Patrick Marleau of the San Jose Sharks skated on N.H.L. ice for the 1,768th time on Monday, setting the league’s file for probably the most video games performed. Marleau handed Gordie Howe, the six-time scoring chief and most respected participant often called “Mr. Hockey.”
Marleau began the sport towards the Golden Knights and after its first whistle, the match was halted to honor him with an announcement, a video montage, a message from N.H.L. Commissioner Gary Bettman and a prolonged applause he saluted the group in Las Vegas by elevating his stick. The Sharks wore jersey patches with Marleau’s uniform No. 12, and goalie Martin Jones had a customized masks for the event.
Marleau performed 17:21 and recorded a shot on objective in a Three-2 shootout loss. After the sport, the Golden Knights lined up and shook fingers with Marleau, the form of reverence sometimes reserved for the tip of a playoff sequence.
Howe initially set the file in 1961. The most up-to-date participant within the 4 main North American skilled sports activities leagues to set a file for video games performed had been the N.F.L. kicker Morten Andersen in 2004.
Marleau, 41, has not missed a recreation because the 2008-9 season and has performed in additional than 98 p.c of the doable video games over 23 seasons with San Jose, Toronto and Pittsburgh. To put his feat in perspective, the N.H.L. will welcome its 32nd franchise within the 2021-22 season, the Seattle Kraken. They is not going to play their 1,768th recreation till 2043.
Since Marleau debuted in 1997, the league has modified guidelines and canceled a season due to a labor dispute, and the fashion of play has modified.
“The game when he started was completely different than the game he’s playing now,” mentioned Los Angeles Kings Coach Todd McLellan, who coached Marleau for seven seasons with San Jose. “Just think of the number of lockouts, the number of rule changes, the type of body contact, the fighting that has disappeared, the intimidation factor, the type of refereeing that we saw back then to what we see today, technology, coaching, goaltenders, size of equipment.”
He continued: “If he started a journal from Day 1 until now, I’d be the first guy to read it, because he would be able to tell a long story about a great game that’s changed over decades.”
That story would come with Marleau’s well-decorated trophy case. He has gained gold medals twice on the Olympics and as soon as on the World Championships and the World Cup of Hockey. He ranks 23rd on the N.H.L.’s profession objectives record with 566 and sixth in game-winning objectives within the common season and playoffs.
But he’s lacking the N.H.L.’s final prize. Before beating Howe’s file, Marleau had already achieved one other feat of longevity, albeit an ignominious one, having performed probably the most video games with out successful the Stanley Cup.
Marleau has performed in 4 convention finals and one Stanley Cup finals sequence, the Sharks’ loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016. The Sharks entered Monday’s recreation needing a severe run to succeed in related heights, 5 factors out of a playoff spot with 12 video games remaining, however an elusive Cup nonetheless drives Marleau’s ardour.
“I want to be looked upon when I’m gone that I gave it my all, enjoyed the game, loved the game, loved being around the team and loved winning games,” Marleau mentioned. “Those are the biggest things, obviously if I can add a Stanley Cup win before I retire then that would be ideal for me. But just having the right characteristics being a great teammate and a great player, that’s kind of what I would like to be known for.”
Late in his profession, Marleau has develop into a form of liaison between his coaches and the youngest gamers on the staff, placing into follow the early tutelage he obtained from Sharks veterans, notably goalie Kelly Hrudey.
Peter DeBoer, who succeeded McLellan in San Jose and coached the Sharks to the finals, first encountered Marleau whereas teaching Canada’s under-17 nationwide staff. DeBoer, who now coaches Vegas, mentioned even then teammates have been drawn to Marleau’s assured however unassuming demeanor.
Marleau’s path is concurrently traditional and fashionable, going from a farm in Western Canada to a participant who honed his conditioning, harm prevention and anti-aging routines over time and tailored his recreation as the game developed.
“What Patrick has and is maybe missing from today’s generation is that he’s farm tough. He’s a big, thick, strong Saskatchewan farm boy,” mentioned McLellan, who can be from the province. “That’s what he started out as, and then he was committed to training and to his fitness.”
Of the greater than eight,000 gamers who’ve performed within the N.H.L. throughout its historical past, the 2 most sturdy have been each from Saskatchewan.
The two had a gathering on the 2009 All-Star Game in Montreal, when Marleau and his oldest son have been taking part in with mini-sticks in an enviornment hallway. Howe grabbed a stick from Marleau’s hand and commenced taking part in along with his son, in a second Marleau mentioned was etched into his reminiscence.
But solely Howe has performed in 5 totally different a long time. His profession started in 1946 and appeared to finish within the early 1970s because the toll of so many video games manifested within the type of arthritis and different accidents.
After two seasons away, Howe returned to the ice in 1973 to play along with his sons — Mark and Marty — and logged one other 419 video games within the World Hockey Association with the Houston Aeros and the New England Whalers.
The leagues finally merged, and Howe performed one other N.H.L. marketing campaign with the Whalers within the 1979-80 season. Marleau would want to play roughly 5 extra seasons of the standard 82 video games to eclipse Howe’s skilled whole.
Mark Howe mentioned that his father, who died in 2016, would be enthused to see Marleau break his record, and that he held fellow competitors in high regard.
“The knitting that unites guys who play so long is called passion,” said Mark Howe, a Hall of Famer himself. “He’s got good size and he’s a powerful skater. He scored a lot of goals, big goals, over the years when the Sharks were at their peak.”
During the first and longest of Marleau’s three stints in San Jose, from 1997 to 2017, he helped the team make 17 playoff appearances. He left for Toronto, but the Sharks wanted to keep him so much that the star center Joe Thornton was willing to take a lower salary for the team to accommodate Marleau.
McLellan once said that Thornton was “cut from the old cloth” and described Marleau similarly, saying that Marleau offered a connection to hockey’s past. He, Thornton and Washington Capitals defenseman Zdeno Chara are the only remaining players drafted in the 1990s.
Even after setting the career record, Marleau can still achieve another mark of longevity.
If Marleau plays another full season next year, he would surpass Doug Jarvis’s record of 964 straight games, though he would have to contend with Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle, whose 912 games is the only active streak longer than his.
And there’s of course still the pursuit of a Stanley Cup.
“As long as my family is willing to keep supporting me, seeing me off on road trips and welcoming me home coming back,” Marleau said, “we’ll try to keep it going as long as we can.”