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Writing a Legacy
The sun sets on #12
5/10/2022 - By Ryan Hall

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.

Yet, for 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 offensive chops.

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 surpass.

That's just one aspect of #12.

And, to me, it's something worth celebrating.

Contact Ryan at at ryanhall@letsgosharks.com

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