“So many emotions going through your head,” said Marleau, whose Sharks lost to the Knights 3-2 in a shootout. “The emotional roller-coaster was definitely a long ride, and I’m blessed to have been able to do this.”
Marleau, 41, began his career with San Jose in the 1997-98 season. Marleau set the games played record in 23 seasons. Howe, who like Marleau is a native of Saskatchewan, Canada, amassed his total over 26 seasons, before “Mr. Hockey” finally retired at age 51.
This was the 899th consecutive game in which he’s played, the second longest current iron-man streak among active players.
Before the game, the Sharks presented Marleau with a special video in the dressing room, featuring career highlights and messages from friends and teammates through the years. After the game, the Sharks kept their gear on in the dressing room to give Marleau a standing ovation. He gave a teary-eyed speech about how much his teammates had meant to him through the years.
“It was a touching moment and we were honored to be a part of it,” said Sharks coach Bob Boughner.
Marleau started the game on right wing for the Sharks. The announcement that he had set the record was made at the first stoppage in play. He took a spin around the ice with his stick in the air. A video message was played from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, congratulating Marleau on a career that “shows no signs of slowing down.” The fans in Vegas, including some Sharks supporters and Marleau’s family, gave him a standing ovation.
The Sharks celebrated the occasion with some wardrobe additions, too. They added a sticker featuring a silhouette of Marleau next to his signature, his No 12 and “1,768 games played.” The same logo was featured on the right shoulder of their jerseys. They had hooded sweatshirts featuring a cartoon drawing of Marleau celebrating a goal. Goalie Martin Jones wore a new mask with Marleau’s name painted on the side.
Marleau was given a pair of commemorative gloves during practice with the grammatically challenged “Most Games Played In NHL History: 1,768th NHL Games” emblazoned on them, along with logos of the Sharks, Toronto Maple Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins, the three teams for whom he’s played.
“I didn’t know what they had planned or anything like that, but it was super special to see it,” said Marleau. “They didn’t miss a thing.”
Before the game, the Sharks’ local television affiliate ran video tributes from members of the San Francisco Giants and 49ers, Oakland Athletics and Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who congratulated Marleau on his longevity and said, “I played in about 900 games in the NBA, and I can barely walk.”
— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) April 20, 2021
The Golden Knights are the Sharks’ arch-rival, but they were in awe of Marleau’s achievement, too. After the game, the Knights lined up in a handshake line to greet Marleau and remained on the ice with the Sharks for a stick-tap salute.
“As much as you hate your opponent, as much as you want to beat your opponent, you still respect your opponent. I think everyone in our locker room respects the hell out of what he’s doing,” said captain Mark Stone. “For him to play 82 games a season, never miss a game, always be there, it speaks volumes about what kind of professional he is.”
The Sharks will honor Marleau with an on-ice ceremony on Saturday at SAP Center before their game against Minnesota.