Phil Kessel set to tie NHL ironman streak tonight in Vegas

phil kessel
Sep 26, 2022; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Vegas Golden Knights forward Phil Kessel (8) warms up before a preseason game against the Los Angeles Kings at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Phil Kessel isn’t exactly what hockey fans envision when they hear the term ironman.

Whether that’s fair or not isn’t the question, because the photo of him eating a number of hot dogs out of the Stanley Cup in 2017 has taken on a life of its own.

“The knock on Phil is that he doesn’t work out, blah, blah, blah,” former Arizona teammate Shayne Gostisbehere said. “But when he does go in the gym, I swear to God, he has the strongest legs of anyone I’ve ever seen.

“I mean, those pictures of the hot dogs, that aura around him, it’s what the media and everyone does. They create that bubble around him. But every player that’s ever played with him knows the real Phil and that he does work hard.”

Phil Kessel set to tie iron man streak

phil kessel
Oct 13, 2022; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Vegas Golden Knights center Phil Kessel (8) looks to shoot against the Chicago Blackhawks during the second period at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Phil Kessel was in limbo for most of the summer until the Vegas Golden Knights signed the veteran forward to a one-year deal with an AAV of $1.5 million in late August.

The 35 year-old forward registered 8 goals and 52 points in 82 games last season for the struggling Arizona Coyotes. Thus far in the early stages of the 2022-23 campaign, he has just 1assist in 6 games.

Offensive struggles aside, he’s now set to tie retired defenseman Keith Yandle’s NHL record of 989 consecutive games played when Knights host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night.

“I’ve always been the guy that would rather play than sit out,” Kessel told NHL.com. “I try to play no matter what. I’m a hockey player, you know, that’s basically what I am. Just a hockey player, you know? They come in all shapes and sizes.”

Listed at 5-foot-11 and 208 pounds, it would seem Kessel is more suited for a hot-dog eating contest as opposed to the rigors of the NHL.

But he hasn’t missed a game since Oct. 31, 2009.

Kessel was asked about all the ailments he has played through.

“There were plenty of them,” he said. “But I always just said, ‘Screw it. I’ll go out there and play because I like to play.’ I’d rather be playing than sitting in the stands.”

Golden Knights coach Bruce Cassidy said there’s some luck involved in a streak of that length.

“And sometimes you’re fortunate with how you don’t put yourself in harm’s way when you know some guys get hurt being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Cassidy said. “They turn and bump into somebody. Phil’s been pretty good at avoiding those.

“At the same time, what he’s on the cusp of doing, full credit to him.”

The Golden Knights are coming off a 3-2 loss to visiting Colorado on Saturday looking to bounce back against the Leafs. It should be a great game with a bit of history adding to the drama.

“I’ve had so many great teammates, won a couple of Cups,” Kessel concluded. “I’ve done OK, don’t you think?”

The only question I have is if he’ll celebrate with a hot dog after the game? It would be fitting.

–Field Level Media contributed to this article