Teary Marleau succinctly explains what hockey means to him

Sharks' Patrick Marleau

In a few words, Patrick Marleau spoke volumes.

Minutes after setting the NHL's record for games played, NBC Sports California's Drew Remenda asked Marleau what keeps him coming to the rink.

Marleau, fighting back tears, needed just two sentences to say it all.

"I just love it," Marleau told "Sharks Postgame Live" in his first interview after his NHL-record 1,768th game, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena.

"There's nothing else like it."

The 41-year-old hasn't been known as an emotional player during his 23 NHL seasons (and counting). Critics have mistaken Marleau's calm consistency for a dispassionate detachment throughout his career, particularly when blame for the Sharks' playoff shortcomings centered on his supposed underachievement.

A career that, to date, includes 500-plus goals, two Olympic gold medals and one of the NHL's most hallowed records long ago proved to be enough of a rebuttal for Marleau's detractors. That didn't stop a pair of Canadian columnists from questioning, of all things on all days, Marleau's worthiness of holding said record.

Did Marleau look like a man who failed to understand the enormity of the moment? Did Marleau sound like a man who has taken a record-setting career for granted?

Monday mattered to Marleau, just as all 1,767 regular-season and 195 playoff games that preceded his record did, too.

If, after all this time, you believe those didn't, you simply haven't been paying attention.


"I'm just extremely grateful for everything and all the support everyone's given me throughout my career, especially tonight," Marleau said earlier in the "Sharks Postgame Live" interview. "I don't know how many phone calls or texts I've got. I think it might take me a week to reply to everybody, but it's been overwhelmingly humbling, to say the least."

RELATED: Marleau's persistence epitomized by NHL games played record

Records are made to be broken, and Marleau's new mark seems likely to stand for some time. Take, for instance, the only active player who's played in more consecutive games than the Sharks forward.

Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle has played in 912 straight contests. He'd need to play in 747 more games to match Marleau's current record. Yandle's 34 years old.

Get used to seeing Marleau's name atop the NHL record book, even if he hasn't.

"[My teammates] had a video tribute to me, and kind of made it all about me, which is really different," Marleau said of his record-setting night. "It should be about the game and all that, but for them to do that, super special. The Sharks organization, they went above and beyond. Like, there's patches -- you name it, they did it.

"They brought my family in here, [the] Vegas Golden Knights, gotta thank them for giving us a suite for my family. For the fans here to show the support and gratitude, it's overwhelming. It's really unbelievable."