Two weeks shy of his 71st birthday, Ron Schock is still a hard worker.
Owner and operator of his own landscaping business near Rochester, N.Y., the former Penguins captain enjoys his line of work.
"It keeps me trim," said Schock.
That kind of mentality helped Schock become a successful NHLer in the 1960s and 1970s when there were fewer teams and fewer jobs. It also led to him being the Penguins' unofficial "ironman." From Oct. 24, 1973 until April 3, 1977, he played in 313 consecutive regular season games. That mark remains the franchise's record ... for the time being.
Assuming he's in the lineup tomorrow, right winger Craig Adams will tie the record when the Penguins meet the Vancouver Canucks at Consol Energy Center. Adams could break the record with Saturday's home contest against the Ottawa Senators.
Earlier this week, Schock, who was the franchise's third captain, talked about his record, his time with the Penguins and Adams.
What went into playing that many games in a row?
“In order to play a bunch of games together, you have to be fairly lucky and injury free. It's a little bit of luck that comes with it.”
Was having that streak and record a point of pride for you?
"I actually considered myself a working player. It was a great pleasure to play and practice. I showed up for work hopefully on the road and home the same every night. I loved playing the game. The numbers of game doesn't particularly matter to me but it is somewhat of a milestone because not many people put that number [of games] together."
The streak came to an end before the 1977-78 season when you were traded to the Sabres. What was your reaction to the deal?
"I would think it would be anger. I actually thought at that particular time I would spend my playing days, the rest of them, in the Pittsburgh organization. I didn't expect to be traded. And it was an odd time. I was traded the first day of training camp, or the second day."
You were on a line here in Pittsburgh with Eddie Shack and Ken Schinkel which was popular for your last names.
"It was the days before all the foreign players and the names were like 'Smith.' It was hard to put the three [names beginning with S] together for the announcers."
How different was the game then compared to today?
The rules have changed a little bit but the players have also. The players are faster. The equipment is better. They're better trained than the players back then. There was a lot of open-ice play at that time. A lot of it today, I don't know how well an older player [from the 1970s] would do because its between the corners and along the boards. Lots of scrambles and close-in goals. You don't see the clear-cut plays. But I do like the rule changes that have come along. Getting rid of the red line a bit.
Do you still watch the Penguins?
"One of the teams when its on television up here I watch is the Pittsburgh Penguins because they're exciting. They move the puck and absolutely work hard. I met the new coach [Mike Johnson] at [owner Mario Lemieux's] golf tournament in the summer. Had breakfast with him. I liked him. I just knew the new guy would fit right in and he has. He went about it low key and [the players] play hard for him."
Are you aware Craig Adams has a chance at breaking your record? Are you sad to see it be broken after so many years?
"Oh, I hope he plays 700 in a row. Those records and things are kept track of more by the media than the particular player. I don't know if he can put together 500 more games there but I'd be happy for him. Now if everybody in the record book, they were going to pay $500,000 to, I may have a different opinion.”
Your former teammate, Jim Rutherford is now the general manager of the team."
"I always got along well with Jimmy. He came in and had to make some tough moves and tough choices and he did them. Maybe he was the right guy for that job."
Have you been to any games in Pittsburgh in recent years?
"Not in a while I haven't been to a game there. I have an open invitation from [former teammate] Pierre Larouche to come down and join him for a game any time I'm in town."
Are you retired or do you still work?
"I own a landscaping company and I still work. I'll probably work about … I don't know … three or four more years. I don't do too much in the winter and I find it very boring doing nothing. I'm not sure at the present time if I'm a good candidate for retirement. There's not enough for me to do."
How much have you kept tabs on the record over the years?
"I do know about the fellow approaching that record. A couple of people that were fans they mentioned it was in the paper. They sent me a copy of the little blurb about the record being in danger. ... If you do run in to him, tell him I said I hope he has another 500 good games in succession."
(Photo: Penguins Hockey Cards)