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Two Nights with Patrick Marleau
Forever #12
3/1/2023 - By Ken Smyth

We all know it: this season is one of the most memorably bad in Sharks' history. Even for those of us who go way back. Endless chatter about tanking and trading. But for a few days we could put things aside and concentrate on one of the true great players to spend a career in teal: Patrick Marleau.

As a start, the 2023 Sharks Legends game took place in a packed TechCU Arena last Friday night. The players ranged from Tom Pederson, one of the expansion players from the Minnesota North Stars who was part of the Sharks' statement win over the Detroit Red Wings in the 1994 playoffs; to future Hall of Famer Joe Thornton, who skated in the NHL only last year. The Sheriff, Scott Parker! Ryan Clowe, Joel Ward, and Owen Nolan. Of course, the real stars of the fun were the five number 12's: Patrick Marleau and sons Landon, Brody, Jagger, and Caleb.

Anyone wanting serious hockey should have been watching Buffalo play Florida that night. This game was to put some smiles on the faces of Sharks' fans who are watching their team endure a memorably ugly season. Mike Ricci was trying to goon it up against Owen Nolan but the referees whistles were pretty non-existent. Of course the Marleaus' were the five stars of the game, led by Caleb Marleau's a hat trick. It seems that Evgeni Nabokov has trouble with forwards under five feet tall.

Broadcasters Nick Nollenburger from the San Jose Barracuda was leading cheers and Sharks' Randy Hahn, Drew Remenda, and Dan Rusanowsky were interviewing players on the benches but we really needed no encouragement to once again cheer on our favorites. In keeping with the tradition of a farewell game, Patrick was "traded" in the middle of the game so he could be with each team. Final score had Team Teal beating Team White 10-9 in a shootout with Landon Marleau scoring the winner.

Saturday night was a different affair. Marleau's number 12 was officially retired in front of a sell-out crowd before the game against the Chicago Blackhawks. It was an assembly of the Tribe of Teal among Sharks' fans, with an atmosphere like those old playoff years. Besides the Sharks Legends in attendance, some of Patty's former coaches (like Darryl Sutter and Todd McClellan) left video tributes. Mike Babcock, from Patty's Toronto and Team Canada times, was also present.

On the stage were Sharks goaltender Kelly Hrudey, who took the teen-age rookie Marleau into his home in 1997 and Marleau's long-time teammate Joe Thornton. Thornton teared up several times during the ceremony, reminiscing about his friend from teen days as a fellow Team Canada junior who he later joined on the Sharks. Marleau's speech paid tribute to his family, coaches, previous teammates, and the people of San Jose who supported him. Also, of course, his wife Christina. His words are online.

I can only think back to the days in 1997 when he was drafted by the Sharks. The two previous years first round picks were busts, and the team's need to shove first-round picks into the NHL before they were ready adversely affected the development of players like Jeff Friesen and Mike Rathje and was frustrating for fans.

The fear was that Marleau, a high scoring forward from the Western Hockey League (believed to be the least defense-oriented of Canada's three Major Junior leagues) would be another disappointment. But first-year head coach Darryl Sutter took Marleau's development seriously and was not afraid to leave him out of the lineup when he felt like it. One time, when asked if Marleau should be sent back to junior hockey, Sutter said (IIRC) "If he goes back, I go back."

Marleau became the strong and quiet leader of the Sharks. He was one of the most powerful skaters I've ever seen, like I remember Bobby Hull and Guy Lafleur (yes, I'm old); up there with McDavis or MacKinnon today. He never let his temper or emotions affect his performance. That sometimes irked a few of us, but Marleau's best was not useful in the penalty box. He grew from an awkward but gifted youngster, to a star player, to a mentor before our eyes in San Jose. Will he stay with the organization? Well, they better find a job for him. It's not like this team is doing fine on its own.

The evening ended with the Sharks losing 4-3 to the Blackhawks in a shootout. The Stanley Cup years are long behind the Blackhawks, and neither Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews were in the lineup; but the Hawks are still fast and pounce on mistakes. I've noted that home teams usually lose when there's a notable pregame presentation ceremony and this was no exception. But it hardly spoiled the few hours of this season we remembered one of the Shark's greats and our great times watching his career. The negative could close back in, and did, on Sunday.

Contact Ken at at kensmyth@letsgosharks.com


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