The San Jose Sharks will retire Patrick Marleau’s jersey tonight, making him the first player in franchise history to receive the honor. He played the vast majority of his career with the Sharks, serving as captain for five years and becoming the team’s all-time leader in a number of statistical categories. However, his time in San Jose is also defined by a number of notable individual moments. Here are the five most iconic moments of Marleau’s Sharks career.
Game-Winners vs. Red Wings in 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Given that they now play in different conferences, it’s easy to forget that the Sharks had a fierce Western Conference rivalry with the Detroit Red Wings for several years, and Marleau was right at the center of all of it. So, it’s appropriate that he scored two of the most important goals in that rivalry, which also happened to be two of the most important goals in franchise history.
Both goals came in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoff conference semifinals. In Game 3, Marleau turned a 2-on-1 breakaway into an overtime winner, capping off a two-goal third period comeback to give the Sharks a 3-0 lead in the series and shocking the Detroit home crowd. Just four days later in Game 5, he fired a perfectly placed one-timer past Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard seven minutes into the third period and put the Sharks up in the game, 2-1. The goal ultimately proved to be not just the game-winner but the series-winner (from ‘Patrick Marleau scores winner as San Jose Sharks eliminate Detroit Red Wings,’ Seattle Times, May 8, 2010). With the goal, Marleau sent the Sharks to the Western Conference Final for the second time in franchise history and the first time since 2004.
It’s also worth noting that on both of these goals, the primary assist came courtesy of Joe Thornton. Ever since Thornton joined the Sharks in Nov. 2005, him and Marleau had been the symbols of a Sharks team that constantly posted strong regular-season results while coming up short in the playoffs. When the 2010 Playoffs came around, the two had been linemates through three Pacific Division championships and a Presidents’ Trophy, but with no substantial playoff success to show for it. With those two Marleau goals, the Sharks finally got their first playoff breakthrough in the Thornton era and proved they could win when it mattered.
Stanley Cup Final Goal
On May 30, 2016, Marleau scored the second Stanley Cup Final goal in Sharks history.
This one makes the list not because of what it produced, but rather for what it symbolized. It came in a game the Sharks lost, and in a series they lost. But for Marleau, that goal was the culmination of his time in the NHL up to that point. He’d been in the league for 19 seasons, and he had finally made the championship series. In that moment, a goal in the Stanley Cup Final was more than just a goal. It was something of an exclamation point on a legendary career.
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The goal certainly would have meant more if the Sharks had managed to win the series, but it still helps memorialize Marleau’s career in San Jose. As the franchise’s longest-tenured player, he’d been through more than anyone to get to that series, and he was rewarded with a shot that found the back of the net.
The season after finally making his first Cup Final, Marleau achieved a historic accomplishment, scoring four goals in a single period and turning an ordinary mid-January game against the Colorado Avalanche into a spectacle.
The goals, three of which came by way of a natural hat trick, served as a reminder of Marleau’s longevity, one of the greatest qualities of his career. On the day of the game, Marleau was 37 years old, but he was still one of San Jose’s better offensive players. He had ceded the scoring somewhat to slightly younger players such as Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns and Logan Couture, but he was still capable of carrying a load offensively and proved it in the period. It was as if he wanted to tell the up-and-coming players of the league that their time was soon, but for the moment, he was still capable of some magic every now and then.
Furthermore, on two of the four goals, he scored by simply outskating the defense for a point-blank look at the net, a remarkable feat on its own for a 37-year-old. He was the 12th player to post a four-goal period in NHL history, and perhaps appropriately, the first since the season before he was drafted. It didn’t hurt that the goals brought him right up to the edge of an incredible milestone.
500th Career Goal
Marleau’s four-goal period left him with 497 for his career, making it only a matter of time until he became the 45th player in NHL history to reach 500 goals. He did so less than two weeks later in Vancouver, snapping a breakaway wrist shot to beat Canucks goalie Ryan Miller and enter hockey immortality.
The significance of reaching 500 career goals is obvious, and was made even more so by the fact that Thornton was on the ice at the time Marleau scored. The goal was yet another box checked off on Marleau’s resume, but what is perhaps his ultimate mark on the game of hockey would not come around for another four seasons.
Breaking Games Played Record
On April 19, 2021, Marleau became the NHL’s all-time leader in games played by appearing in his 1,768th contest in a road game against the Vegas Golden Knights. In doing so, he broke the record previously held by Gordie Howe, a man whose name is practically synonymous with longevity in hockey.
The impact of this moment was lessened slightly by the fact that the game was on the road, and attendance was limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the most important thing is that Marleau broke the record in a Sharks uniform.
In 2017, after 20 years and 19 seasons in San Jose, Marleau had signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs, for whom he played two seasons. He then returned to San Jose for another half season, then spent a bizarre few months with the Pittsburgh Penguins. (Side note: it’s impossible to look at a picture of Marleau in a black and yellow jersey without briefly thinking that you’ve entered some kind of alternate dimension.) But when it became clear that the upcoming 2020-2021 season would most likely be the year in which he’d break Howe’s record, the Sharks were the only logical choice. He had to bring the journey full circle.
Marleau entered the league as an 18-year-old rookie and the youngest player in the league. As his time in San Jose progressed, he got married, had four children and developed into one of the best forwards in the league, a beloved Bay Area figure and a Sharks legend. He may be from Saskatchewan originally, and he may have played in two other cities, but make no mistake about it. At this point in his life, San Jose is his home.
It’s beyond appropriate that his jersey will hang there in the rafters forever.