Patrick Marleau is calling it a career.
You would be forgiven for thinking he'd already retired as Marleau
didn't play an NHL game this season. Despite that, it only became official
today when the 23-year veteran decided to make the announcement. While he
certainly earned the right to take as much time as he needed to find his peace
with retirement, the gap does mean that we all have a harder time putting his
career into perspective. There was no farewell tour. No last trip around the
SAP center in front of the hometown fans. No outpouring of respect and
admiration from the hockey world.
Instead, his career ends quietly. A
reflection of how the man himself played the game.
I remember being a
teenager in Regina, Saskatchewan (Canada) in those days before NHL Center Ice,
Cable Streaming packages, and digital platforms. Back then, if I wanted to
follow the Sharks it meant pouring over the box scores in our local paper or
hoping that they would show up on Hockey Night in Canada in either early or
late game. However, it was during Marleau's rookie season that I discovered on
cloudy nights I could pick out a Denver, Colorado sports radio station. I've
long since forgotten their call sign, but I do remember that they were the
official radio partner of the Avs and since they were Pacific division rivals,
that meant 6 more times I could follow the Sharks live.
Which is how I
first learned about Patrick Marleau.
From that rookie season, when the
Sharks were playing the underdog to Mike Modano, Derian Hatcher, and the Dallas
Stars, there was something about Marleau that grabbed my attention. He wasn't
flashy and didn't draw attention to himself. He wasn't a large personality like
Owen Nolan. Didn't have the obvious game breaking skill of Jeff Friesen. But he
could play. Quietly, and effectively.
I could tell you that I saw
parallels between the young Marleau and Vincent Damphousse, who would join the
team in 1998-99. I could say that it was the mentorship of veterans like Tony
Granato and Joe Murphy that taught him how to play at the NHL level. I'm sure
part of that is true. He undoubtedly benefited from their advice, and I'm sure
Coach Darryl Sutter deserves a large bit of credit as well.
me Patrick Marleau was always something just a little bit different. You see,
up until then nearly everyone else associated with the San Jose Sharks had come
from somewhere else. There were no homegrown stars he could try to emulate. No
legends and Hall of Famers who had worn teal during their heydays. Rather, like
most young franchises, San Jose had to rely on borrowed culture, borrowed
players, and borrowed history. They were still writing their own; still are to
this day. And when you look back at the pages that have been filled, Marleau's
name is everywhere.
The first, and easiest measure, is the total number
of points he put up. He was the first franchise drafted and developed player to
crack the 500 goal and 1000-point mark, both of which are benchmarks of
legitimacy for a franchise. During the dead puck era of the early 2000's he was
still better than a point per game player, proving that he had legitimate
Additionally, while he often gets slagged for
disappearing at the most important moments, Marleau showed up in the big
moments. He ends his career with 109 game winning goals, good for 7th all time,
and 1 back of Brett Hull for 5th. He didn't just score them in the regular
season either, as his 16 playoff GWG's puts him 9th all-time, 1 back of playoff
legends such as Mike Bossy and Glen Anderson.
But stats alone will
never tell his story. Detractors will always point to the fact that he never
won the Stanley Cup. It's a fair critique, especially since he played on such
talented teams. Marleau and Joe Thornton will forever be linked, and unless
Florida hoists the Cup this year, they both will probably come up empty handed
for their careers. Life isn't fair, but there's no crying in hockey.
There will be countless pages written about Marleau by writers more skilled
than I. Many will praise him. Some will bury him. It's a complicated legacy
tinged by 'what if' and 'close calls'.
Yet, what can't be denied, is
that in all the meaningful ways Patrick Marleau is the San Jose Sharks. He was
the face for over 2 decades, and now, in retirement, he's going to be the elder
statesman. The years will pass, other stars will come and go. Some will surpass
his records, and hopefully a few of them will help bring a championship. But
regardless, Patrick Marleau will always be the initial legacy of this
franchise. Thirty years from now, when they invite the legends of the team back
for some event, he will be there; and very likely will be the star attraction.
He's always going to be one of the people the rookies try to become; and
That's just one aspect of #12.
And, to me, it's
something worth celebrating.