Marleau tops Mr. Hockey for most games played

    Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.

San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau played in his 1,768th career game on Monday night at the Vegas Golden Knights, breaking Hall of Famer Gordie Howe’s record for the most in NHL history.

Marleau, 41, began his career with San Jose in the 1997-98 season. Marleau set the games played record in 23 seasons. Howe, who like Marleau is a Saskatchewan native, amassed his total over 26 seasons, before “Mr. Hockey” finally retired at age 51.

This was the 899th consecutive game in which he’s played, the second longest current iron-man streak among active players.

Marleau started the game on right wing for the Sharks. The announcement that he had set the record was made at the first stoppage in play. He took a spin around the ice with his stick in the air. A video message was played from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, congratulating Marleau on a career that “shows no signs of slowing down.” The fans in Vegas, including some Sharks supporters and Marleau’s family, gave him a standing ovation.

“You don’t really know how you’re supposed to feel. There’s a game tonight, but there’s also a lot of things going on at the same time,” Marleau said before the game. “I’m just trying to embrace it and take it all in. I love being able to thank the people that helped me along the way.”

The Sharks celebrated the occasion with some wardrobe additions, too. They added a sticker featuring a silhouette of Marleau next to his signature, his No 12 and “1,768 games played.” The same logo was featured on the right shoulder of their jerseys. They had hooded sweatshirts featuring a cartoon drawing of Marleau celebrating a goal. Goalie Martin Jones wore a new marks with Marleau’s painted on the side.

Marleau was given a pair of commemorative gloves during practice with the grammatically challenged “Most Games Played In NHL History: 1,768th NHL Games” emblazoned on them, along with logos of the Sharks, Toronto Maple Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins, the three teams for whom he’s played.

Before the game, the Sharks’ local television affiliate ran video tributes from members of the San Francisco Giants and 49ers, Oakland Athletics and Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who congratulated Marleau on his longevity and said, “I played in about 900 games in the NBA and I can barely walk.”

Congrats from around The Bay! 👏#BayAreaUnite pic.twitter.com/kfoajUuyrO

The Golden Knights are the Sharks’ arch-rival, but they were in awe of Marleau’s achievement, too.

“As much as you hate your opponent, as much as you want to beat your opponent, you still respect your opponent. I think everyone in our locker room respects the hell out of what he’s doing,” said captain Mark Stone. “For him to play 82 games a season, never miss a game, always be there, it speaks volumes about what kind of professional he is.”

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