Alex Delvecchio: The NHL’s True Ironman?

alex delvecchio detroit red wings 1968-69 o-pee-chee nhl hockey card

It was that little bit of info on the back of Alex Delvecchio’s 1968-69 O-Pee-Chee NHL hockey card that started the cogs in my brain moving a bit faster. “Alex has missed just two games in the last 11 years.”

Just two games in eleven years! Those two were during the 1964-65 season. Give Delvecchio back those two games and that’s a 770 game streak between 1954-55 and 1967-68. Depending on when he missed his single game in 1953-54 and when he missed his pair of games in 1968-69, that number could be a fair bit higher.

Consider that most of that was done in the days of just a 70 game schedule. Consider that most of that was done without the medical and training staff of today’s hockey teams. That’s simply quite impressive. As it stands, Alex’s 548 consecutive streak ranks him among the best all-time.

Comparing Apples And Oranges

So, how do you compare Alex Delvecchio to the record holder Doug Jarvis or the previous ironman Garry Unger or even the number three man Steve Larmer? Let’s look at the percentages.

If we take a crude look at it, using number of games played versus potential games that could have been played considering the number of seasons in action, it gets interesting.

Delvecchio played in 1,550 of a potential 1,728 regular season NHL games. That equates to 89.7%. Doug Jarvis comes in at 92.7%. Garry Unger falls back at 87.8% and Steve Larmer is just behind at 85.5%.

But, calling the 1950-51 and 1973-74 seasons full seasons for Alex is simply not right. He appeared in one game in 1950-51 while still a junior. He appeared in just eleven games in his final season with the Detroit Red Wings.

The same goes for Garry Unger who played just 28 games in his first season in the NHL and just 16 in his final campaign. Steve Larmer appeared in four games while still a junior in 1980-81 and three games the following year while mostly playing in the AHL. Doug Jarvis jumped right out the gate and played a full 80 games in his rookie season. He appeared in just the first two games of the 1987-88 season before retiring.

With Delvecchio, if you take away the first and last seasons, he played in 97.3% of potential games. Unger follows fairly closely at 96.1% when you take away 1967-68 and 1982-83. With Larmer, if you get rid of 1980-81 and 1981-82, he jumps up at 98.3%.

Then, there’s Doug Jarvis. The only reason I still try and give Delvecchio credit as the true ironman is the longevity factor. 1,550 games during a career when teams mostly played just 70 games per season is incredible. But, Doug’s steak is legendary.

What Still Makes Jarvis The Undisputed Ironman

Doug Jarvis jumped right from a stellar junior career to crack the powerful Montreal Canadiens lineup in 1975-76. An amazing feat, considering the depth of a squad about to go on a four year tear through the NHL. But, not only did he crack the lineup, he played in all 80 games.

Jarvis played in every game through the 1986-87 season. In 1987-88, he played the first two games of the season for the Whalers before ending the streak and his career. In 1985-86, he took it a step further, appearing in two extra games after a trade from the Capitals to the Whalers came with a scheduling imbalance. Meaning, if you take away his last season, Doug played in OVER 100% of his potential games.

The Streaks

Doug Jarvis – 964

Garry Unger – 914

Steve Larmer – 884

Alex Delvecchio – 548

More On These Players

Alex Delvecchio

alex delvecchio detroit red wings 1962-63 parkhurst nhl hockey card

Alex Delvecchio played in the National Hockey League from 1950-51 to 1973-74, all with the Detroit Red Wings. Over 1,550 regular season games, he scored 456 goals and assisted on 825 for 1,281 points. In 121 Stanley Cup playoff games, he added 35 goals and 69 assists for 104 points.

The Detroit team captain from 1962-63 to 1972-73 helped the club to three Stanley Cup championships. He was twice a Second Team All-Star and three times won the Lady Byng Trophy.

Delvecchio’s number 10 was retired by the Red Wings in 1991. In 1977, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

In what is a common thread between these four players, Alex was a standout in the OHL (OHA Junior A at the time). With the Oshawa Generals in 1950-51, he scored 49 goals and assisted on 72 for 121 points in just 54 regular season games. He also appeared in his first NHL game that season.

Alex Delvecchio Career Stats

SeasonTeamLgeGPGAPtsPIM
1950-51Oshawa GeneralsOHA54497212136
1950-51Detroit Red WingsNHL10000
1951-52Indianapolis CapitalsAHL63694
1951-52Detroit Red WingsNHL6515223722
1952-53Detroit Red WingsNHL7016435928
1953-54Detroit Red WingsNHL6911182934
1954-55Detroit Red WingsNHL7017314837
1955-56Detroit Red WingsNHL7025265124
1956-57Detroit Red WingsNHL481625418
1957-58Detroit Red WingsNHL7021385922
1958-59Detroit Red WingsNHL701935546
1959-60Detroit Red WingsNHL701928478
1960-61Detroit Red WingsNHL7027356226
1961-62Detroit Red WingsNHL7026436918
1962-63Detroit Red WingsNHL702044648
1963-64Detroit Red WingsNHL7023305311
1964-65Detroit Red WingsNHL6825426716
1965-66Detroit Red WingsNHL7031386916
1966-67Detroit Red WingsNHL7017385510
1967-68Detroit Red WingsNHL7422487014
1968-69Detroit Red WingsNHL722558838
1969-70Detroit Red WingsNHL7321476824
1970-71Detroit Red WingsNHL772134556
1971-72Detroit Red WingsNHL7520456522
1972-73Detroit Red WingsNHL7718537113
1973-74Detroit Red WingsNHL111452
_NHL Totals_15504568251281383

Garry Unger

garry unger rookie card 1968-69 o-pee-chee detroit red wings

Garry Unger played in the NHL from 1967-68 to 1982-83 with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues, Atlanta Flames, Los Angeles Kings and Edmonton Oilers. Over that time, he scored 413 goals and assisted on 391 for 804 points in 1,105 regular season games. In 52 playoff games, he added 12 goals and 18 assists.

Unger was team captain for the Blues in 1976-77. He starred in junior with the London Nationals (later to become the London Knights). In 1966-67, he scored 38 and assisted on 35 for 73 points in 48 games.

Garry Unger Career Stats

SeasonTeamLgeGPGAPtsPIM
1966-67Rochester AmericansAHL10000
1966-67London NationalsOHA4838357360
1966-67Tulsa OilersCPHL22022
1967-68London NationalsOHA24152
1967-68Tulsa OilersCPHL93586
1967-68Rochester AmericansAHL51346
1967-68Toronto Maple LeafsNHL151124
1967-68Detroit Red WingsNHL13510152
1968-69Detroit Red WingsNHL7624204433
1969-70Detroit Red WingsNHL7642246667
1970-71Detroit Red WingsNHL5113142763
1970-71St. Louis BluesNHL2815142941
1971-72St. Louis BluesNHL78363470104
1972-73St. Louis BluesNHL78413980119
1973-74St. Louis BluesNHL7833356896
1974-75St. Louis BluesNHL80364480123
1975-76St. Louis BluesNHL8039448395
1976-77St. Louis BluesNHL8030275756
1977-78St. Louis BluesNHL8032205266
1978-79St. Louis BluesNHL8030265644
1979-80Atlanta FlamesNHL7917163339
1980-81Los Angeles KingsNHL5810102040
1980-81Edmonton OilersNHL130006
1981-82Edmonton OilersNHL467132069
1982-83Edmonton OilersNHL162028
1982-83Moncton AlpinesAHL82350
1985-86Dundee RocketsBHL35864813464
1986-87Peterborough PiratesBHL309514323858
1987-88Peterborough PiratesBHL32374481116
_NHL Totals_11054133918041075

Doug Jarvis

doug jarvis montreal canadiens 1976-77 o-pee-chee nhl hockey card

Doug Jarvis played in the NHL from 1975-76 to 1987-88 with the Montreal Canadiens, Washington Capitals and Hartford Whalers. In 964 regular season games, he scored 139 and assisted on 264 for 403 points. In 105 playoff games, he added 41 points.

With Montreal, Jarvis was an integral part of their four consecutive Stanley Cup championships between 1975-76 and 1978-79. He was the recipient of the Frank J. Selke Trophy in 1983-84 as a member of the Capitals. In 1986-87, he was honoured with the Bill Masterton Trophy as a member of the Whalers.

Jarvis was also a star in the OHL. With the Peterborough Petes, he was team captain in 1973-74 and 1974-75. He broke out offensively in his final season with 45 goals and 88 assists for 133 points in 64 games.

Doug Jarvis Career Stats

SeasonTeamLgeGPGAPtsPIM
1972-73Peterborough PetesOHA6320496914
1973-74Peterborough PetesOHA7031538427
1974-75Peterborough PetesOHA69458813339
1975-76Montreal CanadiensNHL805303516
1976-77Montreal CanadiensNHL8016223814
1977-78Montreal CanadiensNHL8011283923
1978-79Montreal CanadiensNHL8010132316
1979-80Montreal CanadiensNHL8013112428
1980-81Montreal CanadiensNHL8016223834
1981-82Montreal CanadiensNHL8020284820
1982-83Washington CapitalsNHL808223010
1983-84Washington CapitalsNHL8013294212
1984-85Washington CapitalsNHL809283732
1985-86Washington CapitalsNHL2512316
1985-86Hartford WhalersNHL578162420
1986-87Hartford WhalersNHL809132220
1987-88Hartford WhalersNHL20002
1987-88Binghamton WhalersAHL245494
_NHL Totals_964139264403263

Steve Larmer

steve larmer chicago blackhawks o-pee-chee rookie card

Steve Larmer went about his borderline Hall of Fame career between 1980-81 and 1994-95 with the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers. In 1,006 regular season NHL games, Larmer scored 441 and assisted on 571 for 1,012 points. Five times, Steve topped the 40 goal plateau.

In the playoffs, he scored 56 and assisted on 75 for 131 points in 140 games. In 1993-94, he helped the New York Rangers to a Stanley Cup championship.

Larmer is one of seven Calder/Calder players in hockey history. He won the Calder Cup as AHL playoff champs in 1981-82 with the New Brunswick Hawks. The following year, 1982-83, he won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie. See the full seven here: 7 To Win Calder Cup And Calder Trophy.

Like the other three, Steve was a great junior player in the OHL. With the Niagara Falls Flyers, he totaled 114 points in 1979-80. In his final season, 1980-81, he scored 55 goals and totaled 133 points over just 61 games.

Steve Larmer Career Stats

SeasonTeamLgeGPGAPtsPIM
1977-78Peterborough PetesOHA6224174151
1978-79Niagara Falls FlyersOHA66374784108
1979-80Niagara Falls FlyersOHA67456911471
1980-81Niagara Falls FlyersOHL61557813373
1980-81Chicago BlackhawksNHL40110
1981-82New Brunswick HawksAHL7438448246
1981-82Chicago BlackhawksNHL30000
1982-83Chicago BlackhawksNHL8043479028
1983-84Chicago BlackhawksNHL8035407534
1984-85Chicago BlackhawksNHL8046408616
1985-86Chicago BlackhawksNHL8031457647
1986-87Chicago BlackhawksNHL8028568422
1987-88Chicago BlackhawksNHL8041488942
1988-89Chicago BlackhawksNHL8043448754
1989-90Chicago BlackhawksNHL8031599040
1990-91Chicago BlackhawksNHL80445710179
1991-92Chicago BlackhawksNHL8029457465
1992-93Chicago BlackhawksNHL8435357048
1993-94New York RangersNHL6821396041
1994-95New York RangersNHL4714152916
_NHL Totals_10064415711012532

Final Opinion

Final opinion. Because, that’s all it really is is opinion. What Doug Jarvis did was unthinkable. As one of the league’s top defensive forwards, the going would not have been easy, especially in the 1970’s. Doug Jarvis is the ironman and likely will be for as long as most of us are around.

However, Delvecchio played almost double the time over his career through some pretty tough times in the NHL. Alex is recognized for a lot during his career but he should also be noted as an ironman.

Unger had a great career but still going underrated is Larmer. 884 straight games. Most seasons, his goal total was in the 30’s and 40’s. A Stanley Cup championship. A Calder Cup, a Calder Trophy, Canada Cup gold, World Championship silver, a pair of NHL All-Star Game appearances and, I believe, he still holds the record for most game winning goals by a rookie.