It’s hard to believe Patrick Marleau has been a member of the San Jose Sharks for almost 17 years. After an outstanding junior career with the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds, Marleau was selected number 2 overall in the 1997 Entry Draft. Selected first that year was Joe Thornton by the Boston Bruins. Later in their careers they would join forces to play for the Sharks.
Marleau’s first training camp was in the late summer of 1997. At that time he had not yet celebrated his 18th birthday. He was a skinny, respectful and very quiet young man. Even by then his skills and God-given ability were quite evident.
The 1997-98 Sharks team was a veteran outfit. Players such as Bernie Nicholls, Tony Granato, Murray Craven, Stephane Matteau and Kelly Hrudey filled the roster. As a group, they put Marleau under their wings. Hrudey actually opened his home to the young NHLer. The structure and stability of staying with an older and successful player paid dividends to Patrick’s game and allowed him to grow up in a high profile business.
Marleau had worn uniform number 12 in Seattle but veteran forward Ron Sutter wore 12 in San Jose. He would need to wait, as time in service allows veterans first choice of numbers. Marleau would settle on number 14. When Ron Sutter moved on in 2000, Marleau snatched up the number 12.
In his first season, head coach Darryl Sutter used Marleau wisely. He placed him in situations where he could succeed. Sutter has always employed the ‘tough love’ style of coaching. While outwardly hard on players, Sutter was careful in the way he handled Patrick and other young Sharks such as Marco Sturm and Jeff Friesen.
In his rookie season Marleau ranked 4th in team scoring with 13 goals and 19 assists, good for 32 points. In the following years, Marleau would gain a few extra pounds and confidence on the ice. His skating has always been his major strength. That along with his outstanding puck skills and wicked wrist shot, it was only a matter of time until he would rank amongst the best players in the game.
Over the years there would be All-Star games, Olympic games and 140 NHL playoff games in a Sharks uniform. In his 15 year career, Marleau has notched 20 or more goals 11 times, including five 30-goal seasons and one 40-goal season.
His even keel approach to hockey, and life in general, have often been misunderstood. Some see this and question his intensity and passion for the game. Over a thousand regular season games, 400+ goals and nearly 900 NHL points speak volumes of his desire and dedication to the game. Even when called out in public Marleau has always taken the high road.
Next season will be Marleau’s 16th in a San Jose sweater. At this point in his career there is a good chance Marleau will be able to play his entire career with just one club. In the past it was very common for a player to play all his games in one sweater. Immortals like Jean Beliveau, Rocket Richard, Alex Delvecchio, Stan Mikita and most recently Steve Yzerman spent their entire careers with one club. Very few players ever get the chance tpo be such a huge part of the identity of one team. At just 33, Marleau should still have 5-7 productive seasons left in him.
It’s been a long time since the 17-year-old in training camp. Patrick is now married with three young sons. During his long tenure with the Sharks, Marleau has played some great hockey. 500 goals, 1000 points and a retired number 12 could be in his future. But the real prize Marleau and Northern California fans have in mind is the Stanley Cup.