This season hasn’t exactly made planning for this moment easy. Though it was likely that Patrick Marleau would break the record for all-time NHL games played, it wasn’t a certainty, — between injuries, illness, trade rumors and season with a number of rescheduled games that is probably also record-setting, the window was smaller than it would’ve been in a normal season.
But the Vegas Golden Knights, despite being the Vegas Golden Knights, were gracious hosts under uncertain circumstances and honored Patrick Marleau for breaking the record for All-Time NHL Games Played tonight.
After the first shift — where Marleau opened on the wing — this message from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman played on the jumbotron (transcription below):
“To be merely mentioned in the same sentence as Gordie Howe is an achievement most hockey players can only dream about. To break one of his records is historic.” - A message from @NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to Patrick Marleau pic.twitter.com/lUnQsex6UY— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) April 20, 2021
On behalf of all of your fans, and friends, and the entire NHL Family, congratulations on an amazing achievement. To be merely mentioned in the same sentence as Gordie Howe is an achievement most hockey players can only dream about. To break one of his records is historic.
The NHL is the ultimate meritocracy. You don’t get to play in one game, let alone 1,768, just because you’re a good guy, or a positive role model or beloved by fans — though you are all of those things. To earn a precious spot in an NHL lineup night after night, year after year, you have to earn in every single game. You have to possess talent that is extremely elite, an incredible passion for the game, a relentless drive to stay in shape, and remain impactful, by continuously improving and adapting your skills so that coaches simply cannot take you out of the lineup.
It is no coincidence that the names you’ve most recently passed on the All-Time Games Played list reads like a “Who’s Who?” of the pantheon of our sport. There’s your long-time teammate, Joe Thornton, and then Francis, Jagr, Messier and, ultimately, Howe.
You entered this league almost as far back as I did; the second-overall pick in the 1997 Draft, for which you were the youngest player eligible. I have watched you go from precocious rookie, to All Star, to Captain, to husband and father — to model for whatever we think all NHL players, both on and off the ice, should be.
Congratulations on this astounding achievement, and on a career that shows no signs of slowing down.
The weird thing is, the crowd didn’t even boo Marleau (cool) or Gary Bettman (unforgivable). Like, I appreciate the sportsmanship, I guess, but god, your fans are so boring.
Now that Marleau tops the list of games played, every game he plays from here on out will technically be recording-setting. I think it’s only fair that every team should also have to honor him beforehand for gracing them with his presence.