The San Jose Sharks were going through a practice early in the 1997-98 season and forward Tony Granato skated over to goaltender Kelly Hrudey and raved about one rookie.
"Tony was a great skater, as you'll remember," Hrudey said. "And Tony said, 'Kelly, that kid is amazing. I can't even keep up with him. I've got to do my very best to try to stay even, at best.' That's how incredible his skating is."
That kid was Patrick Marleau.
On Thursday, Marleau, 37, became the newest member of the NHL 500-goal club in a 4-1 victory against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena.
The milestone moment came on the power play at 9:30 of the first period. Defenseman Brent Burns sent a stretch pass to Joe Pavelski, who skated in on a 2-on-1 break with Marleau.
Pavelski quickly found Marleau with a cross-ice pass, and Marleau, showing no hesitation, sent a shot past goaltender Ryan Miller for the game's opening goal.
Video: SJS@VAN: Marleau goes top shelf for 500th career goal
Marleau became the 45th player in NHL history to score 500 goals, 17th to score his first 500 with one team. It was the 1,463rd game of his NHL career, 594th in a row, the longest streak by any player who scored 500 or more NHL goals.
"When you hit a mark like this, you just start thinking about everybody who's kind of helped you along the way," Marleau said. "Playing with one club and playing with a lot of guys for a lot of years on this team, it means a lot to share that with them and see how happy they are for you. Things are going good now. We're on a roll. It couldn't come at a better time.
"...You see what other guys do and you kind of know what to expect. The biggest thing for me is just seeing all my teammates and even getting congratulated by some of the guys on the other team.
"It's pretty special."
Marleau said the play began with "a great quick-up here [from Burns] and [Pavelski] slid it over to me, and I was able to get a quick shot off. I knew [Miller] had to move side to side so I was trying to beat him short-side."
"Everyone knows he's sitting right there," Pavelski said. "To get it in the first and to get it quick, not take a lot of time, we're really happy for Patty. He means a lot to us. He's been playing great, playing extremely hard. He's led this team for the last little bit and he's really pushed us over the last stretch of some tough games. It's what we expect of him. We're really happy for him."
Marleau closed in on 500 with a rush, not a stroll. He often has been a streaky scorer and had six goals in his past four games. The pursuit of 500 seemed to rejuvenate him. He has been playing some of his best hockey, combining nicely on a line with center Logan Couture and the speedy Mikkel Boedker.
Video: NHL Tonight crew on Marleau's 500th career goal
"He's a very streaky player," said Edmonton Oilers coach Todd McLellan, who coached Marleau with the Sharks from 2008-15. "I've watched him score probably half of those. They always seem to come in bunches.
"He's very quiet, very humble. I'm sure in the back of his mind he'll mark it as a milestone, but he's not going to go around and beat his drum. For me, when Patty's scoring, his legs are involved and he's skating for the deflection, he's skating on the wraparound, he's skating on a breakaway. God gave him legs, and he's using them and he's scoring."
Sharks coach Peter DeBoer agreed.
"He's a special athlete," DeBoer said Saturday. "He's just feeling really good about himself and his game. He's worked hard to play at his age and still have the speed he plays at. … He's had an unbelievable career. Consistency. Olympic gold medals. He's a world-class player and he's a better person and a better teammate."
Hrudey recognized those traits when Marleau was a quiet 18-year-old breaking into the League. Marleau lived in the guest house behind Hrudey's home in Saratoga, California. Hrudey, who was in his final NHL season, joked that he felt like Marleau's second dad.
"Most 18-year-olds aren't quite as determined as that," said Hrudey, a TV analyst with the Calgary Flames. "He was set on a path and he knew what he wanted to accomplish, and whatever he does in life it really doesn't surprise.
"He's done it fairly quietly. How many guys are 37 years old and have not lost a stride? Everybody that's lasted into their 30s or 40s, they do it on smarts and size. He still has the amazing ability to separate himself from others with his skating. That's very rare."