Phil Kessel will make history when he takes the ice Tuesday night in San Jose, setting an NHL record by appearing in his 990th straight game. Eleventh among active players in career goals, Kessel hasn’t missed a game in almost 13 years. That was three teams and two Stanley Cups ago for the Wisconsin native, who ranks 10th among American skaters in career points (958).
There’s a certain irony in Kessel, no one’s idea of an Adonis at a portly 208 pounds (to paint a fuller picture, the 35-year-old stands 5’11” with no-pack abs and a receding hairline George Costanza would identify as following the classic “horseshoe” pattern), standing the test of time as the most durable player in a sport played by gladiators at warp speed. While the TB12 Method consists of nuts, legumes and the occasional scoop of avocado ice cream, Kessel prefers candy (Sour Patch Kids being his personal favorite) and gulping soda between periods (his distaste for water is common knowledge). Though the urban legend of Kessel visiting a Toronto hot-dog vendor every day for lunch has been debunked, the veteran forward has still derived plenty of humor from this invented anecdote, making frequent callbacks to the “scandal” (if daily frankfurter consumption qualifies as such) including after helping the Penguins to a Stanley Cup in 2017.
The two-time Olympian, now playing for the Vegas Golden Knights after a three-year tour of duty in Arizona, Kessel debuted for the Bruins in 2006, missing roughly a month of games that season while battling testicular cancer. Kessel appeared to have his 400th career goal Monday against the Maple Leafs (who he played for from 2009-15), though it was ultimately deemed offside by replay officials.
It would only be fitting if Kessel reached that milestone the same night he became the NHL’s all-time ironman, breaking the mark established by former Flyers defenseman Keith Yandle just last season. He’ll have the opportunity to accomplish both feats Tuesday at SAP Center (aka “The Shark Tank”) with coverage beginning 10:30 PM ET on ESPN.