Patrick Marleau is on history's doorstep, and he's expected to cross the threshold Monday night when the Sharks face the rival Las Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena.
Marleau, 41, enters this weekend's games with 1,765 career games played, just two away from breaking Gordie Howe's NHL record. For the famed Sharks center, his journey to history was fueled by another quest, one he has yet to finish.
“Just first and foremost, loving the game and I just love being out there and playing," Marleau told reporters Thursday when asked what has kept him playing for so long." Obviously, every kid’s dream is to hoist that Stanley Cup, so I’ve been chasing it all this time and that goal hasn’t changed for me, since you know what the Stanley Cup’s about.”
After being drafted by the Sharks in 1997, Marleau helped San Jose grow out of its early awkward expansion years and transformed the Sharks into a yearly contender. But Marleau and the Sharks never got over the hump, with their best chance coming in the franchise's only Stanley Cup Final appearance when they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2015-16 season.
While a drive for a title has kept Marleau coming back to the ice, he's well aware that luck has played a huge role in his ability to break Howe's record.
“Oh, definitely got lucky along the way," Marleau said. "That has a lot to do with it, but also putting in the work, putting in the hours training -- offseason, during the season -- and having a great support staff, great trainers to help you out, medical staff. There’s always bumps and bruises along the way, so the sooner you can get those under control and try and get it back up to 100% during the season, it can only help you throughout, throughout your career.”
Barring anything unforeseen, Marleau will break Howe's record when he takes the ice Monday night.
But he'll keep coming back day after day as his pursuit of what matters most continues in Year 24.
“I mean, it’s huge," Marleau said of not winning a Cup. "Every season where it doesn’t happen, it’s a kick in the butt, for sure. Especially on teams that you know have a really good shot of going a long way. Every year, you’ve got to go into the season believing that you’re going to win or you’re going to win the Stanley Cup and get in the playoffs. That’s how I’ve always approached it. That’s what I’m chasing.
"It’s definitely disappointing that I haven’t won it in my career but that’s what’s kept me going all these years, is trying to win that Stanley Cup.”