Hockey Summer Camp 2017
And so it happened. Patrick Marleau wore out not his welcome but those few carpets in his home in San Jose. He has jumped the Shark. He’d been spectacular shark trade bait for a few years now for any hockey team that could appreciate him. Mike Babcock certainly does.
I now have a rather large shark hole to fill in my writing and personal lives. For over a decade, I was a more-than-average devoted and enthusiastic, aesthetic and active sports fan, watching Patrick Marleau and his Sharks as he displayed, with quiet flair, playing that came naturally to him. To sum it all up, or Recap:
His Breakaway; the ease with which he moved across the ice; the quick stick; the gentlemanly manner with which he scored; the attentive eyes around the net for a rebound; the almost-reflexive face-off conquest; the most beautiful hockey skating I ever saw on ice (with the grace, speed, strength, and beauty of an Olympic figure skater); the short-handed goals (Poetry in Motion); the shy demeanor of being a superstar; the loyalty to a team that will surely miss him; the charmingly comical camaraderie with his teammates;
the face that launched a thousand hockey-puck-hearthrobs; the disciplined and debonair way of telling the On-Ice Interviewer the details of what the team has to do to play better and win; the focused stare into space between plays that told me he knew he had to do better; the game-winning goals (yet another Franchise Record) that made it all Marleau Time; the belief They could win —
All of those tangibles and intangibles now go to the Maple Leafs. And I’d really thought it was Maple Leaves. Patty has corrected my spelling!
I also have a bit of a quandary, but I suspect I am not alone in it. Do I root for the Leafs? Mike Babcock is one of the best hockey coaches I have ever watched, and even without the red hair, he is still in his prime.
I think Marleau is still in his prime too, irrespective of what a certain disrespectful former teammate has said. But we all know jealousy can attack men too! 500+ goals is nothing to sneeze at! The other statistics also speak for themselves and for Patrick Marleau, Mr. Shark.
He is now Mr. Leaf. And so, I go to the NHL shop to buy the new Patrick Marleau tee-shirt. I look good in blue. I think he will too. There is only the plus side to look upon for the Maple Leafs and the Sharks will never be the same again.
Let’s say it here and now: an era has ended. We all hoped it would end with the retirement of Marleau with the San Jose Sharks. But he has a new mission. And I have the NHL Center Ice to watch. For the first time.
No tears, all smiles: I am growing too!
Some good things must end, but this change is good for all concerned; and it is not an ending for Patrick Marleau. Whatever number Mr. Marleau wears is not the goal, because for Patty, the scoring does not end. It will brilliantly continue. Or as Randy Hahn loves to shout: SCORRRRRE! Marleau will be setting new records for his home country, the land where ice hockey was born. Lord Stanley smiles down on this bold move by Marleau to Canadian ice!
All of the best wishes to Mr. Marleau, Mrs. Marleau, their four sons, those two black cats, and their fans in Toronto. Canada’s re-gain is California’s loss. We were lucky to have had the chance to enjoy such a premier player for almost 20 years. It was a once in a lifetime chance.
And this fall, Mr. Chance will have a few Maple Leafs, along with the Sharks, to watch from his perch on the leather sofa. It was, after all, that big stuffed shark that brought my lucky charm, Chance Beaumont, home to me. Late last September while I was carrying the great white to the cash register, he whispered to me: “You need to get a puppy.”
Late February 2020
Winter Hockey Update: Simply the Best
Mr. Marleau has been on the go — back to San Jose in October 2019, for about five months. Mr. Shark racked up a few more stellar records. He even got to perform a beautiful Break-Away! Just before the Sharks traded him to the Pittsburgh Penguins in late February.
I’ve been following the ice trail of Patrick since he left San Jose during the summer n 2017 — and I gotta say that we fans have been getting quite the emotional workout, along with Mr. — and Mrs. — Shark! At times, the speed of movement was dizzying!
His time in Toronto was brief but brilliant, despite the typical carping that comes from amateur “experts". His return to the Sharks led to an even briefer skate-on-the-ice, but the San Jose Sharks have more problems than anyone, even CapFriendly.com, wants to admit.
And now Patrick Marleau goes full-circle to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the hockey team who first inspired the Young Patrick with his own dreams to chase, and to catch up with — and maybe even to surpass. Those dreams of his “youth” were indelibly formed in the mind of Schoolboy Patrick while watching Mario Lemieux performing athletic artistry with a hockey stick.
The poetry-on-ice of grace and strength and speed and of scoring those spectacular goals:
Marleau the Younger and Lemieux the Less Young share that student-mentor bond that only happens to the gifted few who know, almost instinctively, who to look to as a way to hone their phenomenal, innate but unformed skills. Mario Lemieux, le Magnifique, was not blessed with the good health and uninterrupted ice time that made Marleau a rarity among hockey players. But being the absolute best, and showing others how to work toward being the best, how to perform at peak levels: those lessons are the keys to success that Monsieur Lemieux passed on to Mr. Marleau.
Hockey training takes place in the mind, not just on the ice. Moving that puck like a skilled technician in a magic act on the ice, that kind of gift is “seen” in the imagination long before it’s actualized on ice. Whenever I saw that “focused stare” into space that Marleau so frequently displayed during those incredible and unforgettable years as Mr. Shark — the focused stare into space between plays that told me he knew he had to do better — I sensed there was a vision in the mind of this athlete that was reaching . . . somewhere — to excel and to win. I now know where that vision was probably first formed, during those countless views, and re-views, of the Mario the Magnificent VHS tape.
Marleau wore the thing out, much like he wore out that rug when he had to decide to leave San Jose . . . or stay.
That type of self-disciplined training, the relentless kind that can drive a loved one nutz, it’s how some gifted individuals deal with the Gift. Long ago, when he was a boy, Marleau first experienced the passion of playing hockey, a passion that became part of who Patrick Marleau is, and would become. Unfortunately, the vintage game of Where’s Mario — and the puck — became, during the past few years, for Marleau and for his family and for his fans — Where’s Number 12 — playing?!
Of late, perhaps for the last times, Patrick Marleau plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins. His sons no longer have to divide their loyalties between the Penguins and the Sharks! And, for Patrick, wearing his dress-best (the Mario jersey) on Grammar School Picture Day, in Aneroid, Saskatchewan, was just the start of looking and skating sharp. He looks naturally sharp in that gold and black uniform; the stubbly beard meshes well with the color scheme. Having been to Pittsburgh more than a few times, I can say that city definitely needs the glow and the charm of this maturing fan of Monsieur Lemieux. Hey, I’ve even been to Sewickley a time or two, back in the day when it was not affluent!
The nom de famille of Monsieur Le Magnifique, in English, means “The Best” — and whether or not Mr. Marleau finally gets his Cup, that treasured icon of Lord Stanley, we can all safely say that Patrick Marleau has lived up to his idol, Mario the Magnificent, with his own brilliant magnificence. We’ll say it because Patrick Marleau is too humble to give himself such accolades.
But we fans all know better. And so does Mrs. Marleau, the magnificent trooper, the Queen of Her Castle, and Mrs. Shark!
Trading Skates Update
I’d like to say that I have followed the trading skates of Mr. Marleau during the past year. The truth is that I paid no attention to the vicissitudes of hockey once the hockey-ice froze-out the fans from spectating live-action games. When the NHL season was suspended indefinitely on 12 March 2020 due to COVID paranoia, the career path of Mr. Marleau, and many other players, entered the vast unknown.
On 1 August 2020, the playoffs began, but, by that point in time, who really knew, or cared? I certainly did not.
Patrick Marleau returned to the San Jose Sharks on 13 October 2020, signing a one-year contract. The world of hockey had already been turned upside-down, along with so many other worlds, due to the corporate responses to COVID-19. I’ve not watched a hockey game this year, and I did not watch any last year.
It’s not that the game lost its appeal to me, or the performance of Marleau, back on Sharks ice, was not worth watching. My decision to forego watching televised sports had to do with the absurdity of the scheduling of the game in empty arenas. The overt and vulgar politicization of American sports had not yet infiltrated the NHL, but I decided to cut my fan-losses. I figured it was just a matter of time before guys gearing up to pass a puck and score were pressured to take stances on societal problems, real and contrived, that have nothing to do with playing hockey.
My fervent hope is that Mr. Marleau retires on Sharks ice, and is granted all of the accolades due to him — including retiring No. 12. Watching hockey is now a memory for me, a treasured part of a treasured past that came crashing to a foolishly stupid ending this past year. It has seemed almost silly to me to place that much value upon the watching of a sports team, with so much of the country being staged as the setting for chaos and crimes against humanity; but I believe the ability to play, and to enjoy the joy of playing, is a vital part of living life.
The hundred-year-old traditions of organized sports were ravaged last year for some very nefarious purposes. There’s no putting the genie back into that profitable bottle. We, as Americans, are probably all the better off for this radical alteration of how we spend our leisure time. Going outside with your children to play a sport is far preferable to watching adults performing the game for money. The joy of the game got lost somewhere along the way to yesterday, the day that the national games of America got turned against Americans.
In life, you must take the bitter with the sweet, savor the sweet and find a way to not swallow the bitter. Patrick Marleau represents the sweet portion of that aphorism. He’ll skate through this season, however wretchedly the Sharks of today might be playing, and he will find a way to win, for himself and for his family.
The NHL got old and tired — Marleau sure didn’t.