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Former teammate Patrick Marleau reflects on the beginnings when Gordie Hoe’s record falls: “I think it’s still underestimated.”

Former teammate Patrick Marleau reflects on the beginnings when Gordie Hoe’s record falls: “I think it’s still underestimated.”

In 1997 DVDs were in vogue for players. The new technology was not cheap. About $ 1,000 per pop, Kelly Hrudey thought it was too expensive for her liking. At Christmas that year, he gifted her the one who invented the “game changer” – along with two DVDs (one from a Fleetwood Mac concert) – the guy who lived in her house.

That guy was Patrick Marleau.

Now, more than 23 years later, sitting at the age of 18 eating sandwiches with Kelly and his wife, Donna, playing until 2, 3 or 4 in the morning, how things grew or life, will become the leader in NHL games played. Marleau’s skates hit the ice on Monday night in the first round of the Sharks at the T-Mobile Arena in Vegas against the Golden Knights, which will be the No. 1,768 game in his NHL career – better than Mr. Gordie Howe Hockey. .

Before the game begins, Marleau will throw over that Sharks sweater she knows from 1,595 of those games. (He played eight games with the Penguins and 164 Maples.) Before the many, many moons, in June 1997, the Sharks finished second as a 17-year-old. The Seattle Thunderbirds powerhouse, which turned 18 in September, joined a rebuilding team that was only in its seventh year.

“After the draft, Dean [Lombardi, then the Sharks’ general manager] Some old player wanted to let some of us know, ‘Hey, I have this young kid. We love. She comes from a really nice family, but she’s a small child and needs the help of your boys, ”Tony Granato recalled as he began his 10th NHL season as Marleau was preparing for his first.

“And then he came in, he was just a nice, kind kid, he was calm, shy and respectful. He still had a smile and a smile on his face. As an older player, it was a lot of fun to have a young guy like that. You could say great skill. and that he would be very successful in the game. “

Success came. A three-star game, with 566 goals (23rd all-time), 1,196 points, a trip to the Stanley Cup finals in 2016, he filled his name with the Sharks record book and now Howe has won most NHL games played. It was an album that many never expected to fall; after all, Howek turned 52 in 26 NHL seasons (he threw a few seasons in the WHA).

Although Marleau, now 41, was shocked by what they knew from the jump, the record is falling, but they are not surprised by what happened to the Aneroid (Sask) child. Knowing in advance of the youngster in training was not easy then – be careful, it was 1997 and, like that DVD player, the internet was still new – his teammates quickly saw how exciting Lombardi was.

“I remember we were in a drill … the whistle blew, the drill ran out and I went to the bank for a drink of water,” Hrudey said in a recent interview with Sporting News. “Tony [Granato] it came to me and, remember, Tony and I had known each other for many years, because we had both played together in LA for a long time. . . he approaches me and says something like, “Oh, oh, Kelly, I can’t believe this Marleau kid” and Tony was a good skater, but he says, “I’m trying my best to get him up. I find it hard for me but Patrick it is effortless. “

Granato, in a phone chat with Sporting News, did not remember the exact moment, but he remembered that he was after the 15-year-old junior striker and thought of himself as a “Holy Cow”.

He was exchanged with Mike Ricci Sharks in November 1997 and didn’t know much about the quiet child Sasky. Lombardi quickly pointed out to Marleau, calling him a big, skillful guy who would like to be with a great character. Ricci said the analysis was not good.

“Darryl [Sutter] he would join the lines for the three lap drills and every time I joined his line I would go up to Patty and say, ‘Hey, Patty (whistles), calm down,’ and he would take it easy However, I wanted to keep it, ”Ricci said. , is the coach he currently develops with Sharks. ” He was an effortless skater from day 1 and that could be a lucky thing. But being a natural skater and being in great physical condition and training yourself and working hard from the ice and ice, these are the results you get. ”

The results did not immediately come to Marleau. He didn’t score his first NHL goal until his eighth game, which is three games from his first NHL point. The first game in the NHL was on October 1, 1997, against the Oilers team like Kelly Buchberger, Kevin Lowe Hall of Fame, Doug Weight and goalkeeper Curtis Joseph. Although, if you ask Marleauri, as Bryan Marchment remembers, he wanted to play in his first round.

“The only thing I remember about that [first game] he was very calm and quiet, he never worried, “Granato recalled, noting that Marleau then wore 14. Ron Sutter wore 12 and Marleau assumed iconic figures after Sutter moved to Calgary in February 2001.” you know, okay, the first game tonight. It’s a big thing, but I’m going to play, and I think he also had that nice pound so he wouldn’t get hurt too much. “

Sustainability. Mental stiffness. Physical preparation. Good genes. Marleau has entered a lot to set this record. He played 898 consecutive games (the fourth longest in NHL history) starting on April 9, 2009 and has only lost 31 games in his NHL career. Marleau credits training staff, massage therapists, chiropractors and an IV bag with occasional flu shots.

“I think to have a great career like Patrick, I still think it’s underestimated,” Hrudey said, adding that some of his favorite hockey memories are from the days Marleau lived with his family. “I don’t think any hockey fan really appreciates the good he’s consistently had in his career.”

That consistency began even before he tied the skates in his first NHL game. Granato and Darryl Sutter were quick to point out that Marleau surprised them in the exhibition games – Granato especially remembered that when he was just 17 years old he scored his first professional goal in the San Diego game against the Kings.

“Two things stand out about him, his natural ability – not like he had to work bigger or stronger or all of that; when he came in he was a big, strong child – [and] he was a great skater, ”recalls Sutter, who led the Sharks’ bench in the first 420 games of Marleau’s career (his first season in San Jose was also 1997-98).

“When you combine those two, boys are usually healthy. There are guys who hit and don’t take care of themselves and their careers don’t last that long. But Patrick had a long and successful career because of that natural thing and then he’s taking care of himself. Greetings. He is a very good person and a very good player. “

Asked in a recent Zoom call with reporters what he wants from his legacy, Marleau replied that he played hard, gave his all and was a good teammate. Well, when you talk to his former friends and the bank boss, they’ll tell you he was definitely there.

“He respected the game. He respected the people at the game,” Granato said, adding that the child is with the veterans on the road. “You know, for a young man like him, [he] he was very mature in the way he played as a teammate. It was also easy for the band members to fall in love with a child like that and want to do well. ”

There is no schedule for Marleau to officially hang out. He mentioned in the Zoom call that he would continue the Stanley Cup, feeling good and trying to keep going as long as he could.

So did Ricci have a good time?

“I remember we used to joke,” he said with a smile. “I was telling him all the time, he could play until he was 60. And of course I was exaggerating a little bit, but maybe I wasn’t exaggerating as much as I thought I would.”

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