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NHL: The remarkable Phil Kessel

Forward Phil Kessel played his 990th consecutive NHL game to break the NHL's ironman record held by Keith Yandle on Tuesday 25th October when the Vegas Golden Knights defeated the San Jose Sharks 4-2 at SAP Centre in San Jose.

In typical Kessel fashion, the 35-year-old celebrated the occasion by scoring his 400th regular season goal saying afterwards "it was a special night."

Passing Yandle

Defenceman Yandle's streak was broken when the Philadelphia Flyers decided it was time to look to the future and made him a healthy scratch last season after 989 straight games in the NHL.

At 36-years-old and following 16 seasons in the NHL, Yandle decided to call time on his career in the off-season while Kessel, just seven games behind his ironman streak at the time chose to sign as a free agent with the Golden Knights.

After surpassing the record and with three points (one goal, two assists) in ten games for the Golden Knights, Kessel is now on track to play in his 1,000th consecutive game against the Arizona Coyotes in Las Vegas on 17th November.

Kessel has not missed a game since 31st October 2009, when he did not play for the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Montreal Canadiens because of off-season shoulder surgery.

Storied career

After progressing through the USA Hockey National Team Development Program and the University of Minnesota, Kessel was selected fifth overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft by the Boston Bruins.

Over a 17-season career with the Bruins, Leafs, Pittsburgh Penguins, Arizona Coyotes and Golden Knights, the American winger has 959 points (400 goals, 559 assists) in 1,214 regular season games.

In 96 playoff appearances, Kessel has 81 points (34 goals, 47 assists) and played a big part in the Penguins winning the Stanley Cup back-to-back in 2016 and 2017.

He is a three-time NHL All-Star (2011, 2012, 2015) and also played in the NHL YoungStars Game in 2007.

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Kessel proved his fortitude early in his career, fighting off testicular cancer after his rookie season while continuing to play. He was awarded the 2007 Bill Masterton Trophy handed to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey.

A unique character with an untypical body for an athlete, Kessel has consistently proven his critics wrong and been backed by teammates for his hard work and abilities in the gym.

Regularly praised for his sense of humour, after winning the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh, Kessel took a shot at Toronto reporter Steve Simmons by posting a picture of himself with the Stanley Cup filled full of hotdogs and the tag "hotdogs taste better out of the cup" after Simmons wrote about his trade from Toronto to Pittsburgh:

"The hot dog vendor who parks daily at Front and John St just lost his most reliable customer. Almost every afternoon at 2:30pm, often wearing a toque, Phil Kessel would wander from his neighbourhood condominium to consume his daily snack."

After stamping his name in the NHL record books, nobody can question Kessel's commitment to the game and durability to perform at the highest level again.

He'll go down as one of the greats, and talk has already turned to whether he should be a Hall of fame contender.

International stage

Kessel hasn't just performed in the NHL but also on the International stage with Team USA. He made his senior international debut in 2006 after representing his country at all junior levels before.

In 2009/10, Kessel won a silver medal at the Olympic Games and in 2013/14 although the US finished out of the medals, he scored the most points by any player (eight), was named an All-Star and the tournaments best forward.

In total Kessel has had 33 caps for his country with 29 points (15 goals, 14 assists).


Kessel has helped the Golden Knights to an excellent 8-2-0 start to the NHL season and their 16 points tops the Pacific Division and joint-leads all teams.

The Golden Knights, +1100 to win the Stanley Cup, missed the playoffs completely last season but were hampered by injuries to several star players including Captain Mark Stone and forward Jack Eichel.

With better health, the Golden Knights expect nothing other than to contend for the cup and if they are to do so, Kessel's experience will be invaluable.

On a one-year deal with the Golden Knights, Kessel's longer-term future is unclear, but for now his focus is on reaching the 1,000 consecutive appearances and then helping to deliver a cup to Vegas for the first time, and who would bet against him?

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