When the San Jose Sharks dropped the puck tonight against the Vegas Golden Knights, history was made. Patrick Marleau was in the lineup for San Jose, the 1,768th time that he has suited up for a regular season NHL game. This sets a new NHL record, breaking the age-old mark set by the one and only Gordie Howe in 1961.
While no one is comparing Marleau to Howe, who played six additional seasons in the WHA in addition to 26 years in the NHL and is considered one of the greatest of all time, Marleau has had a storied career of his own. The 41-year-old began his NHL story as the 1997 No. 2 overall pick, just one spot behind eventual long-time teammate Joe Thornton. Marleau played immediately for the Sharks, earning Calder Trophy votes in his first season, and the rest is history. Marleau played 19 consecutive seasons with San Jose before finally departing for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2017. After two seasons in Toronto, Marleau was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes and subsequently bought out. He returned to San Jose, though the Sharks gave him potentially his last chance to win a Stanley Cup last year when he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins. It unfortunately didn’t work out for Marleau, but he was still welcomed back to San Jose again this season for a chance to break the games played record. While Marleau’s long career may not include a title, he has many other accolades. A three-time All-Star, Marleau has also received votes for the Hart Trophy five times, the Selke Trophy four times, and the Lady Byng trophy a whopping 15 times, not to mention earning a number of Sharks franchise records as well. Altogether, Marleau has 566 goals and 1196 points in his career, second and fourth respectively among all active players and top-50 all-time.
Beyond the statistics, Marleau has always provided the most important ability as well: availability. Outside of the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season and these past two COVID-impacted campaigns, Marleau has never played fewer than 74 games in a season – and that low mark occurred in his rookie season. In fact, Marleau already shares in another impressive NHL games played mark. He, Jarome Iginla, and Henrik Sedin are the only players in league history to have played every game in an 82-game schedule 11 times (although Sedin holds the record with 12).
Marleau’s new career games played record could stand the test of time as well. The only active players within even 500 games of the mark are Thornton, 41, Zdeno Chara, 44, and Eric Staal, 36. Marleau has the remainder of this season to further tack on games as well. What happens beyond that point is unknown, though many speculate that Marleau could retire now that the record is set, but also given the drop-off in his performance this year. However, Thornton and Chara are also equally likely to retire, while Staal is about six full 82-game seasons from matching the mark. Marleau should be safe for quite awhile atop the all-time games played list.
Congratulations to Marleau on this tremendous achievement from everyone at PHR.