Umm, gee! I am sick. *cough* *sniffle* Umm, I don't really know how this series is going to go. Both teams have changed a lot since they last played, and you can't look at the last game played as an indication of how things will go because it was pretty ridiculous. :P I'm not really ready for round 2 to begin (for us). I'm still recovering from the trauma of worrying that one of our guys was going to be killed every game last series.
Patty makes me weep.
Small-town values, big-time performer
Larry Wigge | NHL.com columnist Apr 25, 2007, 12:00 PM EDT
Patrick Marleau has really grown up since he left Aneroid, Saskatchewan (population 56), that tiny farming community in Western Canada as a 17-year-old to pursue a professional hockey career in 1997.
He’s grown up to be captain of the San Jose Sharks, star center and leader on the ice, husband and father off the ice.
"It’s funny, but I remember watching this kid with so much potential, so many skills, as a junior player," Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson said, breaking out in a wide smile early in the first round of the playoffs as San Jose was dusting off the Nashville Predators in five games. "We were sold on his character and the type of person he was, but the total package is what we drafted.
"And nine years later, I see a man who has evolved into a great leader, a dominant player -- and he’s only 27. More than that, he cares about his wife, his son, his family and everyone around him."
In the first round of the playoffs, Marleau led the Sharks in scoring with three goals and three assists, including one power-play goal and the game-winning goal in the Sharks’ series-clinching Game 5.
What’s left for Marleau? Not a lot.
"When I look at Patty, I see a lot of similarities with Mike Modano -- great athlete, great speed, size, became a leader, a man and helped his team win a Stanley Cup," Wilson continued, stopping to think about the Stanley Cup that Marleau might help lead San Jose to this year. "You never really know where a young player’s head is ... for sure. But I think we got a good idea of his priorities after his dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2003. Patty obviously wanted to be with his dad, but the two of them decided this was an important point in Patty’s career and he needed to play in the World Championships.
"To be the best, he and his dad felt Patty had to play against the best. That’s how mature he is."
Canada won and Patrick Marleau grew into the leader. The Sharks had rotating captain in 2003-04, but only for a short time. When it was Alyn McCauley’s turn to wear the "C", he told management that Marleau should be named full-time captain.
You can predict certain things from watching a 17-year-old player. But the intangibles that translate into a leader normally can be traced back to a player’s upbringing. For Patrick Marleau, that’s being brought up by Denis and Jeanette, his parents, whose farm in tiny Aneroid concentrates on cattle, grain and wheat.
"I’ll never forget those days when we would come home from school, get our chores done and then go out to the dugout, shovel off the snow and play hockey until it got dark," Marleau said. "School, chores and then hockey. That’s what my dad always reminded my brother, Richard, and me."
It was a culture that breeds hard work and solid citizens.
There’s a post office, a general store that serves gas, a grain elevator and Shaw's hotel, which has seven guest rooms in Aneroid. But there’s no stop light and the nearest high school was more than an hour away in Swift Current.
"I’ll never forget where I came from. Never," Marleau told me recently. "I remember when I left for San Jose hearing my dad say, ‘Son, never forget your roots.’ "
Marleau paused and kind of hinted that Aneroid will always be a part of him. Like learning to skate in the dugout -- where the cattle would go for water. When the water would freeze over, Patrick and Richard Marleau had some really competitive games of one-on-on. They also became good friends with the caretaker of the local skating rink.
"We called him Tony Zamboni," Marleau recalled. "We were always knocking at his door. I think he would wait for us sometimes, then would let us in."
Sort of like Patrick Marleau’s own little Field of Dreams story -- at the dugout and the their own little skating rink in town.
"I was small until I was 15-16, something like 5-9, 5-10," Marleau recalled. "Then I had a spurt when I was 16 and grew to 6-0, 6-1. I felt bigger and stronger and more confident."
Now, Patrick is one of the most difficult players in the NHL to game plan because of his size and speed.
"Marleau is big, strong and fast. Give him a step and he’s gone," Predators defenseman Shea Weber told me before Game 2 in this season’s first round.
"He gets on you pretty fast," said Predators goaltender Tomas Vokoun. "He’s got all the skills of a superstar."
"I see some similarities with the speed," Modano said. "I remember what I had to go through to get the most out of my game, too -- having to sit in a room with (then-GM) Bob Gainey and watch tapes of players going to the net, getting in the heavy traffic areas. Over and over again. In other words, it all doesn't come together overnight.
"In junior hockey, you can use your speed and still score from the perimeter. Not in the NHL. A couple years ago, I could see that Patrick Marleau was beginning to use all of his great tools and he's maturing into a player who can dominate a game."
"The speed. The skill. The size. He's the complete hockey player," said teammate Steve Bernier, who had roomed in the Marleau's basement at times in his two seasons in the NHL. "I don’t know why people don’t talk more about Patty. From what I've seen, he's the fastest player in the game -- and he's 220 pounds."
"We know how much he means to us -- he's our captain, our leader," said veteran defenseman Kyle McLaren.
After rotating the captaincy, Patrick Marleau became the Sharks' full-time captain during the 2003-04 season.
At 6-2, 220 pounds, Marleau will tell you that he thinks he really grew up when he met his bride, Christina, a couple years ago and then they were blessed with a son, Landon Patrick, just before this season.
"It's been unbelievable, something you can't begin to describe. It's just joy. When you're on the road for a while, you can't wait to be at home, holding him. Especially now when he's starting to do facial expressions, laughing and giggling," said Marleau, who wanted to let us know that he scored one goal and added an assist in the first game young Landon attended. "It’s easier to go home and get my mind off the game ... all the worries ... and come back refreshed.
"I'm not too bad at diapers. He christened me pretty quick."
Never once has Patrick Marleau lost that little boy’s desire. He’ll never forget that shoveling the snow off the dugout so he and his brother could skate after school. He’ll never forget getting personal access to the town rink thanks to Tony Zamboni. He’ll never forget waking up one Christmas and getting an autographed Mario Lemieux hockey stick and a hockey tape authored by Super Mario.
"The tape is still over at my parent's house. I must have played it a thousand times," he laughed.
Marleau may still have little boys’ dreams of scoring the winning goal in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, but he’s all grown up now.
During the lockout that cancelled the 2004-05 season, Patrick did his best to help ailing father on the farm in Aneroid.
"I went home and did all the chores I did as a kid ... and more," he recalled. "I drove the grain truck and lots more. My dad needed help with the harvest ... and I didn’t know if there was going to be a season or not. Being there -- helping my folks -- was something I needed to do."
He smiled, shook his head and then added ... "Actually, it was harder than I remembered. I only lasted a little more than a week."
But hard work is something Patrick Marleau is not allergic to.
This quiet, driven family man with a great small-town work ethic has a lot more to give the Sharks and their fans. But Patrick Marleau is clearly a quick study. It was Marleau’s assertiveness and new-found physical play along with taking advantage of all of his passing, shooting and skating skills that caused coach Ron Wilson to select Patrick to wear the "C" back in 2003-04. Knowing this game is all about accountability, Marleau grew up quickly once again.
"Patty no longer sits in the back of the bus and keeps to himself," Wilson said. "Now, he takes his turns driving the bus."
With Marleau's mature example and personal success, he is an asset for the Sharks. His strong presence throughout his career has helped put this young team on the map and through example he has what it takes to lead this team from good to great.
Don’t let Patrick Marleau fool you with that quiet demeanor. He’s like a shark that sees blood when the playoffs roll around.
"I love playoff hockey, when it's all geared toward your team winning," he told me. "I'd like to think that's when I'm at my best."
And that drive and competitiveness all started back on that 1,600 acre farm in Aneroid, Saskatchewan.
Ron had an awesome story (well, if you know Patty) about Patty that he told during a KNBR interview (at about 11:15). Sometimes before games, they go around the room and everyone talks about what they're going to do that game. Guys will say skate, hit, don't get scored on, etc, and Joe always says "I'm going to dominate offensively, I'm going to dominate defensively, I'm going to be the best player on the ice!" Because he always says the same thing, Ron has him go last.
So one day, Patty went second to last, and he says in this very soft, whispery voice, "Uhh... I'm uhh... I'm going to uhh... dominate offensively." Then Joe blares, "I'm going to do exactly what Patty said!!! We're both going to dominate!!!"