I wasn't alive when Wayne Gretzky broke Gordie Howe's record for most career points in 1989. I wasn't quite old enough to remember when Wayne Gretzky broke Gordie Howe's record for most career goals in 1994. But tonight we get to witness another one of Mr. Hockey's records finally get surpassed when Patrick Marleau suits up for his 1,768th career game in the National Hockey League.
Just think about how insane of an accomplishment that is. Patrick Marleau was the 2nd overall pick in the 1997 draft. He immediately joined the Sharks that following season and throughout his career he has barely missed any games. He's played nearly a full season in each of his 23 years in the NHL. Granted, he was able to get to 1,767 a little quicker than Mr. Hockey given the fact that the NHL has lengthened the amount of games played per season to 82 since the '95-96 season. But I'm just gonna go ahead right now and say that the run Patrick Marleau has been able to sustain is almost more impressive.
Now I'll never do or say anything to discredit the insane career of Gordie Howe. He is, and for always will be, one of the biggest legends to lace up a pair of skates. Gretzky, Howe, Lemieux, Orr. Those are my Mount Rushmore guys when it comes to hockey. But just think about how much faster the game has gotten over the years. Just think about how much more talented the kids who jump into the league at 18, 19, 20-years-old are now as compared to the 50's and 60's. Not only has Patrick Marleau had to stay healthy to suit up for all of these games, but over the past few years he's had to keep up with guys like McDavid and Matthews and MacKinnon and all these other studs who are 25 or younger. Gordie Howe coming back for that final season at 51-years-old was obviously absurd, but the game is still just so much faster now. (Sidenote: Pretty cool coincidence that Gordie Howe's final season in the NHL was the year that Patrick Marleau was born).
So yeah. The moral of the story here is that for a lot of us, this is probably the most impressive accomplishment in the NHL that we are either alive to see or at least old enough to remember. There are so many guys who have gotten the chance to suit up for an NHL game. There are a few hundred who have been able to reach that 1000 game milestone in their career. There are 21 players who have been able to hit at least 1500 games in their career. But after tonight, there will only be one player in NHL history who has hit the 1768 mark. And that is none other than Patrick Marleau. What a legend.