Today, Patrick Marleau is regarded as one of the fastest players in the NHL, but his skating wasn’t always so effortless. Growing up in a town of 40 people in ice-bound Saskatchewan, Canada, Patrick and his siblings learned to play hockey on a frozen barnyard pond where they would have to dodge drinking holes carved into the ice for the family’s cattle. At the age of 17, he was selected second overall in the 1997 draft by the San Jose Sharks. Over the last 18 seasons, he’s racked up franchise scoring records, six All-Star game appearances, and two Olympic gold medals with Team Canada. He now lives outside of San Jose with his wife, their four sons, and Stanley and Jo—the two cats they famously rescued after Jo snuck onto the ice during a playoff game. Patrick kindly invited us to his home to talk about life as a professional athlete and play a little backyard hockey with the boys.
You were drafted at 17—you were basically a kid. If you could go back in time and talk to the 17-year-old Patrick Marleau, what advice would you give him?
“Don’t be so hard on yourself.” I think that’s something I sometimes still need to tell myself now and then. Things are going to work out if you put in the work. I’ve always wanted to be the best I can be. Obviously, there are ups and downs, and as a young kid, you have to learn how to deal with those. Even being so far into my career, there are still ups and downs, but I like to think I’m a little bit better at handling them than I was when I was younger.
I also think the biggest thing I had to learn as a player was that the defensive part of the game is a lot more emphasized in the NHL than it was in juniors. I would tell me myself that defensive is part of the game, so get used to it [laughs][laughs][laughs][laughs] One thing that I do is I'll go jump in a cold tub during intermission sometimes to either cool off, or sometimes if I do it between the second and third period it makes me feel like I'm going back out for the start of the game.
Who are your role models?
Well growing up I liked the Pittsburgh Penguins, which is ironic because we lost to them last year in the Finals. Mario Lemieux was there at that time so he was one of my idols growing up. And obviously Wayne Gretzky.
My first year in San Jose, we had an older team and I was very fortunate I got to live with Kelly Hrudey and his family. That was a huge bonus for me getting to pick his brain every day. I played with Gary Suter, Tony Granato, Bernie Nicholls—all these guys were veterans and guys I grew up watching on TV. They made me feel like part of the team right away. Going out to dinner and being on the road with all of these guys I got to be a fly on the wall not saying too much and just taking it all in.