In his time with the Pittsburgh Penguins, there was always one thing always evident about Phil Kessel, he loved the game. The love of the game led Kessel to two Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017 and has now put him in sole possession of the NHL's Ironman record.
Kessel tied Keith Yandle's 989 consecutive games streak on Monday night against his former team, the Toronto Maple Leafs. Last night, Kessel catapulted himself into sole possession of the NHL's Ironman Streak, playing in his 990th consecutive game between 2009 and 2022.
The streak began for Kessel on November 3, 2009, when he made his Maple Leafs debut in a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Kessel finished that night with no points on ten shots on goal.
He played in Toronto for six seasons, playing in 446 consecutive games before being traded to the Penguins in the summer of 2015. Kessel joined the Penguins during a turbulent time in the Sidney Crosby era.
Pittsburgh was one season removed from cleaning house in their front office and coaching staff and only a few months removed from barely making the NHL postseason.
Kessel took his game to another level when he arrived in Pittsburgh, shedding the shoot first stigma surrounding him and becoming a true playmaker for the Penguins. Kessel's play in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs alongside Carl Hagelin and Nick Bonino put him in serious consideration for the Conn Smythe Trophy but was ultimately outbid by Crosby.
Nonetheless, Kessel's 22 points, including 10 goals, played an integral role in the Penguins capturing their fourth Stanley Cup in franchise history and the first of Kessel's career. He followed that up with a 23-point performance in 2017 postseason playing next to Evgeni Malkin.
Throughout his four seasons with the Penguins Kessel played in 328 games, scoring 303 points and becoming a fan favorite in the city of Pittsburgh. His lighthearted and jovial manner endeared him to both fans and teammates alike. Kessel was ultimately traded to the Arizona Coyotes during the summer of 2019 in exchange for Alex Galchenyuk and P.O. Joseph.
He went on to play 208 games in three seasons with the Coyotes before departing for Vegas on a one-year contract this past summer. Kessel's impressive durability and skillset have kept him in various lineups for over a decade, and now he will take over a record that stood for 33 years before Keith Yandle passed Doug Jarvis last season.
To play 990 consecutive games there are going to be a few close calls. Last season, Kessel played a 30-second shift at the start of a game against the Detroit Red Wings before departing the arena and catching a private jet back to Arizona for the birth of his daughter Kapri Mary Kessel. Kessel played in the following game against the Maple Leafs just two days later.
Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Brent Burns has the second-longest active streak at 685 games, but no other players are currently past the 500-game mark. Phil 'the Thrill' is one of the most universally liked players of this generation. And now he will be known as the league's Ironman.
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