The Colorado Avalanche honoured Skrastins before their home game against Atlanta with a video tribute that included images of the late Horton, who played from 1950-74, mostly with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Before the puck was dropped, Skrastins came out and took a bow as spinning “487” images were shined on the ice. He was joined by two of Horton’s four daughters along with his wife, Zane, and general manager Francois Giguere during the short ceremony.
Since joining the NHL in 1999 in Nashville, Skrastins, who grew up in Latvia’s capital city of Riga, has missed just one game, on Feb. 18, 2000, when he sat out against St. Louis because of a shoulder injury.
Just three days later, he started his ironman streak – on the 26th anniversary of Horton’s death in an automobile accident outside St. Catharines, Ont.
“I don’t have a big secret,” Skrastins, one of the league’s top shot-blockers, said this week. “Maybe just hard work and a lot of effort.”
Skrastins has played through many injuries, including a broken wrist and a bum knee that needed surgery.
“I love what I do, and … pain is part of our hockey game,” Skrastins said.
Horton’s record was established from Feb. 11, 1961, to Feb. 4, 1968. Horton was still commuting from Toronto while playing for the Buffalo Sabres when he was killed in a one-car accident on Feb. 21, 1974, while on his way home from a game. He was 44.
Horton made a name for himself through his mean streak and by starting a doughnut chain in 1964. There are now about 2,700 Tim Hortons doughnut shops in Canada and another 300 in the United States.
“Every time I’m in Canada, it’s kind of my favourite coffee shop where to go,” Skrastins said.
Skrastins said he promised himself that he would now read up on Horton.
“I want to find out more about him,” he said.
The overall NHL record for consecutive games played at any position is 964 set by Doug Jarvis over 13 seasons from 1975-87.