MARLEAU HAS PASSED “MR. HOCKEY” FOR MOST GAMES PLAYED IN NHL HISTORY
Sharks forward Patrick Marleau surpassed Gordie Howe for the most games played in NHL history when he skated in the 1,768th regular-season game of his career on Monday in Las Vegas. Howe had held the distinction since Nov. 26, 1961 when he overtook Ted Lindsay (999 GP) and became the first player to appear in at least 1,000 career NHL regular-season games.
* Marleau is the first player from the NHL, NBA, NFL or MLB to dethrone an all-time regular-season games played leader in more than 16 years – kicker Morten Andersen was the last to do so, taking the NFL’s crown from George Blanda on Sept. 26, 2004.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: MARLEAU’S JOURNEY TO PASSING HOWE
A total of 8,105 different players have skated in at least one NHL game over the League’s nearly 104-year history, and two Saskatchewan-born players hold the top two spots – Patrick Marleau (Aneroid, Sask.) and Gordie Howe (Floral, Sask.).
* After racking up 199 points in 143 games over two seasons with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League, Marleau was selected second overall by the San Jose Sharks – behind Joe Thornton (Boston Bruins) – in the 1997 NHL Draft in Pittsburgh. The 17-year-old had no way of knowing at the time, but the connections to both Thornton and Pittsburgh would come full circle during his NHL career.
* Marleau made his League debut just 16 days after his 18th birthday, against the Edmonton Oilers on Oct. 1, 1997 at San Jose Arena. He remains the youngest player in the last 76 years to make his NHL debut (18 years, 16 days).
Marleau recorded his first NHL point 10 days later (4 GP) with the primary assist on a Viktor Kozlov goal – against Thornton and the Bruins, no less – and tallied his first goal in his seventh game, Oct. 19, 1997 as a visitor against Nikolai Khabibulin and the Phoenix Coyotes.
* He skated each of his first 19 NHL seasons with the Sharks (1,493 GP; 1997-98–2016-17) before signing as a free agent with the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 2, 2017, with whom he played two seasons (164 GP; 2017-18–2018-19). On June 22, 2019, Marleau was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes who soon bought out the final season of his contract (0 GP). Marleau signed with San Jose seven days into the 2019-20 season and played 58 games with the Sharks before being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins (8 GP) in the pandemic-shortened season.
* His third stint with the Sharks came in the form of a one-year contract for the 2020-21 season, in which he has played 44 games to date – extending his run of consecutive regular-season games played to 898.
* Marleau’s journey has seen him appear in 70.5% of all regular-season games in Sharks history (1,595 of 2,262), the highest such percentage by a player with an NHL franchise (min. 1,000 GP contested by club). That figure increases to 98.1% when considering Sharks games when Marleau was part of their roster (1,595 of 1,626).
* Marleau played 196 games in the 1990s, 716 games in the 2000s, 782 games in the 2010s and 73 games to date in the 2020s. Only two other active NHL players skated in the League during the 1990s: Joe Thornton (173 GP) and Zdeno Chara (119 GP). The only player in NHL history to skate in more decades than Marleau is Gordie Howe (5).
WAYBACK PLAYBACK: THE WORLD ON OCT. 1, 1997
On Oct. 1, 1997 in San Jose, California, just-turned 18-year-old Patrick Marleau was held off the score sheet through 12:15 of ice time during his NHL debut. He won two of six faceoffs and logged three shots against Oilers goaltender Curtis Joseph, while Darryl Sutter ran a bench – which included his brother Ron Sutter – in his first game as Sharks head coach.
In the 23+ years since, the game and world have changed in many ways. So, without further ado, a step back in time to 1997 courtesy of #NHLStats:
* Current leading goal-scorer Auston Matthews was two weeks old when his future teammate made his NHL debut. The League’s 2020-21 points leader Connor McDavid was barely eight months old.
* Hayley Wickenheiser and Cammi Granato were trailblazing their way to the Hockey Hall of Fame, competing in various events during the fall of 1997 ahead of the Nagano Olympics – the first to include women’s hockey.
* Michael Jordan was about to begin what would be his final season with the Chicago Bulls – four short months after his “Flu Game” performance during the NBA Finals helped him capture his fifth of six titles.
* Cynthia Cooper had just led the Houston Comets to a championship in the inaugural WNBA season. It was the first of four straight titles for the Comets, with Cooper claiming Finals MVP honors each year en route to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
* Tom Brady was in his second season with the University of Michigan, serving as backup to quarterback Brian Griese who led the Wolverines to an undefeated season and a national championship.
* Ken Griffey, Jr. and Larry Walker were named American and National League MVP, respectively, for the 1997 MLB season. The campaign concluded on Oct. 26, 1997 when Florida edged Cleveland in extra innings during Game 7 of the World Series.
* Tiger Woods was coming off his first major championship, a record-setting 12-stroke victory at the Masters on April 13, 1997 – his first of five Masters titles and 14 major wins to date.
* Martina Hingis was named Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year after winning the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open singles title at just 16 years of age.
* The infamous Mike Tyson–Evander Holyfield moment occurred on June 28, 1997, one week after Marleau was selected No. 2 by San Jose at the NHL Draft in Pittsburgh.
* Canadian Elvis Stojko landed his quad-triple combination in the free skate at the World Championships in March 1997, earning two perfect scores of 6.0 and another world title.
* Bill Clinton was almost one year into his second term as U.S. president, while Jean Chrétien had recently begun his second term as Canadian prime minister after being re-elected on June 2, 1997 (two days after Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final).
* On May 11, 1997, software company IBM pitted its supercomputer Deep Blue against chess legend Garry Kasparov in a highly-publicized rematch from a year prior. This time, the supercomputer defeated the world champion, an indication of the technology revolution that was nearing.
* The J.K. Rowling novel Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone had just been published – it hit shelves in the U.K. on June 26, 1997 and didn’t make its way to North American shelves until 1998.
* Boyz II Men (4 Seasons of Loneliness) overtook Mariah Carey (Honey) for the No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 list during the week of Marleau’s NHL debut.
* Metallica was putting the finishing touches on its seventh studio album Reload, which was released on Nov. 18, 1997. Frontman and diehard Sharks fan James Hetfield wrote all of the lyrics for the album, which was recorded in Sausalito just 60 miles from San Jose Arena.
* George Clooney and Nicole Kidman were sitting atop the U.S. box office leaderboard on Oct. 1, 1997 with their action thriller The Peacemaker. One month later, Titanic premiered at the Tokyo International Film Festival – it finished 1997 as the highest-grossing movie of the year worldwide despite a mid-December global release.
* Peter Forsberg was on the cover of NHL 98, which was released on Aug. 31, 1997. Meanwhile, the Nintendo 64 was celebrating its one-year anniversary in North America (released Sept. 29, 1996).