Streaks come in many shapes and sizes. A good run of cards is always a thrilling experience for poker players, just as hitting a string of green lights gives a boost to the driver who is running a little late. Conversely, getting terrible cards and constantly losing on the river is frustrating and demoralizing. In professional sports, streaks can alter a team’s confidence both ways. As a winning streak emerges, a team will develop a bit of swagger. Calls seem to go their way and they get all of the bounces. Extended losing skids are often marked by a feeling of helplessness and can also threaten team unity as players and coaches start pointing fingers. In all cases, it’s just a matter of time before a streak will end.
Professional sports have seen thousands of streaks and some of them have been so incredible that they will never be surpassed. In some cases, changes in rules and the way games are played ensure that some records won’t be matched. Still, a long streak will always attract attention even if it falls shy of being record-breaking. In the 2015-16 NHL season, the Chicago Blackhawks raised excitement a couple of times as Patrick Kane went on an extended point scoring streak while his team challenged the 17 consecutive wins record. Despite neither run coming close to matching their respective records, hockey fans were watching closely and making comparisons as the streaks grew.
The 17-game winning streak compiled by the 1992-93 Penguins seems safe for now, but it is by no means “unbreakable.” Here are the top 15 unbreakable streaks in sports.
15 Brett Favre's Consecutive Quarterback Starts
This former NFL great holds his share of career records but his record for consecutive games started might be the most enduring. Including playoffs, Favre started 321 consecutive games. Eli Manning is the reigning active Iron Man but he still falls more than 100 games shy of Favre’s mark.
Putting it into perspective, a player would need to play through over 17 straight seasons with several deep playoff runs to beat Brett’s record. Eli Manning would need to play another five plus seasons with a few playoff runs thrown in to get there. The chances of that happening, while not impossible, are quite remote.
14 The New York Giants Win 26 Straight Baseball Games
The 1916 New York Giants hold the record for most consecutive wins. But there’s an “asterisk” type stain to this record. That streak is tainted due to a tie occurring during the historic run. The thing is, ties didn’t count in the official statistics which allowed for this record to be set. Nonetheless, the record stands.
Now, on the surface, 26 straight victories might seem like a breakable record but a closer look tells a different story. Since the historic 26-game Giants juggernaut occurred a century ago, only the 1935 Chicago Cubs and the 2002 Oakland Athletics have enjoyed 20 game winning streaks.
Since 1916, only six teams have reached 17 consecutive wins but all fell far short of the record. This goes to show how impressive this record actually is. It will likely never be broken.
13 New York Yankees Win Five Consecutive World Series Titles
Since 1980, the Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Yankees are the only teams to have claimed back-to-back World Series Championships. While the chances of seeing another repeat World Series winner are pretty good, there is little chance of a team matching the Yankees record for most consecutive World Series titles. Under Casey Stengel, the Bronx Bombers won five straight World Series Championships between 1949 and 1953. This is something which may never occur again, as in major sports, long dynasties are a thing of the past.
12 Boston Bruins Make 29 Consecutive Playoff Appearances
The Pittsburgh Penguins have managed to see the post-season for the past 10 straight years. Chicago has made the playoffs for the past eight years and the Rangers have been there for the past six years. Incredibly, the Detroit Red Wings just made their 25th straight playoff appearance but the Wings will need to reach the post-season for the next five years to beat the Boston Bruins’ all-time record of 29 straight playoff appearances.
The Red Wings just barely made it into the playoffs in 2016 and they are a team that is trending downward. Detroit has been a resilient franchise but the odds of them breaking Boston’s streak are stacked heavily against them. Parity and the increasing number of teams will hamper future teams from breaking this record.
11 Glenn Hall 502 Straight Starts
Hockey was a lot different in Glenn Hall’s day. There were only six teams, goalies didn’t wear masks, and “maintenance days” were a knock on one’s manhood. In contrast, today’s NHL is about to expand past 30 teams, goalies are well protected, and backup goalies are carrying more of the workload.
The days of goalies playing a full schedule have long since passed, which makes Glenn Hall’s record of 502 consecutive starts in net unbreakable. A modern-day backstop would need to play more than six consecutive seasons but that will never happen in today’s NHL. Since backup goalies were made mandatory in 1965, not a single netminder has played a full schedule.
10 Wayne Gretzky's 200 Point Seasons
In the 1983-84 NHL season, Wayne Gretzky went on a tear in which he tallied points in a record-setting 51 consecutive games. He finished that season with a staggering 205 points. It would be the first of Gretzky’s three straight 200-point seasons. Hockey fans will be hard-pressed to see another 200-point season ever again and they will certainly never see it happen three years in a row.
His 51 game scoring streak record is also one that will stand. The next longest point streak by someone not named Gretzky or Mario Lemieux was a 30-game stretch by Mats Sundin. Patrick Kane recently went on a 26-game scoring run but that is still far short of the record.
The Great One holds plenty of records but these two are unbreakable.
9 Orel Hershiser's 59 Straight Shutout Innings
No pitcher has ever dominated like Orel Hershiser did over the course of 59 epic innings during the 1988 season. Through the equivalent of over six complete games, the Dodgers' ace never allowed a run. This record barely topped Don Drysdale’s 58 innings of shutout baseball but it stands nonetheless.
While there have been some impressive shutout streaks in recent years, no modern-day pitcher has come close to matching Hershiser’s feat. Zack Greinke got a lot of attention during his awe-inspiring 45.2 inning scoreless stretch in 2015 while R.A. Dickey kept the opposition off the scoreboard for 44.2 straight innings while with the Mets in 2012. Neither player really threatened Hershiser’s accomplishment.
8 Boston Celtics Win Eight Straight Championships
Repeat championships are rare in most professional sports although they are a common theme in the NBA. Over the past few decades, we have even seen many back-to-back champions and even a couple of three-peats, but no team has been able to match the eight straight NBA Championships won by the Boston Celtics. From 1959 through 1966, the Celtics formed the longest lasting dynasty in the history of major North American sports.
Basketball enthusiasts will probably never see a championship run like that ever again. They can take comfort in knowing that fans of football, baseball, and hockey will never see such a long-lasting dynasty either.
7 Ty Cobb Hits .300 in 23 Straight Seasons
For starters, having a baseball career last 23 seasons is a long-shot at best. Only 35 players in baseball history have lasted that long and most of them were pitchers. Ty Cobb was one of these rare players. The outstanding outfielder had a Hall-of–Fame career that spanned 24 seasons. In his rookie year, the Georgia Peach hit a lowly .240 but he would end up with a batting average exceeding .300 in each of the following 23 seasons. This record has stood for over 80 years and it has little chance of being replicated. There certainly aren’t any legitimate challengers in today’s MLB.
6 Montreal Canadiens' Stanley Cup Run
The powerhouse Montreal Canadiens made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in ten straight seasons between 1951 and 1960. This is one record that won’t be broken. No other hockey team has made it any farther than five straight appearances and no team has competed in three straight finals since the Oilers did it between 1983 and 1985.
During the Canadiens' marathon streak of Stanley Cup appearances, they won six cups. This includes a record five straight Stanley Cup Championships between 1956 and 1960. This is another streak that will not likely be surpassed. The Habs won four straight cups between 1976 and 1979 and the Islanders came close with four of their own championships between 1980 and 1983.
Since the Islander dynasty ended over 30 years ago, only four teams have won back-to-back cups.
5 Buffalo Bills Four Straight Super Bowl Losses
This record is a two-for-one bargain. A few teams have made back-to-back Super Bowl appearances but the Buffalo Bills hold the record for appearing in four straight Super Bowls between 1991 and 1994. This is a record streak that is unlikely to be broken. An even tougher record to break is the four straight Super Bowl losses that resulted from the Bills’ four straight appearances. From the infamous “wide right” in 1991 to a blown half-time lead in 1994, the Buffalo Bills have nothing but painful memories and an embarrassing Super Bowl legacy.
The fact that the Bills have failed to make the playoffs since 1999 adds further misery to the Buffalo faithful.
4 Christy Mathewson's 12 Straight 20 Win Seasons
There have been countless pitchers to win 20 games in a season. There have even been a few who have put together multiple 20 win seasons but Christy Mathewson holds the record for most consecutive 20 win seasons. The New York Giants right-hander pitched 12 seasons in a row in which he won at least 20 games. The legendary Walter Johnson came close with a streak of 10 successive 20 win seasons but Mathewson’s 102-year-old record stands and is one that can’t be touched in modern-day baseball.
Since 1976, the only pitcher to make it to three consecutive 20 win seasons was Tom Glavine. Add to that a couple other chuckers who had back-to-back 20 win seasons and we can see how out of reach Christy Mathewson’s record is.
3 Lakers Win 33 Games in a Row
In 2016, basketball fans followed the Golden State Warriors as they started the year with a 24 game winning streak. While they set a new NBA record for most victories in a season, they were unable to get anywhere near the 33 straight wins put together by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers. This astounding record appears untouchable in any major North American sport.
The next time a basketball team goes on an extended winning streak there will be the usual comparisons to the 1971-72 Lakers. More than likely, it will be anticlimactic but it will create a lot of buzz and excitement in the basketball world.
2 Joe DiMaggio’s 56 Game Hitting Streak
Andre Ethier hit in 30 straight games in 2011. That same year, Dan Uggla hit in 33 straight games. While those streaks are impressive, they do not match up to the 45 game hitting streak that Willie Keeler put together way back in 1896-97. Nor do they come close to the amazing 56-game hitting streak that Joe DiMaggio produced in 1941. Jimmy Rollins has the longest hitting streak of the modern-day. He got hits in 38 straight games over the 2005 and 2006 seasons.
It seems that every time a player goes on a rare 10-game hitting streak we hear comparisons to Joltin’ Joe’s epic run. It will take nothing short of a miracle for somebody to break this record.
1 Cal Ripken Jr’s Consecutive Games Streak
On September 6th, 1995, Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gehrig’s 56-year-old record of 2,130 consecutive games played. The Orioles legend would play another 501 consecutive games before opting to sit one out on September 20th, 1998. His record of 2,632 straight games is sure to stand the test of time. In order to break this record, a player would need to play over 16 straight full seasons. The longest modern-day streak was Miguel Tejada’s 1,152 game streak that lasted between 2000 and 2007. Manny Machado leads the way as the current Iron Man with nearly 200 consecutive games played. The young Orioles infielder will be challenged to play another 15 straight full seasons. We wish him luck all the same.
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