Marleau, in passing “Mr. Hockey” Gordie Howe, drew praise from both near and far, including a nod from one of the Sharks’ fellow all-time greats, Owen Nolan.안전놀이터
“I was there for Patty’s first game & now I’m witnessing history,” Nolan tweeted. “An amazing accomplishment. Congratulations bud.”
Another Sharks’ legend and ex-teammate gave more subtle applause, sans clothes.
As Toronto’s Auston Matthews (a San Ramon native) and Mitch Marner chimed in with congratulations on an “amazing milestone,” Joe Thornton made a background cameo in the nude. Thornton did have his privates blurred, while wearing a COVID-19 mask and shower slides as he toggled a hockey stick to capture their locker-room humor.
Nothing hit closer to home than Christina Marleau’s words on her husband’s feat, as she relayed via Twitter in part: “Your dedication to the things you love go beyond hockey. The countless road trips where you’ve come home at 3 a.M., only to get up and drive the boys to school. Because you are always giving everyone and everything you love your all. Your decades of devotion at the rink are now truly unmatched. You don’t take time off when a season ends. You take that heartbreak and put it into the motivation into the next season.”
At 7:10 p.M., it became official: Marleau passed Howe for most games played in NHL history.
A minute later, the Sharks’ game against host Vegas Golden Knights was stopped to pay tribute to Marleau, who came off the bench to acknowledge the fans and watch a video message above center with salutations from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
Some 2 1/2 hours later, the Sharks skated off Vegas’ ice with a 3-2 shootout loss, but not before another round of applause for Marleau, who waved to his family in a suite and the 3,500 fans in the stands.
The NHL’s Twitter account posted a 3-minute video of Marleau’s career, as narrated by Metalica’s James Hetfield. Marleau’s reaction to it, which he shared after the game to NBC Sports’ California: “They made it all about me, which is different. It should be all about the game. But super special. The Sharks’ organization went above and beyond. They’ve got patches, you name it, they did it. They brought my family here. For the fans to show their support and gratitude, it’s overwhelming.”
Long-time Sharks analyst Drew Remenda followed with a question that brought Marleau to tears: What brings you coming to the rink?
“I just love it,” Marleau said, then pausing and using a towel to dab tears from his eyes. “There’s nothing else like it.”
Marleau heard pregame from “tons” of teammates via text messages, as well as from the Howe family and hockey great Wayne Gretzky.
Fellow NHL competitors chimed in from across North America, including Toronto Maple Leafs captain and former Marleau teammate John Tavares, who tweeted: “Incredible to see you pass Gordie’s record for all-time games played. There is no one more dedicated, humble or deserving. I feel extremely fortunate to have been your teammate. Congrats, Patty!”
Howe’s mark may be gone but it isn’t forgotten, nor is his nickname.
Representatives from the Bay Area’s other pro sports teams recorded a pregame message, those coming from the A’s Mark Canha, the Giants’ Mike Yastrzemski, the 49ers’ Mike McGlinchey and Warriors’ coach Steve Kerr.
“What an incredible accomplishment,” Kerr said. “I think I played in about 900 games in the NBA. I can barely walk now. I don’t know how you’re doing it. But keep up the good work. Amazing stuff. Congratulations.” (Kerr’s team was finishing up a win at Philadelphia behind Steph Curry’s 49 points when Marleau took the ice, in case you Bay Area sports history buffs are putting this moment in a time capsule.)
“As an avid hockey fan my whole life, congratulations again for passing Gordie Howe,” Yastrzemski said. “What an accomplishment. You’ve had a great career. And it’s been fun to watch.”
Fellow Candadian Kevin Bieska, who played for Vancouver and Anaheim, tweeted: “Plenty of battles, more respect for this pro! Miss him pushing the puck between my legs and beating me in a foot race. Sweet thanks #1768 “
Philadelphia Flyers winger James van Riemsdyk summed up Marleau’s feat by saying: “This is an absolutely insane accomplishment- Congrats Patty!”
Mike McKenna, a Golden Knights television analyst and former NHL goaltender, captured the scene in Vegas as “an amazing tribute … Patrick waving to his family in the building. Where’s the tissues(?)”
Former Sharks teammate Mark Smith got so nostalgic he posted a picture of their 1997 camp, adding: “Congratulations to my friend #patrickmarleau for passing #gordiehowe for most games played in the NHL. I’m guessing this pic was taken in ’97, our first camp in SJ. We’ve changed a bit since then, but the 3 of us still remain great friends. @Hammerhan27.”
Marleau’s historic night already was going viral before the puck dropped. Specifically, Sharks photo manager Brandon Magnus sent out an image of Marleau’s personalized gloves, and grammar police pointed out a flaw (the final “S”) in the stitching for “MOST GAMES PLAYED IN NHL HISTORY 1768TH NHL GAMES.”
Media members, past and present, also gave nods of respect, and vice versa.
Politicians made sure to get into the act, too. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo paid tribute to Marleau as a “class act” who’s brought “cheers and pride to our city for a quarter century!”
In the end, there was and will be: respect.
FEATURE: Holtz Takes Next Step Toward NHL
NEWARK, N.J. – For most European players, the biggest adaption to playing in the North American game is the ice surface.
Though the length of ice is roughly the same (200 feet vs. 196.9), the width in the international rinks are nearly 14 feet wider (85 vs. 98.4). The extra space allows for more space to beat players 1-on-1 and forces more defensive zone coverage breakdowns due to outstretched gap play.
Typically, Europeans prefer the extra ice because it allows them to work more with their speed and hands. But 19-year-old Swedish winger Alexander Holtz is the exception to the rule.
“You have smaller ice here. I think that helps my game more because I’m a shooter,” he said. “You get into more shooting spots here on the smaller ice.”
Video: RAW | Alexander Holtz 04.19.21
Holtz, New Jersey’s first of three first-round picks (7th overall) in the 2020 NHL Draft, has a deadly release and a nasty shot. The tighter ice dimensions in the NHL means that he will always be positioned closer to the opposing net, unlike Europe. That also means no matter where he is in the offensive zone, with his quick release, he will be a threat to score anytime the puck is on his stick.
“I think it’s better for my game. I like to shoot the puck fast and with a quick release,” Holtz said. “I think you get into a lot of shooting opportunities everywhere in the offensive zone. That helps my game a lot.”
Holtz, who arrived in New Jersey Friday to begin a seven-day quarantine, signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Devils Monday afternoon that will begin in the 2021-22 season.
“I feel so good. It’s such an honor to sign my first NHL contract with the New Jersey Devils,” Holtz said from his hotel room. “I’m really proud of it. I worked very hard for it. You can’t imagine what it’s like before you sign it. I’m extremely honored. It’s so nice.”
By the time Holtz is eligible to play, which will be not until this Saturday, there will only be 10 games remaining in New Jersey’s season. The team smartly opted to not burn a year of his entry-level contract on 10 games, and instead also signed him to an American Hockey League Amateur Try-Out contract. That will allow Holtz to finish out the season with some AHL experience with Binghamton.
“It’s a nice opportunity I get to play some games here before moving on to next season,” he said.
Holtz, a native of Stockholm, spent his past season in his native Sweden with Djurgardens of the Swedish Hockey League, where he posted seven goals and 18 points in 40 games. He also saw action in the World Junior Championship, posting three points (1G-2A) in five games.
“I think I developed a lot this year. I had a good year before World Juniors. I played a lot with my team,” Holtz said. “But I think I developed a lot. I’m feeling stronger. I’m feeling faster, and so on. I feel like my shot is even better.
“I think I developed a lot and feel like I’m a much better player right now.”
Holtz, who has been spending his quarantine time with home workouts, watching movies, playing video games and talking to friends and family back home in Sweden, had planned on joining New Jersey for the 2021-22 season. However a first-round playoff loss, 2-1, to Frolunda in the opening round of the SHL playoffs accelerated the process.
“That was a little plan I had in my head,” said Holtz of coming to the New Jersey next season. “Maybe not get this opportunity to play some games in Binghamton because I would rather be in the playoffs with Djurgardens. This is a nice opportunity that popped up, and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Holtz, who stands at 6-foot, 192-pounds, is also looking forward to meeting some of his new teammates and getting back on the ice – he hasn’t skated since his final game with Djurgardens on April 8.
“Stepping on the ice again. It was a while ago since we went out in the playoffs in Sweden,” said Holtz, who has been playing tennis and staying active to keep his conditioning high with the two-week break he’ll be off the ice. “Going back on the ice, meeting all the staff, meeting all the guys, of course. It will be a lot of fun when I get out of (quarantine).”
With Binghamton playing its home games in Newark this year, Holtz will have a chance to meet his new teammates, coaches and staff in the AHL and NHL, as both clubs share the Prudential Center venue. He is looking forward to the future and beyond in Jersey.