Marleau ties record for most games played in NHL history set by Howe

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“I’m looking at it as an opportunity to thank everybody who’s helped me along the way, because there’s no way you get to play in this league or play this long without a huge support system,” Marleau told “Hockey Night in Canada.” “Definitely my family, growing up, my parents, my brother and sister, all the sacrifices they make, and my immediate family now with my wife and kids. …

“Coaching staffs, training staff, teammates, chiropractors, massage therapists, I mean, everybody that I’ve come into contact and become friends with or who helped me along, I extremely want to thank them for all their support.”

Marleau can break the NHL record by playing game No. 1,768 when the Sharks visit the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday (10 p.m. ET; NHLN, ATTSN-RM, NBCSCA, NHL.TV).

“We’re witnessing history here,” Sharks coach Bob Boughner said before the game. “I think a lot of people are starting to realize, especially in a night like tonight when he ties it, I think that everybody is a little bit in awe.

“Yes, of course the game is the most important thing, getting back on track and getting the two points, but being a part of this, whether you’re a coach, a teammate, a trainer, anybody that’s around our dressing room and realizes, the referee, the linesman, anybody, I think it’s a real special time for the game, not just the San Jose Sharks, not just Pat Marleau, but for the game itself I think it’s amazing what we’re going to see here tonight and Monday.”

The 41-year-old forward is in his 23rd NHL season and has played 1,595 games in 21 seasons with the Sharks, including 44 this season to extend his streak of consecutive regular-season games to 898, fourth-longest in NHL history. The native of Aneroid, Saskatchewan, also played 164 games in two seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs (2017-19) and eight games with the Pittsburgh Penguins last season.

Howe has held the NHL record for regular-season games played since he surpassed Ted Lindsay and became the first player to reach 1,000 games on Nov. 26, 1961 with the Detroit Red Wings. Howe played 1,687 games in 25 seasons with the Red Wings before retiring in 1971.

After coming out of retirement in 1973 to play 419 games in six seasons in the World Hockey Association for Houston and New England, Howe returned to the NHL for one season after New England joined the NHL as the Hartford Whalers in 1979. Howe played 80 games for the Whalers in 1979-80 before retiring again.

A native of Floral, Saskatchewan, Howe played his final regular-season game against the Red Wings on April 6, 1980 at 52 years old. He was 88 when he died June 10, 2016.

Howe is second in NHL history with 801 goals (Wayne Gretzky, 894) and fourth in points with 1,850. Marleau is 23rd in goals (566) and 50th in points (1,196).

“Gordie, growing up, looking at hockey cards, looking at statistics, first things first, I always go see all the Saskatchewan players who grew up there and made the NHL, because that’s where I was, and that’s where I was trying to go, and obviously he was top of the list,” Marleau said.

Selected by San Jose with the No. 2 pick in the 1997 NHL Draft, Marleau made his NHL debut 16 days after his 18th birthday, Oct. 1, 1997 against the Edmonton Oilers. He is the youngest player to make his NHL debut since Hy Buller played at 17 years, 267 days with the Red Wings on Dec. 7, 1943.

After playing 1,493 games in 19 seasons with the Sharks, Marleau signed a three-year contract with the Maple Leafs as an unrestricted free agent July 2, 2017. Marleau was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes on June 22, 2019 and had the final season of his contact bought out without playing a game for the Hurricanes.

Marleau returned to San Jose to play 58 games last season before being traded to Pittsburgh on Feb. 24, 2020. He became an unrestricted free agent and signed a one-year contract with the Sharks on Oct. 13.

“It’s incredible being around Patty for a bit and seeing all the work he’s put in getting to this point where he’s beating that kind of record,” San Jose forward Timo Meier said. “It’s obviously incredible for him, but all the teammates are incredibly proud, and we’re really honored to be on the same team and witness that record.”

Marleau has played in four decades: 196 games in the 1990s, 716 in the 2000s, 782 in the 2010s and 73 in the 2020s. Maple Leafs forward Joe Thornton (173 games) and Washington Capitals defenseman Zdeno Chara (119) are the other active players to play in the NHL during the 1990s.

“He’s the greatest Shark to ever wear the Shark jersey,” San Jose defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic said. “Great teammate, 500-plus goals, has the records for longest games played. He’s done it all for the San Jose Sharks, and that’s why when you say ‘San Jose Sharks’ the first player that comes to mind is Patrick Marleau.”

Howe is the only player in to play in the NHL in five decades: 191 games in the 1940s, 690 in the 1950s, 701 in the 1960s, 139 in the 1970s and 46 in the 1980s.

“It’s hard to tell if he’s going to enjoy this moment or not,” Vlasic said. “I know Patrick’s a quiet guy, but he’s got to enjoy this. He’s from the same province as Gordie Howe, I believe. To break this record that’s been held for so long, 50-plus years, I’m sure he’s excited. The guys are excited for him.”

NHL.com independent correspondent Jessi Pierce contributed to this report

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