SAN JOSE — For 23 seasons, Patrick Marleau woke up every day getting ready to play hockey, which ultimately helped him break Gordie Howe’s record for most NHL games played.
After a difficult year away from the game hoping another team would call him and give him a chance, Marleau announced his retirement on Tuesday, ending a career that included a record 1,779 games, 566 goals, two medals Olympic gold and nearly every significant San Jose Sharks record. .
“It was tough,” Marleau said of his first season away from the game he started playing as a 3-year-old in Saskatchewan. “I’ve played this game a lot my whole life and I love it. I get a whole new respect for my wife and my family and all the things they had to go through when I was gone, just the day for daytime.”
“But that’s my new challenge, and that’s what I’m looking forward to doing now. I’m looking forward to becoming the best father and husband I can be.”
Marleau said he was keeping fit in case a team called him but nothing materialized and he realized a few weeks ago that he was ready to announce his retirement.
He concluded his retirement announcement the same way he did in a letter published on the Players’ Tribune, saying simply, “Thank you, hockey.”
Marleau broke Howe’s all-time game record at the end of last season, capping a remarkable career that began as the second overall pick in the 1997 draft. Marleau is retiring at the 23rd all-time ranking with 566 goals and 50th with 1,197 points for San Jose, Toronto and Pittsburgh.
He also holds the Sharks’ records for games played (1,607), goals (522) and points (1,111) as he helped make the team a perennial contender and fixture in the South Bay. .
“You can’t describe what Patrick means to the San Jose Sharks as an organization, to San Jose as a hockey community,” Sharks president Jonathan Becher said. “There’s a reason we call him Mr. San Jose Shark. He symbolized the franchise for 21 years. When he was ready to retire in his day, we wanted to make sure we got it right.”
Becher said the team plans to hold a jersey retirement ceremony for Marleau next season.
Tuesday’s press conference with Marleau’s wife, four sons and friends, as well as several former teammates and select fans, came almost a year to the day after he played his last NHL game.
Marleau was at times emotional as he spoke of the sacrifices made by his family and thanked all of his teammates and coaches. The Sharks released a tribute video and messages from commissioner Gary Bettman and former teammates Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton.
“Patrick Marleau, two-time Olympic gold medalist. You won the World Championship. You won the World Cup. All-time leader in games played in NHL history. You did it when it mattered. You were loved by your teammates. We all love you so much,” Thornton said. “Enjoy your retirement, my friend. You deserved it.
Some of Marleau’s greatest accomplishments came at the Shark Tank where he held his retirement announcement. He scored the series-clinching goals against Detroit in the 2010 and 2011 playoffs, he had two assists when the Sharks won their first Western Conference Finals in 2016 and was on the ice for the only the team’s appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals that season.
Marleau joined the Sharks as a 17-year-old from Saskatchewan in 1997 and made an immediate impact as a rookie with his elite skating ability and tireless work ethic helping him last so long in the NHL.
Acting general manager Joe Will, who was in the scouting department when Marleau was drafted, said Marleau’s testing numbers and scouting reports still stand out a quarter century later.
“They’re known as Marleau standards,” Will said. “We’ve never seen anyone like him. We haven’t seen anyone like him since.”