Patrick Marleau will tie Gordie Howe's incredible games played record on Saturday night, but the veteran Sharks forward grew up admiring the NHL legend and fellow Saskatchewan native.
“For me, growing up in Saskatchewan, one of the first things you do is look to see what players from Saskatchewan are in the NHL,” Marleau told The Los Angeles Times' Helene Elliott. “Obviously Gordie comes to the top of that list and Bryan Trottier, Mark Lamb and players like that grew up around my area and made it. It gives you hope, maybe that could be me one day playing in the NHL since these guys before me did it coming from small farming communities in Saskatchewan.”
Marleau will tie Howe's remarkable 1,767 career NHL games played record when the Sharks take the ice in Minnesota on Saturday night against the Wild.
Originally the Sharks' No. 2 overall pick back in the 1997 NHL Draft, Marleau has played 1,594 of his career games in a San Jose uniform.
Marleau will have the opportunity to break Howe's record on Monday night, when the Sharks take on the rival Golden Knights in Vegas.
Even as he is amid his 23rd NHL season, Marleau still is chasing a Stanley Cup. He and the Sharks appeared to be out of the race entirely just a few weeks ago, but some hot play from goaltender Martin Jones has San Jose on the edge of the playoff picture in the Honda West Division.
The Sharks are four points out of the fourth spot in the West, but still have 13 games including Saturday night's contest to climb back up the standings.
Although most Sharks fans won't get to see Marleau's record-breaking game in person, the organization did announce on Friday that fans would be permitted at the team's final seven home games of the 2021 season, beginning April 26.
It will be a limited capacity crowd, but it's hard to imagine there won't be a monster roar for Marleau the first time he takes the ice again in front of a home crowd at the SAP Center.
Monday night's game will be a memorable one for all of the people of Saskatchewan, as they see one native son pass another for one of hockey's most impressive records.