Legendary hockey broadcaster Doc Emrick was born in La Fontaine, Indiana, a town that even today has a population of less than 1,000 people. Sharks franchise icon Patrick Marleau also grew up with humble beginnings, and Emrick believes that was an integral part of Marleau's eventual success and marathon NHL career.
"I admire guys that come from small towns, and of course Aneroid, Saskatchewan is under 100, where Patrick came from," Emrick told NBC Sports California. "Maybe that's the kind of humble background that enables you to just look to the horizon and say, 'I can do anything and I can last in this league.' "
Last might be an understatement for what Marleau has done in his career. The 41-year-old is fifth on the NHL's all-time games played list, just 44 games behind Gordie Howe's NHL record 1,767. Marleau spent the first 19 seasons of his NHL career in San Jose, and after two years with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the veteran returned to the organization before the 2019-20 season.
Marleau is the franchise's all-time leader in games played, goals and points, and Emrick believes there hasn't been a teammate that hasn't enjoyed playing alongside the former No. 2 overall pick.
"Everybody likes playing on a team that has Patrick Marleau on it," Emrick said. "And the same was true in Toronto because of the leadership that he brought and the character that he brought. That probably relates to stability, but as I'm saying, this is amateur sociology, but I would sure like having him on my team, I know that, and I'll look forward to watching him play yet another year."
At 41 years old, Marleau is preparing for his 23rd NHL season. It's not unheard of for players to keep playing well into their 40's. Marleau told reporters after he re-signed with the Sharks in October that he still loves the game, and would like to finally win his first championship.
"I still love playing," Marleau told reporters via videoconference. "I still love the competition. Still going after my dream of winning the Stanley Cup, and still able to get out there and play and have fun, and I think that's the thing that keeps me going. As far as the record with Gordie Howe, we'll see -- you never know what can happen. But if it does happen, that would be something pretty special, that's for sure."
The NHL season schedule has yet to be officially released, but it's not hard to imagine that if he remains healthy, Marleau will at some point in the season pass Howe and become the NHL's all-time leader in appearances.
Not bad for a guy from a place with a population that barely exceeds the number of Sharks on the active roster.