The Very Amazing Patrick Marleau

The Sharks forward plays in game 1,767; University of Michigan defenseman, Owen Power the favorite to go No.1 overall in the NHL Draft; and Dallas is not done!

No kidding. For two National Hockey League decades, Patrick Marleau essentially has skated under the big-star radar. Well, for one night at least -- last evening at Vegas -- the radar cleared. 

The Saskatchewan native played in his 1,767th NHL game, an arresting number not merely because he topped Mister Hockey, Gordie Howe, but rather Patrick's durability without notoriety and minus serious injury.

Apart from Marleau's iron man feat, it's a bit of a stretch to compare Patrick to Gordie in terms of total accomplishments. And, I'm sure the San Jose icon would agree to that.

Perhaps the best way to crystallize Marleau's record-breakin event is to flash back to his childhood hockey dreams.

"When I was a kid," Patrick related, "I liked to check the NHL rosters and find out who the big league guys were who came from where I lived, in Saskatchwan.

"I did that because my dream when I started to get serious about hockey when I was about fourteen was to eventually make it to the NHL."

Ironically, Howe -- another Saskatchewan product -- had the same mindset when he was fourteen, growing up outside Saskatoon. 

Getting back to my original Marleau-under-the-radar point, Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury -- as perceptive as any hockey player ever gets -- puts it best.

"The thing with Marleau," Fleury explains, "is that over the years he has been so consistent."

Consistent -- absolutely. 

"Every year," Fleury adds,"Patrick has been a very good player."

Not great in the Howe, Gretzky, Lemieux, Ovechkin, Trottier, Bossy, Crosby, McDavid, Matthews category. Just a darn good player and, hey, there's nothing wrong with that.

"What Marleau has done," Fleury concludes, "is unbelievable. And let's not forget that he's respected around the league."

"Respect." That's another term that fits Marleau to a T. 

More than anything, Patrick is respected for his utter and absolute dedication to the game he loves; the game he dreamed so often about as a kid living on a farm in an unheralded town called Aneroid.

Were the ace-of-aces, Gordie Howe, around today, he would have given Patrick Marleau a gentle stick on the arm and a word of commendation: 

"Nice goin', kid!"


THE JIVE; A few Canadian columnists have sarcastically mocked the fuss and fanfare over Patrick Marleau's iron man accomplishment and that, of course, is their privilege. The "What's The Big Deal?" theme is related to the fact that Marleau is being compared with the icon of all icons, Mister Hockey, the one and only Gordie Howe. As the author of a Gordie Howe biography -- The Maven's first of more than 90 books -- I can understand the feelings of my buddy Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun among others re Howe vs. Marleau. Gordie is the super-legend, Marleau is not; never will be. However, were the anti-Marleau knocks really necessary? My also-pal, -- and former intern -- The Athletic's sharp-as-a-tack Arthur Staple rips back at Simmons, et. al. with a taunting Tweet: "Just remember kids. If you work hard enough, get lucky, play a kids' game for longer than anyone else, you too can get shit on by Canadian columnists on your big night." Pow! Right in the kisser! (Hey, maybe we need a Hockey Writers' Department of Journalists Safety.)


THE JIVE: The mammoth (6-5 and a half) University of Michigan defenseman tops all scouting polls as Most Likely To Be Picked First. His assets, apart from size -- assuming that's a plus -- include his mobility and agility. According to TSN's crack Draft investigator Bob (Semi-Retired) McKenzie, right wing Dylan Guenther of the Edmonton Oil Kings could challenge Power. Ditto for the Swedish (Frolunda) backliner Simon Edvinson who stands a mere 6-4 but also is lauded for his mobility. (It's apparent that size continues to be a lure for the bird dogs.)


THE JIVE: That's "Big D," as in "Big D -- Small A, Double L, A, S.

And that spells Dallas, a team that steadfastly has climbed back into the playoff picture after withstanding all manner of buffetings. But with Rick Bowness powerfully -- and humorously -- behind the bench, the Stars are 5-0-2 in their last seven games and a mere three points behind Nashville. And with three games in hand. Last night's 3-2 win over Detroit was powered by the best, underpublicized NHL defenseman, Miro Heiskanen. The Finnish Flash produced two assists; once again -- game in and game out -- proving that his performance in the last playoffs was no fluke. The Man had 26 points in 27 post-season games. Meanwhile goalie Anton Khudobin continues to demonstrate that his playoff heroics were no fluke either. (Kudos to Bowness for rallying his skaters through their adversity.)


THE JIVE: If Vancouver's favorite hockey team never wins another game this season, the Canucks always can look back on the night of April 18th.

On a Sunday evening in British Columbia, a team -- and I mean the whole darn club -- that was totally riddled by the Pandemic and played again.

During the devastation inflicted on coach Travis Green's club, assorted "experts" suggested that the Canucks season be cancelled and let the lads go home after they recuperated.

But the give-it-all-up brigade never got to the heart and soul of Green and his team. Eventually, a good enough group recovered and returned to play league-leading Toronto on Sunday night.

Granted, nobody expected them to beat the best team in the North; nor even stay close. 

And when Toronto took a 2-0 lead many felt that it was good enough that captain Bo Horvat and pals at least showed up. 

Well, they not only showed, they beat the Terrific Torontos, 3-2, in OT on Battlin' Bo's second goal of the game. The H -- as in heroic Horvat -- Man also got an assist to round out his leadership qualifications.

"It was a tremendous effort from top to bottom," said TSN analyst and former Philadelphia Flyers captain Dave Poulin.

Now here's the irony, in a Game Seven playoff many moons ago against the Islanders in Philly, Poulin showed me what "tremendous effort" was all about.

Saddled with busted ribs that kept him out of six games, Poulin returned in the deciding game wearing a flak jacket. Somehow he managed to maneuver. Better still, Dave's guts-man-ship led his Flyers to victory.

A standing ovation, maestro, if you please for Travis Green, Bo Horvat and their gutsy gang for showing what a love of hockey and team is all about.

(P.S. The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun, who's not that old, calls it "A win for the ages!"  I am that old and I agree with Monsieur LeBrun.)


THE JIVE: Who is this Boston left wing who looks an awful like a stiff who played for Buffalo by the name of Taylor Hall? Yikes!! It is the Calgary native who skated in Sabreland as if he was wearing double-runners with rust on the bottom. How come the metamorphosis from asp to ace in one easy trade and two easy goals for the B's? My Argus-eyed Beantown-counter, Gorgeous George Falkowski, has the answer: 

"We often see a talented player like Hall struggle at first because the talent around them is unspectacular. Then losing just wears them down. Now he's with a good Original Six team. Taylor leads a rejuvenated second line and gives the Bruins an offensive threat from somewhere other than The Big 3. For g.m. Don Sweeney, the deal was a steal!"


THE JIVE: A deep bow of "Thanks" to Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky for:

1. Reading JAVA JIVE, and…

2. Calling my attention to a good point. In my list of potential candidates for the Seattle Kraken coaching gig, I omitted a key man. "What about Gerard Gallant?" wonders Jovial Jon. And he's right. Double G did an A-1 job coaching the Vegas Golden Knights in a first-year fantasy of sorts. Did well the second time around. Gallant ranks among the very best coaches not working in the NHL right now. And I'm sure Kraken boss Ron Francis is aware of that. Thank you again, Jon, and we shall see how that goes. Then there's crack New York City radio sports guy Rich Ackerman who weighs in with another name. "I'm going off the board," writes Rich, "and suggesting Scott Sandelin, who's done a fabulous job coaching Minnesota-Duluth." (In less than two months we'll have the answer.)


THE JIVE: One of the top executives in any sport, Bill Robertson has skillfully guided the Western Collegiate Hockey Association for seven years. Next month -- June 30 to be exact -- Billy Rob will clear out his Bloomington office for good. Some NHL club would be awfully lucky to get this pro's pro. He was a creative force for both the Ducks and Wild. Apart from his vast talents and amiability, Robertson is a man of faith and integrity. Lucky will be the organization that nabs Billy Rob.


Where and when was the first indoor hockey game played in the United States?

(Answer below.)

CLASSIC COMMENTS FROM YESTERYEAR: "Half the game is mental; the other half is being mental!"

-Maple Leafs defenseman Jim McKenny

TRIVIA ANSWER: The first indoor ice hockey game in the States was played in LeMars, Iowa on January 12, 1884 in the Adams Rink. It was built by John Adams, a native of Bayfield, Ontario, who moved to Iowa in 1882 and built the rink for the LeMars hockey team.