Top 15 Longest NHL Careers

Playing in 1,000 NHL regular-season games is quite an accomplishment in any era. However, there have been several players who have greatly exceeded this number and have kept producing until their last days on the ice. These were all durable and dependable players who each  had the good fortune of playing in more than 1.5000 regular-season contests. Most of them did so by keeping in top shape and avoiding major injuries. Of the 15 players who enjoyed the longest careers in the NHL, 13 of them are North American while one hails from Sweden and the other from the Czech Republic.

Remarkably, Czech Republic native Jaromir Jagr is adding to his games-played total each week as he’s playing with the Florida Panthers this season at the age of 43. He’s also still producing offensively as he had 15 points in his first 17 games. Also, while playing defence may be a bit more physically demanding on the body, five of the 15 players on this longevity list are former blue liners who were fine players in both ends of the rink. All 15 players on this list won at least one Stanley Cup championship during their careers with most of them winning it multiple times.

In addition, the 15 players have been awarded with dozens of individual trophies between them. These include the Calder, Frank Selke, Lady Byng, Conn Smythe, Hart, Norris, and Art Ross trophies. They’ve managed to win just about everything possible between them other than the Vezina and the Jennings, which are handed out to the league’s best goalies. Just three of the players haven’t made it to the Hall of Fame yet and in Jagr’s case it’s because he’s still playing. However, they all deserve to be members and Mark Recchi and Dave Andreychuck will hopefully join the rest of them in the Hall someday soon.

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15 Steve Yzerman (1,514 Games)

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Centre Steve Yzerman was a one-team player who starred at centre ice with Detroit from 1983 to 2006. The Red Wings named him captain at the age of 21 and he served those duties for an NHL-record 20 years. Yzerman of Cranbrook, British Columbia was excellent in both ends of the ice and took home a Selke Trophy for his fine defensive efforts. He led the Red Wings to Stanley Cup titles in 1996-97, 1997-98 and 2001-02. Yzerman played in the All-Star Game in his rookie season when he was 18 years old and promptly scored at least 100-points for the next six campaigns. He retired after appearing in 1,514 regular-season contests with 692 goals and 1,063 assists for the league’s seventh-best output of 1,755 points.

14 Brendan Shanahan (1,524 Games)

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Before he became president of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Brendan Shanahan carved out a pretty good NHL career as a right winger from 1987 to 2009. Shanahan patrolled the ice with New Jersey, St. Louis, Hartford, Detroit, New Jersey, and the New York Rangers. He played in 1,524 games and earned 1,354 points on 656 goals and 698 assists. He was also pretty adept at dropping the gloves and served 2,489 minutes in penalties. Shanahan won a trio of Stanley Cup championships with the Red Wings in 1996-97, 1997-98 and 2001-02. His 656 goals rank 13th all time with 237 of them coming on the power play, 23 being shorthanded and 109 of them being game winners, which rank fifth all time.

13 Johnny Bucyk (1,540 Games)

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Johnny Bucyk of Edmonton, Alberta starred in 1,540 regular-season NHL games between 1955 and 1978 with Detroit and Boston. The durable left-winger netted 556 goals along with 813 assists during his fine career for 1,369 points. He also produced during the postseason with an additional 103 points in his 124 playoff appearances. Bucyk served just 497 minutes in penalties and was rewarded with the Lady Byng Trophy in 1970-71 and again in 1973-74. He won the Stanley Cup with Boston in 1969-70 and 1971-72 and still owns the Bruins’ record for goals scored. He managed to score a minimum of 20 goals on 16 occasions. However, his best season came in 1970-71 at the age of 35 when he chipped in with 116 points on 51 goals along with 65 assists.

12 Alex Delvecchio (1,549 Games)

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Alex Delvecchio of Thunder Bay, Ontario played centre for the Detroit Red Wings for 24 years from 1950 to 1973. He held the NHL record for most regular-season games played with one franchise at 1,549 until it was broken in 2012 by defenceman Niklas Lidstrom of the Red Wings. Delvecchio scored 456 goals and 825 assists for 1,281 points. When he retired, he was second in NHL history in games played, points and assists. Delvecchio won the Lady Byng Trophy on three occasions for his gentlemanly play and served just 383 minutes in penalties during his career. He won the Stanley Cup in 1951-52, 1953-54 and 1954-55 and was a consistent and underrated player who often took a back seat to his more colourful teammates such as Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay. However, the rest of the Red Wings and the league realized just how valuable a player Delvecchio was.

11 Nicklas Lidstrom (1,564 Games)

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Swedish defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom spent his entire NHL career with the Detroit Red Wings from 1991 to 2012 and helped them hoist the Stanley Cup in 1996/97, 1997/98, 201/02 and in 2007/08. Lidstrom anchored the blue line for 1,564 games and starred in both ends of the ice. He racked up 264 goals and 878 assists for 1,142 points and was a plus-450 player. Lidstrom was also known for his clean and talented play and served just 514 minutes in penalties. The former Norris Trophy winner ad face of the Red Wings franchise was recently inducted into the Hall of Fame this November and deservedly so.

10 Jaromir Jagr (Still Active)

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The only reason forward Jaromir Jagr of the Czech Republic isn’t in the hall of Fame yet is because he’s still playing. The 43-year old from Kladno, began his career as an 18-year-old with Pittsburgh back in 1990. By mid-November of 2015 he had appeared in 1,567 career regular-season games and was still counting. Jagr is the all-time leading European scorer with 729 goals and 1,088 assists for 1,817 points. At the time of writing, he had the fifth-most goals in history and was ranked fourth in total points. Jagr has also played with Washington, the New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Dallas, Boston and New Jersey. Jagr won the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 1990-91 and 1991-92 and would be ranked higher in all categories if he didn’t leave the NHL for the KHL from 2008 to 2011.

9 Ray Bourque (1,612 Games)

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Montreal native Ray Bourque holds the record as the highest scoring defenceman in NHL history with 1,579 total points coming in his 1,612 regular-season appearances. He’s also number one in goals from the blue line with 410 and tops in assists with 1,169. He’s ranked 11th overall on the all-time scoring list in points and fourth in assists. Bourque scored 173 power play goals to lead all defencemen and added 16 with his team a man short. To cap things off, he was a plus 528 player which places him third-best all time on the plus/minus list. Bourque’s career spanned from 1979 to 2001. He played with Boston for 21 seasons before heading west to join Colorado. He found his only Stanley Cup success with the Avalanche in the 2000-01 campaign and then promptly retired.

8 Larry Murphy (1,615 Games)

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Underrated defenceman Larry Murphy was an effective offensive machine during his 1,615-game career from 1980 to 2001. Murphy suited up with Los Angeles, Washington, Minnesota North Stars, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Detroit and posted some impressive numbers with 287 goals and 929 assists for 1,216 points. The Scarborough, Ontario native wasn’t bad in his own end either as he retired as a plus 200 player. Murphy of Scarborough, Ontario skated on four Stanley Cup-winning squads as he helped Pittsburgh win two straight titles in 1999-2000 and 2000-01 as well as Detroit in the 1996-97 and 1997-98 campaigns.

7 Scott Stevens (1,635 Games)

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Hard-hitting defenceman Scott Stevens of Kitchener, Ontario knocked several players cold with his well-timed body checks during his career from 1982 to 2004. Stevens was a feared and fierce competitor with Washington, St. Louis and New Jersey and his leadership qualities and skills helped the Devils skate around the rink with the Stanley Cup in 1994-95, 1999-2000 and again in 2002-03. He also had some fine offensive skills as witnessed by his 196 goals and 712 assists for 908 points. Stevens’ 2,785 penalty minutes are the 14th most in NHL history and even though some of his hits may be questionable in today’s game, but he was one of the best of his era in both ends of the ice.

6 Dave Andreychuk (1,639 Games)

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Winger and power-play specialist Dave Andreychuk is arguably the best player on this list who isn’t in the Hall of Fame. His numbers certainly show that he should be there as he scored 640 goals and added 698 assists for 1,338 points in his 1,639 games. He ranks number 14 on the all-time goals scored list and holds the NHL record for power play markers with 274. Andreychuk of Hamilton, Ontario played from 1982 to 2006 with the likes of Buffalo, Toronto, New Jersey, Boston, Colorado, and Tampa Bay. He finally got his name engraved on the Stanley Cup when he captained the Lightning to their one and only championship season in the 2003-04 season. Andreychuk was one of the league’s most consistent and dependable scorers as well as one of its true gentlemen.

5 Chris Chelios (1,651 Games)

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Chicago native Chris Chelios holds the NHL record for most games played by a defenceman with 1,651. He scored 185 goals and added 763 assists for 948 points in those games which were played from 1983 to 2009 with original-six teams Montreal, Chicago and Detroit while his final seven games were played with the former Atlanta Thrashers. Chelios was a fierce competitor who sometimes crossed the line both on and off the ice but his passion for the game helped the Habs win the Stanley Cup in 1985-86 as well as the Red Wings in 2001- 02 and 2007-08. His, 2,891 minutes in penalties rank 12th all time.

4 Mark Recchi (1,652 Games)

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It might surprise some fans to find forward Mark Recchi ranked number four on the list, but he skated in 1,652 games with Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Montreal, Carolina, Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Boston between 1988 and 2011. Recchi chipped in with 577 goals and 956 assists for an NHL 12th-best 1,533 points. He managed to hoist the Stanley Cup twice as he helped Carolina to their one and only trophy win in 2005-06 and then won it again with the Bruins in the 2010-11 campaign. Recchi had a knack for scoring big goals with 91 game winners during his career and was a power play specialist with another 200 goals on the man advantage. Recchi of Kamloops, British Columbia has yet to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, but his day should come in the near future.

3 Ron Francis (1,731 Games)

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Centre Ron Francis was considered one of the classiest players in NHL history in the mold of former Habs great Jean Beliveau. Francis played 1,731 regular-season games and racked up 1,798 points on 549 goals and 1,249 assists. Francis of Sault Ste Marie, Ontario played with the Hartford Whalers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Carolina Hurricanes during his career from 1981 to 2002 and skated with the Toronto Maple Leafs for his last dozen games before calling it quits. The skilled playmaker won a pair of consecutive Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh in the 1990-91 and 1991-92 seasons. Francis ranks number two on the all-time assists ledger and fifth in total points.

2 Mark Messier (1,756 Games)

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Power forward Mark Messier came awfully close to playing the most NHL games in a career, but retired just a dozen contests short of setting a new record. Messier of Edmonton, Alberta played with Edmonton, the New York Rangers, and Vancouver during his NHL career which kicked off in 1979 and came to an end in 2004. Messier played his first 48 pro games in the World Hockey Association (WHA) with the Indianapolis Racers and Cincinnati Stingers before joining the Oilers for the 1979-80 campaign. The centre, who was well known for his leadership capabilities, won half a dozen Stanley Cups, as he helped lead Edmonton to five triumphs and the Rangers to one. Messier scored 694 goals and added 1193 assists in his 1,756 regular-season outings and his 1,887 points are second in NHL history.

1 Gordie Howe (1,767 Games)

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Detroit Red Wing legend Gordie Howe, who’s also known as Mr Hockey, has held down the number one spot ever since retiring. Howe managed to play in all but 80 of his 1,767 regular-season games with the Red Wings. He skated his final NHL campaign with the Hartford Whalers in 1979-80. Howe would have had a stranglehold on this record if he didn’t leave the NHL for six years and play with the Houston Aeros and New England Whalers of the old World Hockey Association (WHA) for 419 games. Howe won four Stanley Cups with Detroit as well as numerous all-star nominations and individual trophies. The right winger from Floral, Saskatchewan scored 801 goals and 1049 assists for a third-ranked 1,850 points during his lengthy career. Howe could do it all and was one of the toughest SOB’s to ever play the game. To this day a goal, assist, and a fight in the same game is known as a "Gordie Howe Hat Trick."

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