When San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau made his NHL debut, the movie “Titanic” was still two months away from hitting theaters.
It’s been 23 seasons since that debut on October 1, 1997. On Saturday at XCel Energy Center against the Minnesota Wild, Marleau was honored for tying Gordie Howe’s record for most games played in an NHL career.
At the game’s first play stoppage, the Wild public address announcer informed the crowd Marleau was playing in game number 1,687, promting sustained applause from the crowd in attendance and stick taps from both teams.
“When you get recognized like that, not only your team standing up for you but the other building’s fans cheering for you, the other team doing it, it hits home, it’s definitely humbling for them to show their support for me.,” Marleau said.
After the game, Wild players skated over to Marleau to shake his hand. He is expected to break the all-time game played record on Monday in Las Vegas against the Golden Knights.
When you are around as long as Marleau is, you rack up some interesting stats, like the one that Sharks president Jonathan Becher shared on Twitter pointing out Marleau has played with 37 percent of the NHL.
Not active players, 37 percent of the players who have ever played in the league’s 104-year history.
His teammates marvel at his longevity.
“I thought, since I’ve been here, I thought I’ve played a lot of games. I thought 500, 700 was a lot and he was always so far ahead,” said Sharks defenseman Marc Edouard Vlasic. “He’s a tremendous player but the work he puts in off the ice to be that good and play that long… He’s not just going to break the record, he’ll be able to play a lot longer as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if he plays next year.”
“We’re really honored to be on the same team and witness that record,” said Sharks forward Timo Meier. “He’s a very humble person. He’s not the loudest guy, that’s for sure, but he definitely likes to have fun with the boys, and you can tell he enjoys every moment of it. It’s incredible the amount of games he’s playing and beating this record and playing this game for so long… Patrick Marleau if that name comes up in my head, he’s Mr. Shark. He’s the face of this franchise and everybody sees him as the San Jose Sharks.”
“He’s the greatest Shark to ever wear the Shark jersey. Great teammate, 500-plus goals, has the records for longest games played,” said Vlasic. “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.”
– NHL.com independent correspondent Jessi Pierce contributed to this report