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I Am Iron Man

Imagine playing every single regular-season hockey game since March 2009, because that’s what Keith Yandle just did

January 26, 2022

2,632. That’s the number of consecutive baseball games Cal Ripken Jr. played across 17 MLB seasons. It’s perhaps the single most unbreakable record in the history of sport. But it’s baseball and, depending on what sort of crackpots you listen to, Ripken had some help from Baltimore Gas & Electric in getting there. The calculus changes considerably when the sport is hockey and the lights never mysteriously go out, and that is why what Flyers defenseman Keith Yandle accomplished on Tuesday is so damn impressive.

965 straight games spanning 12 seasons. That’s less than half the total games and five less seasons than Ripken Jr., but in some ways, it’s even more unthinkable. The physical tax is the big one, especially with Yandle logging 20,877 minutes as a defenseman throughout his record-setting streak. But also because Yandle, in the true hockey spirit, didn’t throw some big party with fireworks and cake. He just put on a new pair of gloves and got to work.

Unfortunately for Yandle, his streak coincided with another, as the Flyers dropped their franchise-record 13th straight game, falling 4-3 to the Islanders on Tuesday night. And that’s the harsh reality of being the Iron Man: You’re ordinarily on teams that suck. Good teams have depth. They shuffle their lineups. They acquire good, young talent and sunset the vets before they pass their expiration. Yandle managed to sustain his streak on a good Panthers squad last season, but was scratched during the playoffs, limiting his exploits to the regular season. These Flyers make that team look like the Y2K Red Wings.

How much more losing can Yandle stomach? How long can the Flyers waint until they turn the page? Big questions that require quick answers, but Philadelphia’s next game isn’t until Saturday. At least they both have a few days to think it over.