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Patrick Marleau’s played as many NHL games as anyone — is it enough for the Hall of Fame?

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Patrick Marleau has been very good for longer than anyone

As of tonight, nobody will have played as many regular-season NHL games as Patrick Marleau.

Marleau will set the record with his 1,768th game, breaking Gordie Howe’s long-standing mark he established at his 1,000th game in 1961 and padded through game No. 1,767 in 1980.

Here’s everything else you need to know about Marleau’s milestone:

Marleau made the youngest NHL debut since 1945 at 18 years, 16 days old. If you’re going to play more than anyone ever, it’s good to start early. That first game came in 1997, with the now-41-year-old Marleau’s first point three games later (assisting a Viktor Kozlov goal) and his first goal in his seventh game (against Nikolai Khabibulin and the Phoenix Coyotes).

He’s more than a full regular season away from breaking Howe’s single-team games-played record. Howe played the first 1,687 games of his career with the Detroit Red Wings before returning to the NHL 10 years later for a season with the Hartford Whalers alongside his son Mark Howe. Marleau will hit 1,600 with the San Jose Sharks next week, having also played 164 with the Maple Leafs and eight with the Penguins after a mid-season, pre-hiatus trade last year. It is perhaps fitting that Marleau, of Aneroid, Sask., is the one to pass Floral, Sask., native Howe’s record.

Mark Messier also has a claim to the record. The longtime Oiler and Ranger played more games than anybody else — if you include the playoffs. Messier came tantalizingly close to 2,000, falling just eight games short. Marleau is second by that metric, 30 back of Messier. Howe is fourth with a bullet, as he played an additional 419 games (plus 78 in the playoffs) in the World Hockey Association. Jaromir Jagr sits between Marleau and Howe.

Messier and Howe are Hall of Famers. Jagr is a lock. What about Marleau? Of those first three, Howe owns the lowest points total at 1,850. Marleau is at 1,196. He’s never been in the conversation for a major award besides the Lady Byng, never cracked 90 points in a season and never won a Stanley Cup. He’s made six all-star teams in 23 years.

Marleau did win a pair of Olympic gold medals with Canada in 2010 and 2014, tallying nine points over 13 combined games. That helps the resume, though Marleau played more of a depth role on those teams.

Other than longevity, there is nothing about Marleau’s career that screams Hall of Fame. But “other than” is doing a lot of heavy lifting in that sentence. He may never have been the best, but he was deemed good enough for long enough to play more regular-season games than anyone in the history of the NHL.

The top 16 players on the all-time games played list are all surefire Hall of Famers or already there. At 17th sits career Coyote Shane Doan, who may serve as our closest Marleau comparable. Doan played 1,540 games with one franchise, accruing 402 goals among 972 points. He played for Team Canada at the 2006 Olympics, failing to win a medal. Despite his status as greatest Coyote ever, most agree he’s not deserving of the Hall.

Marleau hit important benchmarks like 500 goals, and should get to 1,200 points too. He played in a Stanley Cup Final; Doan skated in just 55 playoff games. Like Doan, he is synonymous with one franchise.

And as of tonight, he will have played more NHL regular-season games than anyone, ever. Including Gordie Howe and Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky. Maybe this doesn’t require too much thought.

The Sharks drop the puck on Marleau’s milestone game tonight at 10 p.m. ET in Las Vegas. For more on Marleau’s background, read this profile by CBC Sports contributor Vicki Hall and watch this 90-second video from CBC Sports’ Rob Pizzo:

With Patrick Marleau set to break Gordie Howe’s all-time games played record, Rob Pizzo looks at 9 things you may not know about his memorable career. 2:08

Quickly…

European soccer is on the brink of revolution. Late Sunday night, 12 marquee clubs (led by Liverpool, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus) announced their intention to form the Super League, a proposition that would see 15 founding members (three more to be determined) compete among 20 teams each year, separate from UEFA’s Champions League. The extra five clubs would have to win their way into the competition, which would be otherwise organized like North American sports, including an 18-game regular season and eight-team, four-week playoffs. The Super League idea is not a new one, but financial losses stemming from the pandemic may have spurred it along, and clubs like the idea of a guaranteed spot in a top league, unlike the relegation systems currently in place.

So far, though, no one else seems particularly happy. The UEFA chairman called the clubs “snakes and liars” and said participating players could be banned from future Euro and World Cups. The breaking of tradition has some fans up in arms, too. The Super League remains far from certain — a legal battle is just beginning, and some top-tier teams like Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich may not be interested — but its reality appears a whole lot closer than ever. Read more about the sport’s incoming “civil war” in this piece by CBC Sports contributor John Molinaro.

Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes won an all-Canadian beach volleyball matchup. The reigning world champions downed Brandie Wilkerson and Heather Bansley in straight sets to reach the semifinals of the World Tour stop in Mexico. Ranked first in the world, Pavan and Humana-Paredes plan to play four more tournaments ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. Read more about today’s victory here.

In case you missed it…

The Vancouver Canucks played their first game in 23 days — and won. After a COVID-19 outbreak sidelined the team for over three weeks, most expected the Canucks to return tired and rusty. And for the most part they did. But despite being outshot 39-24, goalie Braden Holtby was Herculean and the Canucks beat the Maple Leafs 3-2 in overtime, because of course the Leafs would lose their most winnable game of the season. Per Twitter user @ice_cole_data, the Canucks were the biggest single-game underdogs in at least a decade. Read more about their heartwarming win here.

Three Montrealers played — and started — the same NBA game for the first time ever. Were it not for the pandemic, it would have occurred on Canadian soil, too. Instead, Canadian basketball fans witnessed history from afar as Raptors Chris Boucher and Khem Birch lined up across from the Thunder’s Luguentz Dort for the opening tip on Sunday in Tampa. All three played key roles: Boucher with 31 points, including a dagger three-pointer to seal the Toronto win; Birch with seven points and six rebounds; and Dort with 29 points in a losing effort, including a 21-point first quarter outburst. The trio figures to be part of Canada’s Olympic qualifying team this summer. Birch was one of just two Canadian NBA players to attend the 2019 World Cup, while Boucher and Dort’s breakout seasons on likely non-playoff teams should mean they’re in Victoria as well. Read more about the Canadian-fuelled Raptors win here.

Some Canadian Olympic podium hopefuls returned to the track. Soon after his gold-medal odds increased with the Christian Coleman suspension, Andre De Grasse posted a season-opening time of 9.99 seconds in the 100 metres at a race in his training home of Jacksonville, Fla. That was good enough for second place, just one hundredth of a second behind fellow contender Justin Gatlin.

Meanwhile, hurdler Sage Watson was victorious in her 400-metre season debut. The Canadian record holder is looking to re-establish her own benchmarks in time for Tokyo, where she’ll be among the favourites to land a medal. Read more about her season-opening victory here.

And finally…

Superwoman Rachel Homan is emerging as the story of the Calgary curling bubble. In her last 45 days, she lost the Scotties final to Kerri Einarson, gave birth to daughter Bowyn, then returned to beat Einarson to reach tonight’s Grand Slam of Curling Champions Cup final, where she’ll face Switzerland’s Silvana Tirinzoni.

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