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Matthews All-Star jersey tribute was 'special', Marleau says

Maple Leafs forward honored his teammate, former Sharks player, during skills competition in San Jose

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

Matthews pays homage to Marleau

Accuracy Shooting: Matthews reveals Marleau jersey

Auston Matthews reveals a Patrick Marleau jersey much to the delight of Sharks fans in the Honda NHL Accuracy Shooting

  • 01:12 •

DETROIT -- A week ago, Patrick Marleau was lying in bed in Turks and Caicos when his phone lit up.

He was on vacation for the All-Star Break while Toronto Maple Leafs teammate Auston Matthews was in the 2019 Honda NHL Accuracy Shooting competition at SAP Center in San Jose.

When he checked his phone, he saw Matthews had pulled off his regular blue Maple Leafs jersey to reveal a white All-Star Maple Leafs jersey with the name Marleau and the No. 12. 

The crowd gave a standing ovation.

Marleau spent his first 19 NHL seasons in San Jose before signing with Toronto as a free agent July 2, 2017. In Sharks history, he ranks first in games played (1,493), goals (508) and points (1,082).

"It was pretty cool to see," Marleau said as the Maple Leafs prepared to play the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET; FS-D, TSN4, NHL.TV). "And to see the fans' reaction was really special."

It showed what Marleau meant to the fans in San Jose and his teammates in Toronto.

Marleau, 39, has been a mentor to players like Matthews, 21.

"It's crazy," he said. "I never really would expect anything like that, but for him to feel the need to do that is pretty special. It means a lot."

Coach Mike Babcock linked it to the growth of the Maple Leafs. After bottoming out and selecting Matthews No. 1 in the 2016 NHL Draft, they lured Marleau to Toronto in free agency, then John Tavares from the New York Islanders on July 1, 2018. The Maple Leafs (30-17-2) have the fifth-best record in the NHL (.633 point percentage) and acquired defenseman Jake Muzzin in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings on Monday.

"I thought it was special," Babcock said of Matthews' gesture. "I think Patty Marleau's a real important part of our team. I don't think we end up with John Tavares without getting Patrick Marleau, and I don't think we end up with Patrick Marleau without doing what we did before.

"And so this just didn't happen. It's taken us four years to get to this level, and every piece has been a way to get something else. And no different than this, we wouldn't have got [Muzzin] unless we were good. So the reality is, you've just got to keep getting better, and it shows the kind of respect the guys have for him."

Matthews said he came up with the idea. After it went through a number of people and the NHL approved it, the jersey was made quickly.

"It was a little tight, but it still went on," Matthews said.

Marleau's wife, Christina, teased him about that on Twitter that night. Marleau texted him a thank you.

Matthews got the Sharks' All-Star representatives -- Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and Joe Pavelski -- to sign the jersey. He said he'd get Marleau to sign it, and it will be auctioned off to benefit the MLSE Foundation.

"Obviously he's made a big impact on that community and that organization, so I thought, when the idea [came up], that if they could make it happen, it would be pretty cool," Matthews said. "I think the ovation kind of speaks for itself and speaks for Patty and what he's done."

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