Maple Leafs, Marleau’s most memorable moments from Toronto tenure

Maple Leafs Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews and Morgan Rielly are really looking forward to facing old buddy Patrick Marleau, talking about what he meant to them on and off the ice, during his cherished time in Toronto.

When you’ve been in the league for as long as Patrick Marleau has, you’ve visited every NHL barn several times over. But Friday’s visit to Scotiabank Arena won’t be just another road game — it’ll be his first time facing the Toronto Maple Leafs since spending two seasons as an important member of the club and one of the best mentors in the game.

It’ll also be a historic game for Marleau, who spent 19 years in San Jose before joining the Maple Leafs and is now back with the Sharks after signing a one-year deal to re-join the club earlier this month. Friday marks his 1,500th career game with the Sharks franchise, for whom he is already the all-time team leader in games played, goals (510), and points (1,088) — and it’s pretty poetic that he should celebrate the remarkable milestone in Toronto, the city that served as his second hockey home.

Marleau will always be considered a Shark but his two years with the Maple Leafs left quite a mark. His arrival helped change Toronto’s image on the free-agency front, his presence in the locker room was crucial in the development of every young player, and his departure this past summer cleared the path for two of the team’s best young stars — with whom he shared a special bond — to get paid.

And on Friday, the Maple Leafs and their fans will have a chance to thank him. With that in mind, here’s a look at some of Marleau’s most notable moments with the Maple Leafs:

His two-goal Maple Leafs debut

Before becoming the three best friends that anyone could ever have, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Marleau collaborated on Marleau’s first goal as a member of the Maple Leafs in his very first game not wearing teal. It was the first of two goals for Marleau that night and 43 as a Maple Leaf, as well as the first sign of strong chemistry between the trio.

Over the course of Marleau’s two seasons in Toronto, Matthews and Marner each assisted on eight of the veteran’s goals. (If you’re curious, Nazem Kadri had the most helpers on Marleau goals, with 11).

His first time back in San Jose

He has since re-joined the Sharks — feels like all is right in the hockey world now, no? — but Marleau’s first time back in San Jose not wearing teal (Oct. 30, 2017) was pretty emotional. He didn’t have to wait long for the reunion, either — No. 12 made his big San Jose return with the Maple Leafs in the (very fitting) 12th game of the 2017-18 season. It was a pretty emotional scene.

(His return with the Sharks this fall was perhaps even more emotional.)

When he jumped right into the Leafs-Bruins rivalry

The fastest way to endear yourselves to Leafs fans? Score the game-winner in overtime against the Boston Bruins. That’s exactly what Marleau — who’s made a habit of netting game-winning goals over the course of his career — did in his first Boston-Toronto battle back in November 2017.

All those funny “family” photos

Marleau and his wife, Christina, arrived in Toronto with four sons and left with six.

Much was made of the substantial age gap between the veteran Marleau and youngsters Marner and Matthews, and the mentorship certainly lended itself to the father-son narrative, but it’s clear Marner and Matthews viewed Marleau as a brother above all else. It’s a bond that’s clearly not breaking with Marleau’s departure.

The day we learned about his backyard rink

You know all those stories of hockey legends growing up on backyard rinks and playing ’til their fingers and toes went numb? Yeah, this was way cooler than that.

Game No. 1,600

To say Marleau’s been in the league forever isn’t really so far from the truth. He reached a pretty amazing milestone on Nov. 26, 2018 when he laced up his skates for his 1,600th career NHL game, making him the longest tenured current NHLer and just the 12th player in NHL history to hit that number.

Sixty-three games later, he’s fifth on the list behind only Gordie Howe (1,767), Mark Messier (1,756), Jaromir Jagr (1,733), and Ron Francis (1,731).

Crossing the final team off his list

Game No. 1,601 brought another pretty cool milestone for Marleau when he scored against the Sharks — the game-winner, to boot:

Tying The Rocket

Last December, the Maple Leafs dusted themselves off after a little losing skid with a dominant win over the New Jersey Devils that saw the Leafs tally seven goals — one of which held some extra significance. Marleau’s marker, No. 544 of his illustrious career, tied him with the legendary Rocket Richards at 30th on the NHL’s all-time goals list.

Marleau’s current place on that list? No. 28, with 553 goals.

His appearance at the 2019 All-Star festivities in San Jose

Marleau himself may not have been in attendance for 2019 NHL All-Star Weekend in San Jose, but Matthews made sure the longtime Shark was well-represented anyway. Right before taking part in the accuracy shooting competition, Matthews peeled off his Leafs sweater to reveal a Marleau sweater underneath.

Matthews’ heartfelt actions demonstrated just how much he admires and appreciates Marleau, and the crowd response showed the league just how beloved Marleau was (and still is… and will always be…) in San Jose.

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