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A Grand Evening for a Grand Shark
Sharks retire Patrick Marleau's #12
2/25/2023 - By Mike Lee

The San Jose Sharks rolled out a teal carpet for a kid from Aneroid, Saskatchewan on Saturday night. That kid, who first arrived on the South Bay scene back in 1997, is of course one Patrick Marleau. The Canadian farm boy was recognized for his accomplishments as a Shark, by having his familiar number 12 retired by the Sharks in a grand ceremony at SAP Center before a sellout crowd. He was recognized for a 23-year career that spanned four decades that included an NHL record for games played, passing Hall of Famer Gordy Howe in 2021.

Marleau's 1,179 games played is a record that will fall someday, but for now it's a record that is held by Mr. San Jose Sharks. He was the face of the franchise for 21 of the Sharks 30 year history.

So the Sharks recognized his contributions to the franchise and the city with the highest honor that a team can bestow on a player. The original plan was to dedicate an hour and a half ceremony before the Sharks faced the Chicago Blackhawks, but things ran long on this night. Marleau deserved every minute.

The usual suspects were in attendance. Following the alumni game that was held at Tech CU Arena on Friday night, many of Marleau's former teammates were in attendance. The most notable being the next Shark likely to have his number retired, Joe Thornton.

Thornton was brought to tears during the ceremony. He was perhaps hit with the realization that his number will hang from the SAP Center rafters before long. Or perhaps the reality of his own career mortality hit him. Thornton has not officially retired, but time is a cruel thing to a professional athlete.

The list of teammates in attendance was a whose who of Sharks history. The group was a testament to Marleau's tenure as a Shark. Names like Nolan, Nabokov, Ricci, Graves, Blake, Sturm, and Heatley, to name a few. The one thing you noticed when you scanned that group is the receding hairlines of many. The bald patches are setting in on many of the players that Marleau called teammates.

When Marleau took the stage, it was striking to see that for his lengthy career, the guy is still in great physical shape and his appearance isn't that far removed from the kid that was drafted second overall in the summer of 1997 at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena.

It was a fitting location for the kid who grew up a fan of the Penguins. That kid wanted to be the next Mario Lemieux. Marleau had spent the prior two seasons in Seattle, playing in the WHL for the Seattle Thunderbirds. That pick was a no-brainer for San Jose, a team that missed more than they hit in the NHL draft in their prior 6 tries.

The three players Marleau singled out to speak on Saturday night included, Thornton, Todd McLellan and Kelly Hrudey. The latter only played a single season with Marleau and he was a goaltender, but he also served as host for the then 17 year-old kid. Think back to your formidable years, and what it must have been like to already be uprooted from your family and now find yourself living in a town thousands of miles from home with the entire hockey world watching your every move. Hrudey spoke of the single year that he spent hosting this kid who had unimaginable pressure on him.

McLellan spoke of his relationship with a player who was once an opponent and then a pupil, and his opportunity to watch someone grow from a young player to a superstar, husband and father.

Thornton stole the show. Like many of the assists that Thornton setup with Marleau, Jumbo Joe gave everyone the players perspective. The superstars perspective. Thornton's video presentation before taking the stage was heartfelt, but the guy who was equally responsible for San Jose's success on the ice took the stage with watering eyes that really spoke volumes of who these two players are and what they represent. This was Marleau's night, but San Jose is as much Joe Thornton's.

Marleau finally took the stage and shed the shy, silent moniker. He's a grown man who stood before a packed house and gave a lengthy speech that covered the points that mattered most to him.

He first recognized several people who are no longer walking the planet. Former teammate Bryan Marchment and former agent Don Baizley, got nods. He recognized juniors teammates, NHL teammates, as you would expect from the kid from Aneroid. Marleau got the biggest laugh with a story about former junior teammate Tony Mohagen, who tended to then pregnant wife Christina during a playoff run.

"Taking our boys to school, to the park, made meals, grocery shopped and cleaned the house. I don't think I've mad my wife as happy as Tony did!," Marleau quipped.

He spoke about Hrudey's one request after that first season, which was to take another young player under his wing as a veteran. Marleau joked that he did that six years later when he took in Thornton.

Marleau's tutelage was well documented when he played in Toronto, taking two guys named Mathews and Marner learned how to be professionals under his guidance.

Marleau's tributes extended to former coaches like Darryl Sutter, Ron Wilson, Mike Babcock and Bob Boughner, assistants Jay Woodcroft, and general manager's Dean Lombardi and Doug Wilson.

After the cordials and some sentimental comments to his family, the Marleau's gathered to watch what everyone had come to see. The first banner with a retired number adorning it, lifted to the rafters. A bold two digit number, with "Marleau" inscribed above them and a Sharks logo below.

For those that attended games at the Cow Palace, it was a long road to get to this point. The Sharks have been conservative with accolades for former players. They waited 30 years to retire a number for the first time. They added some panache to the event by doing it with three other Bay Area number retirees. Former Oakland Athletic Rollie Fingers, Golden State Warrior Chris Mullen and San Francisco Giant Barry Bonds joined in to welcome Marleau to the club.

It was a grand evening for a grand player.

We can't wait for the next one.


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