Why Leafs’ Patrick Marleau sticks by dated two-piece stick

Kelly Hrudey takes a look at the games played by Patrick Marleau.

TORONTO – In the eyes of Patrick Marleau’s younger teammates, it is akin to stepping on the first tee with a persimmon driver.

The Toronto Maple Leafs greybeard brings a sense of history to his craft by using a two-piece composite stick that is on the verge of extinction in NHL dressing rooms. His old-school leanings have been generating discussion on Twitter – “He must love playing with the heat gun,” former NHLer Patrick O’Sullivan wrote Monday – and among Marleau’s new colleagues.

“Yeah, we were asking him the other day actually why he still uses a two piece,” linemate Nazem Kadri said after Tuesday’s practice. “I think he’s got to be probably one of a handful of guys that does that, maybe even two or three of them.

“He just told me he couldn’t wrap his head around using the all one-piece composite.”

It is not for lack of trying.

Fantasy Hockey Pool
Play the Sportsnet Fantasy Hockey Pool for your chance to score big with over $22,000 worth of prizes to be awarded!

The 38-year-old has switched over to the lighter model favoured by virtually the entire league on numerous occasions – going 30 straight games during one stretch with the San Jose Sharks – but always finds his way back to old reliable eventually.

It all comes down to the ability to stickhandle in tight spaces for the speedy winger.

“I can shoot better with a one piece,” said Marleau. “It’s just for me, probably because I’ve used (a two piece) for so long, it’s the handling of the puck. Getting it into a spot to shoot just feels a little off for me when I go to a one piece.

“It’s all about repetitions. I could probably make the change but I just haven’t.”

Marleau sits third among active NHL players at 510 goals after potting two in his Leafs debut at Winnipeg last week. So far he’s made the transition to a new organization look pretty smooth after nearly two decades in California – generating nine shots on goal in the three season-opening victories.

Not only has he spent extra time after practice working with the likes of Mitch Marner and Connor Brown, but Marleau’s tried to educate a few others on the tools of his trade. Former Sharks teammate Joe Thornton is believed to be the only other NHLer currently using a two-piece stick.

Want to livestream 56 Leafs games this season? See how you can stream this + over 300 regular season NHL games with Sportsnet NOW.

“These guys think (it’s so different),” said Marleau. “There’s not much difference between a one-piece and two-piece (stick). The only thing is I put it together here, they have theirs put together at the factory.”

His typical game-day routine includes pulling out the blow torch to attach a blade to the shaft of his Warrior-branded sticks. He’ll usually prepare one or two at a time. As a result, the No. 12 stick rack is positively empty compared to those beside it inside the team’s dressing room – many of them crammed full with 20 sticks or more.

“I like making my own,” said Marleau. “It gives me something to do.”

It’s been part of the routine of a life spent in hockey.

Incredibly, Marleau hasn’t missed a game since the 2010 playoffs and now sits just four regular-season games shy of 1,500 for his career. He first cracked the Sharks lineup as an 18-year-old and now has four sons of his own – the oldest of which, 11-year-old Landon, joined some of the Leafs for a pre-practice skate last weekend.

Still, time hasn’t robbed him of his effective shot. He scored 27 goals last season and has displayed a nice touch around the net during his short time in Toronto.

“Just the mechanics of his shot is so quick,” said Kadri. “He just gets it off. His release is probably one of the best I’d say that I’ve seen. It’s not necessarily about the power of the shot, it’s how quick he gets it off and how accurate he is.”

The comfort level with his stick certainly helps. While many of the Leafs struggled to remember if they even had a two-piece composite during their minor-hockey days, at least one of the young sharpshooters understands why Marleau has an affinity for the dated technology.

“I used one until I was 14, actually – I loved it,” said Auston Matthews. “He’s got it all dialed in. He shoots it just fine.”

Still, don’t be surprised if Marleau eventually bends to the newer trend. He is just beginning a three-year contract with the Leafs and hasn’t ruled trying to play another season beyond the end of that.

He concedes that it may require him to adapt and adjust in the months and years ahead.

“Possibly, you never know,” said Marleau. “I always try it in the summer and somehow I always find my way back to the two piece.”

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.