Patrick Marleau makes NHL history by passing Gordie Howe for the most games ever played


An emotional Patrick Marleau acknowledges the crowd in Vegas at T-Mobile Arena after playing in his NHL record 1,768th game to surpass hockey legend Gordie Howe. The San Jose Shark has been the epitome of class and durability during an outstanding 23-year career. AP Photo credit San Jose Sharks via Getty Images

Last night in Vegas, history was made. Patrick Marleau played in an NHL record 1,768th game to become the all-time leader in games played. The Sharks forward passed hockey legend Gordie Howe to achieve the memorable honor.

Taken second overall behind former San Jose teammate Joe Thornton in the ’97 NHL Draft, the 41-year old center from Saskatchewan has had a long distinguished career playing 23 years in the NHL. A player who’s topped 20 goals or more 15 times including hitting 30 or better six times and eclipsing 40 once, Marleau has scored 566 goals with 630 assists for a total of 1,196 points in a modern day NHL record 1,768 games.

Having played for the Sharks three different times including the first 19 seasons, Marleau has scored 522 of his 566 goals in teal. That also includes 588 of 630 assists along with 1,110 of 1,196 points. Of the 1,768 games played including Monday’s record breaker versus the Golden Knights, Marleau has participated in 1,596 games as a San Jose Shark. That means only 172 came in a different jersey. He played 164 games in Toronto before getting traded to Carolina, who bought out the final year of his contract.

That allowed Marleau to re-sign with the Sharks where he played 58 games before being dealt to the Penguins as a rental in ’19-20. He got into eight games before the pandemic ended the regular season. After hitting free agency, it set the stage for the Sharks to bring back the most popular player in franchise history for a third time this season. He’s played in all 45 games in ’21 recording four goals and four assists. The astonishing thing about Marleau is how durable he’s been. He hasn’t missed a game in over a decade dating back to ’08-09 when he was 29. In fact, he’s now played in 899 consecutive games. An amazing achievement.

In looking at what Marleau has done throughout his long career, he’s played in four different decades starting in the 90’s when he debuted as a Shark on Oct. 1, 1997. At the time, he was 18 years and 16 days old making him the youngest player to make their NHL debut in the previous 76 years. Basically, that dates back to World War II. There’s only one player who played in more decades. That would be Mr. Hockey, who skated in five as a Detroit Red Wing, Houston Aero and then a New England and Hartford Whaler. You could also make a case for legendary Jaromir Jagr, who is still playing in the Czech Republic for Kladno at 49. Technically, he’s also skated in four decades. A living legend.

There are many nice things to say about the classy Marleau, who got choked up when talking about all the games he’s played during an emotional Sharks postgame that even featured former San Jose color commentator and current pre and postgame analyst Drew Remenda. Seeing Marleau tear up while telling Remenda how much he loves playing hockey was special. He added, “There’s nothing else like it.”

That’s how much the game means to him. It was a real nice touch by the Sharks’ rival Golden Knights, who honored him last night. Each player shook his hand and congratulated him. Both teams stayed on the ice and gave him stick taps in salute. This was a great moment for hockey that showed the sportsmanship and class the sport has. In a physical game where we’ve seen some battles cross the line, there is still respect shown. We see it during the Stanley Cup Playoffs and during record-breaking games such as yesterday.

Although the Sharks lost 3-2 in a shootout to the Golden Knights, Marleau got an overtime shift and was their first shooter in the skill competition. Robin Lehner padded away his low shot. Wearing his trademark number 12, Marleau had one shot on goal in 17:21. The Sharks have 11 games remaining on the season. These could be the final 11 he plays.

When I think of Patrick Marleau, I’m reminded of the fast skater he’s been. He always had great speed and a good shot that could beat goalies. That skating is why he can still play. I’ve always enjoyed watching him. He had a lot of skill and was a smart player who could play in his end. A very enjoyable to watch on breakaways. When he scored, Sharks play-by-play announcer Randy Hahn would get excited and say, “He Scoooooorreeess! Pat-rick Mar-leau!” Talk about a great broadcaster. He’s been one of the best. I loved him and Drew before he left to do regional games for the Oilers.

Is he worthy of the Hockey Hall Of Fame? Hard to say. Marleau has won no major awards. The Sharks fell short of winning a Stanley Cup in 2016 when they lost to the Penguins. At 38, he had five goals and eight assists for 13 points over 24 games during that run. To think he and Thornton got to team up for over a decade. The top two picks from that ’97 Draft. It was pretty cool.

I have nothing but admiration for Marleau. He’s been a classy player as has Thornton, who now hopes to chase that Cup in Toronto. Who knows if this is it for both. However, last night was all about Patrick Marleau. Congratulations to him on his record setting game. One that probably will never be broken.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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