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Sharks To Honor Marleau With Pre-Game Ceremony

by Alison High / San Jose Sharks
San Jose Sharks left winger Patrick Marleau, center, is congratulated by teammates Joe Pavelski, left, and Dany Heatley, right, after Marleau scroed a goal against the Phoenix Coyotes in the first period of an NHL hockey game Monday, Jan. 17, 2011, in Glendale, Ariz. The game marks the 1,000th in Marleau's career. (AP Photo/Paul Connors)
When Patrick Marleau was a kid, he had hockey practice three days a week. That schedule sounds pretty ordinary until you get into the details.

To get to those practices, his father drove him an hour each way from their home in Aneroid, Saskatchewan while his mom, brother and sister maintained their farm. One of those practices took place at 6 a.m. so “Patty” and his dad commuted the night before and spent the night at his Grandma’s house to make the early-morning skate.

On Tuesday night, Marleau’s parents, Denis and Jeannette, will join their son, his wife and their two children for a pre-game ceremony to honor his 1,000 games in the National Hockey League.

“They made huge sacrifices,” said Marleau about his parents’ commitment to his hockey career. “I’m excited to see how they react at the ceremony and what their faces say. It’s something they wanted to be here for and be a part of it and supportive as always.”

For Marleau, this ceremony will mark an important part of a career that is still in full swing, but it will also be a way to look back at all the people that helped him get there.

“You don’t really think about it too much until it actually happens,” said Marleau of reaching 1,000 games. “Then when it does you start to think back about all the people you played with and all your family and the support you’ve gotten over the years. It’s humbling in a way.”

San Jose Sharks center Patrick Marleau (12) celebrates his goal with teammates Joe Thornton (19) and Dany Heatley (15) during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Vancouver Canucks in San Jose, Calif., Monday, Jan. 3, 2011. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
At 31-years-old, the Sharks forward has 12 seasons under his belt and a handful of franchise records to his name (goals, points, games and shots). But as the youngest player to ever reach the 1,000 game mark with a single franchise, Marleau still has a lot of hockey left to play.

Sharks Development Coach Mike Ricci knows exactly what Marleau is going through. As a player that’s both played alongside Marleau and played in 1,099 NHL games, Ricci recalled that it wasn’t until after he had retired that he realized how special it was to reach 1,000 games.

“I think when you’re playing, it doesn’t mean as much,” explained Ricci. “But after you’re done – I know I thought about it. It’s a great accomplishment. It’s hard to be physically ready to play 1,000 games but also be good enough to play 1,000 games. I think right now it’s not going to sink in that much, but after – you can put a feather in your cap.

“He’s going to play a lot of games in this League and when he’s done he’s going to be pretty proud of what he’s done,” Ricci continued. “He’s worked so hard and he’s in great shape and he deserves all the good that he gets.”

Ricci was acquired by the Sharks during Marleau’s rookie campaign in 1997 and the two played seven seasons together in San Jose. The two forwards have a lot in common; both men were first round draft picks – Ricci was chosen fourth overall in 1990 while Marleau was taken second overall in 1997 – and Marleau follows Ricci as the last player to play 1,000 games in a Sharks jersey.

San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton, center, is congratulated by Patrick Marleau (12) and Ryan Clowe after Thornton scored in the first period of an NHL hockey against the Minnesota Wild in St. Paul, Minn., Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010. (AP Photo/Andy King)
“For me, it means a lot because I watched him when he was young and played a lot of games with him,” said Ricci. “He’s such a good guy. You know, I still call him a kid, but he’s a man now with kids so I’m proud of him. I realize how hard he’s worked and he could probably play 1,000 more. He’s been through a lot of ups and downs and he fights through them. He just seems to get better with time.”

Sharks Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson also reached the 1,000 game peak during his tenure with the Sharks. After 14 seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks, Wilson became a member of the inaugural Sharks squad in 1991 and competed in his 1,000 NHL game in 1993 while serving as team captain. He joined the Sharks management staff after retiring from the NHL in 1993 and worked as the Sharks Director of Pro Development until 2003 when he was hired as General Manager.

This past summer Wilson was able to re-sign Marleau to a four-year contract; keeping Patty in teal and away from free agency.

“It’s hard to believe he has already played 1,000 games as he is the youngest in the NHL to do that and with the same team,” said Wilson. “His accomplishments on the ice are well documented but he has also been tremendous for this organization in the community. We congratulate him and we are proud of him and are glad his family will be here to share in this moment.”

All the Sharks returned from their four-day All-Star Break for practice on Monday. Although head coach Todd McLellan did not expect them to, defenseman Dan Boyle and center Logan Couture did participate in the skate.

Expect to see Antti Niemi in goal against the Coyotes on Tuesday night. Although Antero Niittymaki is no longer on IR, he is still not ready to play.
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