Patrick Marleau’s ex-teammates mirror on beginnings as Gordie Howe’s document falls: ‘I nonetheless assume he is underrated’


Again in 1997, DVD gamers had been all the fashion. The brand-new expertise was not low cost. At about $1,000 a pop, Kelly Hrudey thought it was a bit too costly for his liking. However at Christmas that 12 months, he was gifted what he coined a “game-changer” — together with two DVDs (one was of a Fleetwood Mac live performance) — by the man dwelling in his visitor home.

That man was Patrick Marleau.

Now, greater than 23 years later, the child who at 18 would sit and eat sandwiches with Kelly and his spouse, Donna, till 2, 3, or 4 within the morning speaking concerning the recreation, about how issues had been rising up or simply life, is about to turn into the NHL’s all-time chief in video games performed. When Marleau’s skates hit the ice in his first shift for the Sharks on Monday evening at T-Cell Enviornment in Vegas towards the Golden Knights, it will be Sport No. 1,768 of his NHL profession — one higher than Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe.

Earlier than the sport, Marleau will pull over that Sharks sweater he has identified for 1,595 of these video games. (He additionally performed eight video games for the Penguins and 164 for the Maple Leafs.) Many, many moons prior, in June 1997, he was drafted second general by the Sharks as a 17-year-old. The Seattle Thunderbirds centerman, who turned 18 that September, joined a rebuilding crew that was getting into simply its seventh 12 months of existence.

“After the draft, Dean [Lombardi, then the Sharks’ general manager] made a degree of letting a few of us older gamers know: ‘Hey, I’ve obtained this youthful child coming in. We love him. He is coming from an actual good household however he is a younger child and he wants your guys’ assist,'” recalled Tony Granato, who was about to start his tenth NHL season when Marleau was gearing up for his first.

“After which he got here in, only a likable, likable child and he was quiet and shy and respectful. He had the little smirk and smile to his face that he nonetheless has. As an older participant, it was actual enjoyable to have a younger man like that are available in. You might inform that he had nice talent and was going to have nice success within the recreation.”

The success did come. Three All-Star Video games, 566 objectives (twenty third all time), 1,196 factors, a visit to the Stanley Cup Closing in 2016, his title filling up the Sharks document ebook and, now, besting Howe for many NHL video games performed. It was a document many didn’t anticipate to ever fall; in any case, Howe performed till he was 52 throughout 26 NHL seasons (with a number of seasons within the WHA sprinkled in).

Whereas those that knew Marleau, now 41, from the leap could also be shocked the document is falling, they don’t seem to be shocked by what turned of the child from Aneroid, Sask. Discovering out concerning the teenager upfront of coaching camp wasn’t simple again then — thoughts you, it was 1997 and, like that DVD participant, the web was nonetheless newish — his teammates shortly noticed what made Lombardi so excited. 

“I bear in mind we had been in a drill . . . the whistle blows, the drill’s over, and I went to the bench to get a drink of water,” Hrudey mentioned throughout a current interview with Sporting Information. “Tony [Granato] comes over to me and, bear in mind, Tony and I had identified one another for a few years as a result of we each performed in LA collectively for a very long time . . . he comes as much as me and says one thing like, ‘Oh, wow, Kelly, I am unable to imagine this Marleau child,’ and Tony was a superb skater however he says one thing like, ‘I am attempting every thing I can simply to maintain up with him. It appears to be like onerous for me however in Patrick, it appears to be like easy.'”

Granato, throughout a telephone chat with Sporting Information, did not keep in mind that particular second however did recall chasing across the ahead who was 15 years his junior and pondering to himself, “Holy cow.” 

Mike Ricci was traded to the Sharks in November 1997 and did not know a lot concerning the quiet Sasky child. Lombardi was fast to level out Marleau, calling him a giant, expert man he’d love with an amazing character. Ricci mentioned that evaluation was bang on. 

“Darryl [Sutter] used to match traces up for the three-lap drill and each time I used to be matched up together with his line I might go as much as Patty and say, ‘Hey, Patty (whistles), take it simple,’ and he would take it simple, however nonetheless I used to be chugging to maintain up,” mentioned Ricci, who’s now a improvement coach with the Sharks. “He was a simple skater from Day 1 and that is likely to be a factor he was blessed with. However being a pure skater and being in tip-top bodily situation and making ready himself and dealing onerous off the ice and on the ice, these are the outcomes you get.”

Outcomes did not come instantly for Marleau. It wasn’t till his eighth recreation that he collected his first NHL purpose, which was three video games after his first NHL level. His first NHL recreation was Oct. 1, 1997, towards an Oilers squad that included the likes of Kelly Buchberger, Corridor of Famer Kevin Lowe, Doug Weight and goaltender Curtis Joseph. Though, if you happen to ask Marleau, he remembers Bryan Marchment — who tried to hit him on his very first shift.

“The one factor I bear in mind about that [first game] was he was so calm and relaxed, by no means obtained rattled,” reminisced Granato, noting Marleau wore 14 again then. Ron Sutter sported 12 and Marleau snagged the enduring digits after Sutter left for Calgary in February 2001. “By no means obtained overly wound up, simply form of, you understand, OK, first recreation tonight. It is this huge deal however I will simply exit and play, and I simply assume that he had that good even keel to himself of not getting overly wound up.”

Sturdiness. Psychological toughness. Bodily preparation. Good genes. Rather a lot has gone into Marleau setting this document. He’s on a run of 898 consecutive video games performed (fourth-longest in NHL historical past) that started April 9, 2009, and has missed simply 31 video games in his NHL profession. Marleau credit the coaching employees, therapeutic massage therapists, chiropractors and an IV bag every so often when he obtained the flu.

“I believe that to have a exceptional profession like Patrick, I nonetheless assume that he is underrated,” mentioned Hrudey, who additionally says that a few of his favourite hockey recollections are from the times Marleau lived together with his household. “I do not assume that the overall hockey fan actually appreciates how good he has been persistently all through his profession.”

That consistency began even earlier than he laced up his skates for his first NHL recreation. Each Granato and Darryl Sutter had been fast to level out that they had been impressed by Marleau in exhibition video games — Granato particularly recalled him potting his first skilled purpose in a recreation in San Diego towards the Kings at simply 17.

“Two issues about him that stand out, his pure capability — it is not like he needed to work lots at getting greater or stronger or all that; he was a giant, sturdy child when he got here in — [and] he was an amazing skater,” recalled Sutter, who ran the Sharks’ bench for the primary 420 video games of Marleau’s profession (his first season in San Jose was additionally 1997-98).

“Whenever you mix these two, normally guys keep wholesome. There’s guys who get banged up and do not deal with themselves and their careers do not final as lengthy. However Patrick’s had a protracted, profitable profession due to these pure issues after which he is caring for themselves. Kudos to him. He is a very good individual and a very good participant.”

Requested on a current Zoom name with reporters what he needs his legacy to be, Marleau responded that he wished it to be that he performed onerous, gave his all and was a superb teammate. Effectively, once you communicate to his ex-buddies and bench boss, they’re going to say he positively was.

“He revered the sport. He revered the individuals within the recreation,” mentioned Granato, including the child would hang around with the veterans on the highway. “You understand, for as younger as he was, [he] was very mature in act as a teammate. For his teammates, too, it was simple to fall in love with a child like that and need him to do effectively.”

There is not any timetable for when Marleau will formally dangle them up. He alluded to chasing the Stanley Cup on that Zoom name, including that he is feeling good and can attempt to preserve going for so long as he can.

So perhaps Ricci had it proper all alongside?

“I bear in mind we used to joke round,” he mentioned with a smile. “I used to inform him on a regular basis, you might play until you are 60. And clearly, I used to be exaggerating a bit however perhaps I wasn’t exaggerating as a lot as I assumed.”

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