December 23, 1979: Garry Unger's Iron Man Streak Comes To An End In St. Louis
On December 23, 1979, in a game against the Blues in St. Louis, Atlanta Flames center Garry Unger sat out a game for the first time since February 24, 1968. It marked the end to an NHL Iron Man streak of 914 consecutive games played. The streak began when he was a member of the Maple Leafs when he was a 20 year old kid and came to an end when he was a 32 year old man. He played in only 15 games in Toronto, then was moved to the Detroit Red Wings via trade where he spent the next three years before being traded again. This time it was to St. Louis where he spent the next 8 and a 1/2 years of his career. To date, he ranks near the top in many of the Blues all time offensive scoring categories and only Al MacInnis has taken more shots on goal with a Blues uniform on. That '79-'80 season marked a new chapter for Unger after the Blues traded him to Atlanta. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury that happened on December 9th of '79 led to him being used sparingly that night he visited his old stomping grounds his coach Al MacNeil decided he just couldn't put him out there. It was not an easy decision for the coach, he just thought it was time to let him heal so he could truly contribute to the team. The decision didn't hurt the team, they skated to a 7-3 win in front of the crowd in St. Louis. In the last minute it looked like Unger might just jump onto the ice, with the crowd that had watched him for so many years as a member of their team were now cheering for their opponent as they chanted his name in hopes that he would extend the streak. While it marked the end to a remarkable run, Unger was relieved it was over, it seems that all players involved with historic streaks share that sentiment. Nearly four years earlier Unger obtained the Iron Man title when he played surpassed Andy Hebenton's record of 630 consecutive games played that had stood since '64. Hebenton reached the 630 plateau as a member of the Rangers and Bruins. Unger's record stood until Doug jarvis surpassed him in December of '86. Jarvis would extend his streak to 964 games which is the current record with Unger right behind him.