Flyers defenceman Keith Yandle made it official Tuesday evening on Long Island against the New York Islanders. He’s playing in his 965th consecutive NHL game, bumping Vancouver Canucks executive Doug Jarvis off the top of the Iron Man list. Yandle’s streak started March 26th, 2009.
((This story on Vancouver Canucks Senior Advisor Doug Jarvis and his NHL Iron Man streak was first published on October 6, 2021. The history hasn’t changed – A brief Keith Yandle interview from his visit to play the Vancouver Canucks earlier this season is click-able just above))
You’re inevitably going to be hearing his name a lot this season, and he works for the Vancouver Canucks. It’s Senior Advisor Doug Jarvis, or as the late, great Montreal Canadiens and Hockey Night in Canada play-by-play man Danny Gallivan used to say it, “Dougie JAR-vis”, when Jarvis would let a shot go.
He’s considered one of the greatest face-off men in league history, yet he’s most famous for his NHL “Iron Man” streak of 964 consecutive games played. His career and his streak came to an end back in 1987 and while it’s somewhat remarkable that it’s held up this long, it appears there’s a very strong likelihood his record will finally be surpassed this season.
“I think it’s great, It’s exciting, that someone will be able to play that many consecutive games,” Jarvis said before the Vancouver Canucks preseason game in Spokane. “I don’t mind at all.”
Keith Yandle, the 35-year-old defenceman recently acquired by the Philadelphia Flyers, is closing in fast at 922 straight games. It he’s able to play every game from the start of the regular season, Yandle would tie the record on January 17, 2022 on Long Island and break it the very next night at home against the Detroit Red Wings.
42-year-old forward Patrick Marleau was also within shouting distance of the record at 910 consecutive games, but he remains an unrestricted free agent and retirement appears on the horizon. He did manage to surpass Gordie Howe’s record for all-time NHL games played this past April, but had just nine points in 56 games last season for the now-rebuilding San Jose Sharks.
The third somewhat immediate threat to pass Jarvis is Phil Kessel. Kessel is at 900 consecutive games and has one season remaining on his contract with the Arizona Coyotes. Given that the 34-year-old has managed to play hockey mostly without the element of physical contact his entire career, the sniper would pass Jarvis sometime this season after the Winter Olympic break.
Unlike the three aforementioned players chasing him, Jarvis never missed a game in his NHL career. Where the others started their streaks mid-career, Jarvis went from beginning to end without missing a match. His head coach in Montreal when he arrived in 1975 was Scotty Bowman.
“We started playing him in some preseason games, and (Habs General Manager) Sam Pollock had him ticketed for our Nova Scotia team (AHL), because we were pretty strong at centre,” Bowman recalls. “But we kept playing him, and it was a little bit of a break because Jacques Lemaire got injured and wasn’t going to be able to start the season, and so we kept Dougie. We started him, and he was so good on face-offs, and he played a lot with his teammate from Peterborough (Pete’s of the OHL), Bob Gainey. Gainey was drafted two years earlier in 1973.”
Jarvis was actually drafted in the summer of 1975 in the 2nd-round by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“I think the reason we didn’t draft him was because we had a lot of young players and Sam Pollock felt if we drafted Jarvis he would probably sign with Houston (the team that also drafted him from the upstart league – the World Hockey Association, or WHA),” Bowman said.
But Jarvis’s face-off reputation proceeded him and the Canadiens made a deal with Toronto soon after the draft.
“Summer of 1975 I went to a coaching seminar in Winnipeg,” Bowman remembers, “and I met Roger Neilson there. Roger had been coaching Jarvis in Peterborough. I met him at this clinic and we were talking about hockey, and we were talking about face-offs and Roger says ‘I’ve got the best face-off man in hockey’. And I said ‘you mean in junior’, and he said ‘no, no, I’ll put him up against anybody’. That’s something I remember, Roger telling me that, and it factored in Montreal getting him from Toronto.”
“I felt blessed to make the hockey team,” Jarvis said, “and to be a part of such an amazing group.
Jarvis began his career at the Forum in Montreal against the Los Angeles Kings on October 8, 1975. The Canadiens won the game 9-0 and Jarvis had two assists. Four consecutive Stanley Cups and seven seasons later he was traded to the Washington Capitals. During his fourth season in DC Jarvis was traded to the Hartford Whalers where his NHL career ended after a game on October 10th, 1987, a 6-2 loss at home to the New York Rangers. Jack Evans was the head coach who decided to sit him. Jarvis then finished his pro career with 24 games in the American Hockey League.
“He was a smart player,” Bowman added. “He had a high IQ, that’s why with his size, he’s not a big guy, he played against all of the best, always against Jean Ratelle, who was a hell of a centreman. Always against the other team’s top centres. New York it was (Phil) Esposito, Bobby Clarke in Philly.”
“The big thing on his face-offs was he was our number-one penalty killer,” Bowman added. “He and Bob Gainey killed all our penalties, they were first off the hopper. Face-offs have always been crucial, now more than ever, and they’ve always been important on specialty teams. They had so many plays between them, I don’t know their numbers (stat’s) but they were exceptional at killing penalties.”
He has the championship rings, he has a great appreciation for an amazing career, and for at least a little while longer, Jarvis has one of the NHL’s most monumental records.
“I was fortunate to play for that team and I was fortunate to stay healthy,” Jarvis said. “There’s luck involved with things like this, and I wish these other guys all the best.”
Jarvis has been a coach and then an executive with the Vancouver Canucks since 2016.