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Philadelphia Flyers' Keith Yandle cherishes Bobby Orr’s advice as NHL ironman record nears

USA TODAY
USA TODAY
 2022-01-24

In a discussion about injuries, someone once told Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Keith Yandle: “If you can skate, you can play.’’

That guy went by the name of Bobby Orr.

Yandle, who tied the NHL’s consecutive games played streak Monday night against the Dallas Stars and can break it a night later in a game at the New York Islanders, took Orr’s advice to heart.

He now has played in 964 consecutive games to tie Doug Jarvis’ record and can eclipse it Tuesday.

The 35-year-old Yandle, who joined the Flyers as a free agent last summer, never makes a big deal out of the upcoming achievement. He loves the game of hockey and if there’s a game to be played, why miss it?

He has had some brutally harsh injuries, but managed to get through all of them.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=2hT5xr_0du2DH4x00
Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Keith Yandle is poised to break Doug Jarvis' NHL ironman record. Derik Hamilton, AP

Making the milestone even more impressive is that he’s one of only two defensemen – a black-and-blue position by trade – on the top 10 list of all-time ironman players.

“It’s kind of the way hockey players are built, you try to play through as much pain as you can,’’ Yandle said via media Zoom call after Sunday’s practice at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, New Jersey. “I don’t think there’s many guys through the season who feel 100 percent. There have been times when I haven’t felt great. It was tough sledding, but you just try to battle through it.’’

No word on whether Major League Baseball's ironman Cal Ripken Jr. has called in yet, but no doubt Yandle probably will receive one or two “Cal Ripken of hockey’’ references.

That considered, Yandle is still trying to downplay the significance of playing more than a decade of hockey night after night.

“I’m trying not to think about it too much,’’ he said. “I’m just trying to focus on one day at a time. Focus on what you’re going to do for that day. That’s just kind of the way I’m wired.’’

Yandle once suffered a broken jaw and had to wear a full cage to protect his face. Perhaps some doubt creeped in, but that’s when Hall of Famer Orr spoke up.

“He came to that game in Florida,’’ Yandle recalled. “When it’s a legend like that saying it to you, you have to step up and play.’’

It wouldn’t be a sports story in 2022 without mentioning the perils of COVID-19. Yandle rooms with forward Kevin Hayes, who has already tested positive. Also, defenseman Ivan Provorov recently had his ironman streak of 403 games ended by the virus.

“It’s just the times we’re living in,’’ Yandle said. “It’s stressful for everyone. ... You don’t want anyone to miss games because of that. I just try to say safe and do my part.’’

Throughout his career in stops such as Arizona, the New York Rangers and Florida, there was always the possibility of becoming a healthy scratch. In fact, that’s how Jarvis’ streak ended with the Hartford Whalers. But it never happened to Yandle. And he never went to a coach and asked for special consideration.

“That’s not my job,’’ he said. “Every guy wants to play in every game. I’ve never been a guy to mention it (the streak) to a coach. Not one player is bigger than the team. I just hope to be in the lineup every day and help my team.’’

The streak started on March 26, 2009, when Yandle played for the Coyotes. Then-coach Wayne Gretzky had scratched him the previous game. Little did anyone know, no one would do that again for the better part of 13 years.

Is there a secret to this consistency beyond having a high pain threshold?

“Just a love for the game and having fun,’’ Yandle said. “At the end of the day, we’re all playing a game we all have dreams of playing growing up. I remember Ray Whitney saying to me: ‘As long as there’s an NHL symbol on your jersey, that means you’re having a good day.’ I don’t take that for granted.’’

Interim head coach Mike Yeo indicated Yandle’s consistency has been inspirational.

“It’s an incredible streak,’’ Yeo said. “Any time you’re part of anything historic and you’re doing it at the highest level is an incredible accomplishment. He wants to play. You have to play through injuries and there’s no way you play that many games without injuries that are painful. It takes an awful lot of professionalism and it’s an amazing accomplishment.’’

This article originally appeared on Bucks County Courier Times: Philadelphia Flyers' Keith Yandle cherishes Bobby Orr’s advice as NHL ironman record nears

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