Wed, Nov 01, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Patrick Marleau makes emotional return to San Jose

AP, SAN JOSE, California

Toronto Maple Leafs center Patrick Marleau raises his stick to the crowd as he is honored before an NHL game against the San Jose Sharks, his former team, on Monday in San Jose, California.

Photo: AP

Patrick Marleau woke up in his own home in San Jose and drove to the rink to prepare for a hockey game just as he has done countless times during his stellar career, only this day was much different.

Marleau was the opponent in the Shark Tank for the first time on Monday when he returned to the arena he starred in for 19 seasons.

When he arrived for the Toronto Maple Leafs’ morning skate, he turned right to head to the visitors’ dressing room rather than to the left to go to the Sharks’ room.

The differences from his previous routine became even more stark when he squared off against his former teammates following an emotional pregame ceremony.

The Sharks played a video tribute to Marleau and he received a loud ovation that lasted nearly 90 seconds from the fans, who chanted “Pat-ty! Pat-ty!”

“It was extremely special to get an ovation like that and see all the signs and everything, just really humbling,” Marleau said after Toronto lost 3-2 to San Jose.

Marleau left as a free agent this summer when Toronto gave him an US$18.75 million, three-year deal.

Marleau watched scores of teammates come and go during his two decades in San Jose and now has a greater appreciation for what that is like after changing teams for the first time in his career.

“You always knew for players changing teams and families that obviously it could be hard, but until you go through it, you don’t know how hard it is and what those guys are going through away from the rink,” he said.

Marleau has watched many teammates have homecomings and one that stood out was when Joe Thornton returned to Boston less than two months after being traded to San Jose. Less than six minutes into the game, Thornton was ejected for checking Hal Gill from behind.

“I’ll try not to do that,” Marleau said before the game.

With a low-key demeanor, quiet voice and blazing speed, Marleau developed into one of the top players in the league in his 19 seasons in San Jose. Marleau left as the club’s career leader in games played (1,493), goals (508) and points (1,082). Only six players in NHL history have played more games for one team than Marleau did with the Sharks.

“He’s Mr Shark. He always will be,” San Jose player Marc-Edouard Vlasic said. “Nobody will ever pass him. I always thought there’ll be one number retired in the organization and it’ll be No. 12.”

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