Gordie Howe’s scoring records were once considered unbreakable until Wayne Gretzky arrived.
Now his longevity record has been broken, too.
San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau, 41, suited up and took the ice for his 1,768th game Monday night in Las Vegas against the Golden Knights, passing the late Hockey Hall of Famer.
Marleau said Hall of Famer Mark Howe called to say that his dad would be proud that his record was being broken by another “small-town, small-farm boy from Saskatchewan.”
Marleau was drafted second overall in 1997 by the Sharks and made his NHL debut on Oct. 1, 1997, at 18 years, 16 days old. He’s the youngest person in the last 76 years to suit up for an NHL game.
More than 23 years later, he set the record in his 21st season with the Sharks, a testament to his durability. Monday’s game extended his iron man streak to 899 games, fourth all-time.
Marleau got the start Monday night, so his record became official with the drop of the puck. After a stoppage in play, a video message congratulating Marleau on the feat from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was played on the T-Mobile Arena jumbotron.
“To be merely mentioned in the same sentence as Gordie Howe is an achievement most hockey players can only dream about,” Bettman said. “To break one of his records is historic.”
The fans in Las Vegas then gave Marleau a rousing standing ovation.
“I’ve met a lot of great teammates, great friends over the years, within the game, outside of the game, chiropractors, doctors, massage therapists, specialists all around,” he told reporters Saturday after tying the record. “To have that support, you don’t get to play this many games or play this long without everyone helping along the way, and I’ve definitely had my share of help from all those people.”
San Jose Sharks center Patrick Marleau salutes the crowd after he was honored for passing Gordie Howe for most games played in NHL history. (Photo: John Locher, AP)
He got emotional during Monday’s pregame availability while mentioning Don Baizley, his agent who died in 2013.
“All that he did for me throughout my career was extremely amazing for me,” he said. “He definitely was a huge part of my career.”
Marleau was on the road for the tying game, too, and the Minnesota Wild acknowledged the record with fans cheering and players shaking his hand after the game.
His wife, Christina, and four sons are in Las Vegas for the record night.
“I have a great support staff, but they’re by far and away my biggest supporters,” he said Monday.
Marleau, a three-time All-Star, holds Sharks records for games, goals, points, power-play goals, short-handed goals, game-winning goals and shots. He also played for the Toronto Maple Leafs for two seasons in 2017-18 and 2018-19 before returning to the Sharks in 2019-20. He was traded last season to the Pittsburgh Penguins before returning to San Jose once again this season.
“I just love being out there and playing, and every kid’s dream is to hoist that Stanley Cup so I’ve been chasing that all this time,” he said last week.
The closest he got was reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2016. The Sharks are in the midst of a losing streak, and Marleau could miss the playoffs for just the third time in his career.
He’d like to add to the longevity record. He’s on a one-year, $700,000 contract but has been limited to four goals and four assists this season.
“I still feel good,” he said last week. “I’d like to keep playing as long as I can, as long as my family is willing to keep supporting me, seeing me off on road trips and welcoming me home coming back, we’ll try to keep it going as long as we can.”