sticks, and he didn’t withstand 200-pound guys crashing into him elbows first at 20 mph. Jay Bouwmeester did. And he still played 737 straight hockey games.
So where does his streak rank on the list of longest ironman streaks in NHL history? Take a look at the list to see for yourself.
Mark Recchi missed a couple of games at the start of the 1991-92 season, which he started in Pittsburgh and finished in Philadelphia. Then he didn't miss another game until Saturday, December 12, 1998, when he was playing for the Montreal Canadiens. At the time, that stretch of 570 straight games was the eight longest in NHL history.
Of course, Recchi would eventually prove to be an ironman in another way, too. He retired immediately after winning the Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 2011, at the age of 43. He was the last player in the NHL to have played in the 1980s.
10. Mark Recchi – 570
Bill Harris got traded by the Islanders to the Los Angeles Kings on March 10, 1980, a few months before they won the first of their four consecutive Stanley Cups. So while he helped the Islanders go from expansion franchise to juggernaut, he would retire without ever getting his name on Lord Stanley's chalice.
But hey, he did play 576 straight games. That's something, right?
9. Billy Harris – 576
Red Wings legend Johnny Wilson played 580 straight games from the 1951-52 season through the 1959-60 season. That served as the record until the next guy on the list broke it in 1963.
Interestingly, it wasn't an injury or illness that ended Wilson's streak. It was a contract dispute. The Maple Leafs had played the Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Finals the previous year, and during that series the Leafs learned their opponents were earning a hell of a lot more money.
Forty years later, Wilson said he still had no regrets about holding out. "I would do it again," he explained to the Windsor Star.
8. Johnny Wilson – 580
Andy Hebenton played nine seasons in the NHL and never missed a game. However, his streak is actually more impressive than it looks. While he played 630s traight NHL games from 1956 and 1963, his consecutive professional games streak began in 1951 and ended in 1966. The records from that time are a little sketchy, but it's estimated that he played at least 1,000 consecutive games.
That is mind-blowing.
7. Andy Hebenton – 630
When somebody says "NHL ironman," Henrik Sedin is not the first name that comes to mind. Flopper maybe, but not ironman. However, facts are facts. From March 19, 2004, until January 21, 2014, Henrik Sedin didn't miss a game. When he finally did miss a game—as the result of a rib injury sustained after getting cross-checked by the Coyotes' Martin Hanzal—he was only six behind the next guy on the list.
6. Henrik Sedin – 679
Jay Bouwmeester's ironman streak is the fifth-longest in NHL history. Considering that pretty much everyone in the NHL is an ironman, that's pretty damn good.
His streak began on March 6, 2004, when Bouwmeester was just 21 years old and playing for the Florida Panthers. It continued throughout his stint with the Panthers, and then his stint with the Calgary Flames, and a season-and-a-half with the Blues. However, in Ottawa last Saturday, his skate blade got caught in a groove in the ice and he tweaked something, meaning he couldn't dress for the following day's game against the Jets.
We don't know the extent of this injury, but it's quite possible that if the Blues weren't playing on back-to-back days, this streak might still be going.
5. Jay Bouwmeester – 737
Craig Ramsay played his entire NHL career with the Buffalo Sabres, and he is the first player on the list to play his entire ironman streak with one team. Ramsay missed two games in 1972 -73, then he played a whopping nine straight seasons without missing a game, until the streak finally came to an end in the 1982-83 season.
That's one hell of a run.
4. Craig Ramsay
Steve Larmer began his career with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1982, and in 11 seasons he didn't miss a single game. That's 884 straight games to start his career.
However, this was around the time the Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz was destroying his team by refusing to pay his best players fair salaries. And heading into the 1993-94 season, Larmer, a five-time 40-goal scorer and nine-time 30-goal scorer, was determined to get paid more than $790,000 a year. So he threatened to hold out unless he got a raise.
The Hawks thought he was bluffing. They thought he'd never hold out when he was only 80 games away from breaking the all-time consecutive games record. But like Johnny Wilson, Larmer did hold out. In fact, he held out for three weeks until the Hawks finally traded him to the Rangers...where he reunited with Mike Keenan and won the Stanley Cup in 1994.
3. Steve Larmer – 884
Garry Unger's 914-game ironman streak began on February 24, 1968, while he was playing with the Toronto Maple Leafs. It continued for a four-season stint with the Detroit Red Wings, then his entire nine-year run with the St. Louis Blues, before finally coming to an end on December 21, 1979, during Unger's only season with the Atlanta Flames.
Interestingly, that game on December 21 was the only game Unger missed in 1979-80. If not for that one game, he would still have the longest ironman streak in NHL history.
The sad part of this story is that Unger could have played that night. He was dressed, the game was in St. Louis against Unger's old team, and the Flames won 7-3. Despite a nagging shoulder injury, Flames coach Al MccNeil could easily have given Unger a single shift at the end of regulation to keep the streak alive. But he didn't.
"He had a week to heal," MacNeil explained, "but I thought he was favoring his shoulder Friday night and didn't play well."
Unbelievable, isn't it? If this sort of thing happened today, the media would skin MacNeil alive.
2. Garry Unger – 914
At number one we have Doug Jarvis. He began his career with the Montreal Canadiens on October 8, 1975, and ended his career with the Hartford Whalers on October 10, 1988.
In that time he scored 139 goals and recorded 264 assists. And he never missed a single game.
He is the NHL's greatest ironman.
1. Doug Jarvis – 964
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