SAN JOSE -- On the night before the NHL All-Star Skills Competition, Auston Matthews had an idea.
The Toronto Maple Leafs superstar, voted as captain of the Atlantic Division team by fans, was set to participate in the accuracy shooting portion of the event. Once it was his turn, he would take off his blue No. 34 Maple Leafs sweater to reveal another.
A white No. 12 Patrick Marleau, in the building where the former Shark made his name.
“I thought it was a pretty good idea,” Matthews said Friday night. “Last night, I was at dinner with my family and just kind of thought about it. Lucky enough, they were able to make up a jersey quick this morning and have it ready for me when I went out there.”
Matthews put his surprise sweater on during the intermission between the third and fourth events of the night at SAP Center. It was a good call, he said, because he was getting hot wearing two jerseys at the same time until the final event.
When it finally was Matthews’ turn to shoot, the SAP Center crowd rose to its feet once the 21-year-old’s tribute became clear.
“It was amazing, I wasn’t expecting that,” Matthews said. “I think that’s just a testament to how much of a legend he really is here. It’s pretty amazing, and everything he’s done for the city of San Jose in his career here.”
Marleau remains the Sharks' franchise leader in just about every category, and No. 12 jerseys still can be found among the home crowd on any given night. His former teammates still rave about him, too.
Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said he didn’t immediately realize what Matthews was doing, until former San Jose teammate and current NBC Sports broadcaster Jeremy Roenick clued him in. Once Pavelski knew, he was cheering along with everyone else.
“Incredible,” Pavelski told reporters. “I looked at [Sharks teammate Brent Burns] and was like, ‘We gotta get a picture with him.’ We probably should have turned him around, we just wanted [Marleau’s] name on the back.
“Patty means a lot to everyone who’s come through this organization, and he’s left his mark … I think it was pretty cool of [Matthews] to do that.”
Marleau means a lot to Matthews as well. Matthews, along with young Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner, have developed strong bonds with the 39-year-old during his Toronto tenure. In parts of two seasons, Marleau has become a popular figure in the Leafs dressing room, as his teammates see what made him one in San Jose.
On Friday, the crowd's support quickly turned to nerves, Matthews said. He briefly skated away before hitting the fifth and final target. Ultimately, he completed the event in nearly 36 seconds, finishing eighth among his All-Star competitors.
Still, Mathews said Marleau was appreciative of the sweater swap, even if he initially was kept in the dark.
“No, I didn’t [tell Marleau ahead of time],” Matthews said. “I try not to bother him. I know he’s on vacation. But he texted me when I get off the ice, and just said, ‘Thanks, that was awesome.’
“I can’t explain how great of a guy he is, and how close we are in our relationship. He’s just an unbelievable person.”
Based on their reaction Friday, Sharks fans couldn’t agree more.