What makes a legend? A magical moment? Delivering honours? Scoring a hatful of points? There are many ways you can define a legend and whilst the word itself is thrown around day in, day out you will be hard pressed to find anyone that doubts the status these five guys are given. Here we look at those who have the most consecutive appearances in NHL history.
Number 5. Patrick Marleau, 910
Kicking off our list of the players with the most consecutive NHL appearances is Patrick Marleau. Marleau’s appearance run maxed out at a mighty 910 but his NHL career total sits well beyond that at pushing 2,000 games. Of that near 2,000 appearance haul, 195 of them came in the post season; as Marleau has never lifted a Stanley Cup that gives him the not so illustrious record of the most playoff appearances without scooping the “big one”. It’s not all doom and gloom though; Marleau is a Sharks legend and is welcomed back to San Jose with open arms whenever he chooses. Oh, and the small fact he has a World Championship and Winter Olympic Gold shouldn’t be forgotten either! Marleau has recently announced his retirement and will rightly go down in the history books in spite of not having that Stanley Cup on his record.
Number 4. Garry Unger, 914
Next up we have Garry Unger who donned the colours of six different NHL sides in a 16 year career along with a couple of teams in the AHL too. Unger called it a day – at least at the elite level – way back in 1988 and, at the time, did so with his 914 unblemished appearance run as a record. One factor of Unger’s run that is crazily impressive is the fact that it spanned four different teams; that tells you just how good he was. If you still have doubts about that, you can look to his stats. He wasn’t all about just steadily racking up game time; 804 points in 1,105 games is proof of that.
Number 3. Doug Jarvis, 964
Doug Jarvis’ 964 game stretch was the NHL record until early 2022. Now, two players have surpassed him leaving him third in our list. Jarvis’ run took place across a 12 year period where he represented the Montreal Canadiens, the Washington Capitals and, for a couple of seasons, the Hartford Whalers. The fact he maintained his run across three different sides is testament to his ability and consistent performances. That said, his best spell of that appearance streak definitely came with the Canadiens; he was ever-present throughout four Stanley Cup wins.
Number 2. Phil Kessel, 982
Phil Kessel might sit in second place in the most consecutive NHL appearances list but don’t be surprised if he goes higher than this silver medal spot. Kessel’s run is still going right now with the Arizona Coyotes and, barring injury, he’ll fancy his chances of racking up plenty more games with his performance levels still reasonable if not fantastic. This season alone Kessel, who is 34-years-old, has continued to weigh in for the offense with 52 points to his name. You can’t overlook his vast experience either; not only does he hold this remarkable streak of games but he has twice won the Stanley Cup – those wins came in back to back years with the first seeing Kessel and his Penguins crew see off Marleau’s Sharks. You can’t put a price on that level of experience.
Number 1. Keith Yandle, 989
Sitting top of the pile when it comes to the most consecutive appearances in NHL history is Keith Yandle. Philadelphia Flyers man Yandle only set the record earlier this year before adding a few more games to the tally but his incredible run, which dates back to March 2009, has now ended; he was dropped by Mike Yeo against the Toronto Maple Leafs in favour of giving game time to youngsters with the Flyers season over. Sadly, it means he fell short of hitting the 1,000 game mark. Now Yandle will surely be hoping Kessel doesn’t oust him for number one quite so soon but, either way, his 989 game haul cannot be sneered at. He’ll unquestionably go down as a legend of the NHL when retirement comes his way.
Is anyone in the running to break into the top five?
Before we sign off, the question is bound to be asked about what current players are closing in on a top five spot. The answer is none of them. Kessel is hunting down Yandle’s 989 but the next active player still on a streak of consecutive appearances is Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks. His run is currently at 679 games – that’s some 231 short of fifth spot. Still, Burns finds himself in tenth place on the rankings, which is no mean feat!
There you have it, the players with the most consecutive appearances in NHL history.