Courtesy of the San Jose Sharks
SAN JOSE — Patrick Marleau’s career became full circle this past Saturday evening at SAP Center.
The San Jose Sharks made history when they retired Marleau’s number 12 and raised it to the rafters of the Shark Tank before their game with one of the Original Six, Chicago Blackhawks.
Marleau became the first player of the 32-year franchise to have his number retired. Mr. San Jose Shark, which he was appropriately named, had a three-day whirlwind of a weekend.
On Thursday afternoon at San Jose City Hall’s Rotunda, the celebration of Marleau’s career began with a proclamation. February 23, 2023 was declared Patrick Marleau Day by mayor Matthew Mahan who presented the Marleau family with a plaque to commemorate the day. A teal flag sporting his number 12 was also raised at the end.
Marleau was joined by his wife Christina, their four sons, both his parents and in-laws as well as other friends and family members. Sharks president Jonathan Becher MCed the event as his gave a speech before Marleau took questions from the media before Mayor Mahan’s proclamation before a packed room of media and fans.
When asked if he ever dreamt that a kid from Aneroid, Saskatchewan would be honored by the U.S.’s 10th largest city, Marleau quipped how there was more people in the Rotunda than his entire town.
“When I got drafted (in 1997), they had a Patrick Marleau Day in Aneroid. I think this room has more people in it than (the entire town of) Aneroid has,” Marleau said with a hearty laugh. He continued, “So it’s something super special for me and I’m very honored.”
Marleau appreciated the fans in San Jose during his career and thanked them for their support.
“Once I got drafted, the first few games to see a couple of Marleau jerseys in the stands it just shows how welcoming the community is and how they were pulling for you and supported you,” Marleau said.
I asked Mayor Mahan how special of a day it was for him, who grew up a big Sharks fans in the Santa Cruz County, to declare a day for the former number two pick of the 1997 draft.
“It’s awesome!”, said Mahan. “I feel very fortunate to be (the) mayor (of San Jose) at a time where we get to celebrate one of our hometown heroes. Somebody who has led with incredible heart and integrity for over 20 years. I mean it’s one thing to be an incredible athlete, but to also be a good person and be that kind of role model for our young people, it means a lot.”
With every great man, is an even greater woman beside him and Christina has been the rock at Marleau’s side through thick and thin. Something Marleau acknowledged during his speech at the retirement ceremony. Christina reiterated at the proclamation how proud she was of her husband’s accomplished career.
“Well, it’s special he gets recognized. Obviously, I’m his biggest fan, but to see other people love him, is special to me,” Christina said.
When asked if she likes having Patrick home more often with the kids, her response, “Most of the time”, she said with a quick laugh.
Friday evening Marleau laced up the skates again but this time it was to play in a legends game with a bunch of old Sharks teammates as well as his four sons. Considering Marleau has played with 37% of the players to have ever played in the entire history of the NHL, he had quite a few to choose from.
The standouts of course were his road roommate during his Sharks tenure, Joe Thornton as well as Mike Ricci and Owen Nolan. When asked what it was like to play hockey on the same sheet of ice along with his four boys, Marleau said it meant a lot to him and his family.
“That was one of the things I hoped for you know when they were born, that I could play long enough that (not only) they could actually watch the games but understand the whole what dad did for a living. And I think what this weekend, tonight even, and years prior they got a good idea of what I did and were a big part of it,” Marleau said.
Marleau was emotional throughout the ceremony as video tributes from old teammates played on the scoreboard including Kelly Hrudey, whom him and his wife took Marleau under their wing during Patrick’s first year in the NHL and let them live in their house while Hrudey taught Marleau what hockey life in the NHL was going to be like both on and off the ice.
When asked what emotions he experienced during the raising of his jersey to the rafters of the Shark Tank, he responded that it was a flashback of all the hard work and sacrifices he did to make the night as memorable it was for him and his family.
“It was surreal, I think…it just flashes before your eyes. It was like everything I did led up to that moment. It was just so appreciative that it went so well that I had the career that I did, had the support that I had. It all flashed before me but all that hard work finally you know paid off. To be able to have the first jersey retired in San Jose Sharks history. Very thankful,” Marleau said.
I had the privilege of experiencing Marleau’s career as both as a fan and as a member of the media over that two-decade span, he wore the teal sweater. I can tell you Marleau was as humble and as down to earth both off and on the ice. Those two characteristics are what made his career special (along with his storied achievements including playing the most games in NHL history) and why he deserved to be the first Sharks to have him number retired by the organization that he gave his heart and soul to.
We all have our favorite Marleau memories, many he created during the Sharks postseason runs. Mine interestingly isn’t one of his overtime winners he gave all of us throughout his career. No, mine was being the last person to talk him after the Sharks lost Game 6 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final to the Pittsburgh Penguins. He made sure I got my questions in at his stall in the changing room. And after his final answer as we both gave each other a look of condolence; I thanked him and then he thanked me back as he gave me a quick pat on the shoulder.
That is something I will never forget and it's one of the reasons why he will forever be the legend that he is, Mr. San Jose Shark.
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Right Winger Kevin Labanc after the Sharks 7-4 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on November 17, 2022.
Goaltender James Reimer after the Sharks 7-4 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on November 17, 2022.
Head coach David Quinn after the Sharks 7-4 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on November 17, 2022.