After 19 seasons in San Jose, Patrick Marleau returned to the city as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, his first time playing at the SAP Center as an opposing player. The veteran forward steeled himself for an emotional night.
“It’s hard to describe all the emotions,” he told NBC Sports California’s Brodie Brazil on Monday. “It’s definitely awkward, different coming in this building and going in a different direction, its one of those things where that happens. It’s all new to me.”
The fans in San Jose returned the goodwill and helped make Marleau feel right at home, cheering through a pregame presentation on the scoreboard that read “Welcome Back Patrick Marleau.” In turn, he raised his stick and saluted the crowd.
When Brazil asked if he had any words for his fans in San Jose, Marleau offered simple message:
“I thank you for all the years, all the support,” he said. “It was an honor and a privilege to be able to play in front of you. I can’t thank you enough.”
Marleau's wife Christina, in the crowd with the couple's four sons, was moved to tears while the crowd applauded the one-time Sharks captain.
Of course, the on-ice pleasantries came to an end once the puck dropped on the game, in which San Jose kept the Leafs quiet most of the night, taking a 3-2 win.
The No. 2 pick of the 1997 draft, Marleau played 1,493 regular season games with the Sharks, tallying 508 goals and 1,082 points during his tenure as well as 68-52-120 totals in 177 playoff games. He's the franchise's leader in games played, goals, points, power-play goals, shorthanded goals, game-winning goals, and shots. Marleau played a big role in the team's only run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016.
He left as a free agent during the offseason to sign a three-year, $18.75 million contact with the Maple Leafs. Coming into Monday’s game with San Jose, Marleau had racked up four goals and seven points in 11 games with Toronto.