Iron Men & Women of the IIHF
by Andrew Podnieks|05 DEC 2022
Martin Roymark and Jenni Hiirikoski are the Iron Man and Iron Woman in international play.
photo: Andre Ringuette, Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
On the occasion of Phil Kessel becoming the NHL’s new Iron Man, we look at the long history of IIHF tournaments to discover who are the Iron Men and Iron Women of the top-level events on the international scene. The numbers aren’t as big as Kessel’s, but the time period is much longer.

Consider, for instance, Norwegian forward Martin Roymark. He is truly the IIHF’s all-time, super-hero Iron Man. The records show he has appeared in 97 World Championship games over a period of 14 World Championship events (2008-2022, remembering 2020 was cancelled), and during that time he never missed a single game. So, he (a) had to be good enough to be named to the team every year and (b) had to be healthy enough to play every game. Add into the mix the fact that he played in all of Norway’s Olympic Games during this time (four games each in 2010 and ’14 and five in 2018) and that means over the last 15 years he has played in ALL 110 games Norway has played at the Worlds and Olympics. Pretty incredible.

Not far behind is Latvia’s Kristaps Sotnieks. He has played at every World Championship since 2009, and during that time he didn’t miss a game – 90 consecutive, in all. Denmark’s Morten Madsen missed the final game of the 2007 World Championship but then has played in 89 in a row since, every game of every World Championship between 2008 and 2022. His 89 is tied with the King of the Worlds, Swiss Andres Ambuhl, who has played a record 123 WM games in his career, more than any other player in IIHF history. And 89 of those were consecutive, from 2007-19, never missing a game. 

On the women’s side, there can be no surprise that the IIHF’s Iron Woman in none other than long-time Finnish captain Jenni Hiirikoski. Consider, she has played in a combined 106 games at the Women’s Worlds and Olympics, and she never missed a game except in 2006 when she was injured and missed the Turin Olympics entirely. However, her WW consecutive games streak between 2004 and 2022 is 82 games. Factoring in the miss in 2006 and then adding her consecutive Olympic games between 2010 and 2022, Hiirikoski has played a whopping 96 games in a row for Finland. 

Not far behind is countrywoman Karoliina Rantamaki, who played 69 Women’s Worlds games in a row between 1997 and 2015. And, of course, you don’t become the all-time goal-scoring leader and points leader by missing games, so it’s no shocker that Hilary Knight has a pretty remarkable record of her own. She has never missed a Team USA tournament or game in her career. Ever. That means 66 WW games in a row and another 22 at the Olympics, for a grand total of 88 games in a USA sweater without a miss. If the Americans are playing, #21 is in the lineup.

Nicole Bullo also holds an Iron Women record that might never be beat. She has played in a record-tying five Olympics in hockey, and during that time she never missed a game. That translates to 29 consecutive games with Switzerland at the Games, between 2006 and 2022. Rantamaki played all 27 games for Finland between 1998 and 2014, and two Canadians – Jayna Hefford and Hayley Wickenheiser – played all 26 games from those same years.

Germany’s Dieter Hegen and Finn Jere Lehtinen co-hold the men’s Olympics record, both having dressed for 32 straight Olympics games for their nations. For Hegen, he played every game between 1984 and 1994, then played the first two of ’98 before missing the team’s third game.  Lehtinen, meanwhile, played every game for Suomi between 1994 and 2010. Not far behind is another Finn, Kimmo Timonen, who played 30 straight from 1998-2014.

If you factor in ice time, the perhaps greatest IIHF games record belongs to Swiss goalie Florence Schelling. From 5 April 2013 to 17 February 2018, a span of nearly five years, no one played goal for the Swiss women’s national team in an IIHF event except Schelling. That works out to 28 straight games, from the 2013 Women’s Worlds, through the 2014 Olympics, 2015, 2016, and 2017 Women’s Worlds, and 2018 Olympics. It’s not a huge number, but consider that in every tournament the coach almost always gives a game or two to the backup. Only occasionally does a goalie play every game of an IIHF event, but for five years, the backup got nothing, Schelling was that much better, and each game that important.