DENVER — Andrew Cogliano had to think hard for a moment when asked the last time he missed a hockey game as a player.
"It's been so long, it's hard to remember the exact moment. In junior, in the playoffs one year, I think I had a separated shoulder or a high ankle sprain, or something like that," Cogliano said.
That the Anaheim Ducks forward can't seem to recall even the exact location of his last serious injury speaks well to just how long it's been. The injuries, wherever they were, would have occurred sometime in the spring of 2004 when he was a member of the St. Michael's Buzzers of the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
Or it could be that Cogliano's seemingly strange haziness of memory stems from the fact that, well, he doesn't really love talking about his distinction as the NHL's reigning ironman, with 747 consecutive games played entering Thursday's contest with the Colorado Avalanche. That is the most of any active player and fifth on the all-time NHL list.
"I just really don't think about it much," he said somewhat wearily when asked about it earlier that day.
|All-time NHL consecutive games-played leaders|
|Player||Consecutive games played|
|Andrew Cogliano (active)||747|
Cogliano knows he's going to have to think about it whether he likes it or not, however, the longer it goes, the closer it keeps inching to Doug Jarvis' all-time NHL record of 964 straight. He knows that the media loves to write about all-time records, especially one as unique as this one. In a sport where only a relatively small number of players manage to play every game in any one season, Cogliano has done it in each of his first nine seasons.
Since coming out of the University of Michigan and joining the Edmonton Oilers in 2007, the 29-year-old has never missed an NHL game. Cogliano has been hurt since his NHL debut on Oct. 4, 2007; he once needed about 30 stitches for cuts to his face while he was a member of the Oilers. He's lost a few teeth. There have been plenty other bumps and bruises. But never anything serious enough to keep him out of the lineup.
It's not as if Cogliano has preserved his health, and the streak, by playing a soft, finesse style of game, either. He is widely acknowledged as one of the league's hardest-grinding players, someone who plays tough minutes against the opposition's top skill players and a leader of the Ducks' penalty-killing unit.
"He's just a real hard-nosed guy," Avalanche defenseman and former Ducks teammate Francois Beauchemin said. "And he's always stretching, stretching, stretching."
Cogliano, whose streak is the longest of any active player in any of the four major sports, acknowledges he is something of a gym rat who has always just loved staying fit. In addition to plenty of the aforementioned stretching, he does a lot of core body work under programs designed by famed sports fitness trainer Andy O'Brien, who currently holds the title of director of sport science and nutrition with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
But Cogliano is quick to attribute "just a lot of plain old luck" to his streak.
"I just approach all of this day by day. I think the things I do, most every other guy in this league does, too. It's just that I've been very fortunate," said Cogliano, who entered Thursday with 10 goals, 20 points and a plus-10 rating for the Ducks. "I mean, I've enjoyed doing the nutrition side of it and the workout-summertime-type things of it."
One nutrition secret Cogliano is willing to share: It's better for the body to eat smaller meals more frequently through the day rather than a huge breakfast, lunch or dinner.
"But I just eat normal stuff. Fish, chicken, fats, proteins—nothing real strange or anything," he said.
Jarvis' record of 964 has stood since he retired from the NHL in 1987. His streak started in 1975 with the Montreal Canadiens, and, like Cogliano, he was known as a defensive and penalty-killing specialist.
"He was very careful with his eating habits," said Scotty Bowman, Jarvis' former coach with the Canadiens. "He was a very serious guy with that and with his game preparation. He was a joy to coach."
Like Jarvis, who played at 5'9", 170 pounds, Cogliano is not big at 5'10", 184 pounds. Is being a bit undersized an advantage—more "compact," perhaps—an advantage to staying healthy in a sport such as hockey? Hard to say, but it's one theory. At 13-16 minutes a game, as Cogliano has averaged most of his career, he might be at the perfect playing-time amount, too—enough to keep in great shape but not too much to overdo it.
Cogliano currently is playing left wing on a line with Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg. None of the three have missed a game all season.
"It's easy to learn good health habits from a guy like Cogs," Silfverberg said. "You know you're going to see his number in the lineup every night."
If all things stay equal, Cogliano would only be 33 if he were to break Jarvis' record. Jarvis was only 32 when he retired. Will it happen?
"I'm not looking that far ahead," Cogliano said.
Keeping it all in the present. Maybe that's the biggest secret to Cogliano's successful story of durability.
Adrian Dater covers the NHL for Bleacher Report.