Just two San Jose Sharks teammates, among the many who attended Patrick Marleau’s jersey retirement ceremony, also sat with Marleau on stage.
Joe Thornton, of course, was one. Thornton played with Marleau from 2005 to 2017, and once again, from 2019 to 2020.
The other was Kelly Hrudey, who played exactly one year with Marleau, his 1997-98 rookie campaign. It would be the last season of the 37-year-old Hrudey’s career.
That’s how powerful the right mentor can be.
“I was just 17 when I moved to San Jose, I was far away from my support system, my family and friends. I’ll forever be thankful to the Hrudey family for taking me in, showing me that a fulfilling hockey career and family life are possible,” Marleau said in his jersey retirement speech. “That rookie season will always stand out because it was the realization of my dream. Kelly and Donna and their daughters treated me like a member of their own family.”
Hrudey told Ryan Cowley of San Jose Hockey Now, “After a home game, we’d come back to the house and [Patrick, my wife, and I] would stay up having sandwiches and just talking about life…We’d sometimes stay up till about 3 in the morning and chat about life and stuff and those were just really phenomenal nights.”
Marleau would go on to play 23 years in the NHL, 21 of them with the San Jose Sharks, setting the All-Time Games Played record with 1,779, while scoring 566 goals and 1,179 points. And Hrudey played no small part in a future Hall of Fame career.
Sharks GM Mike Grier can only hope to find another Hrudey-Marleau duo amongst his current crop of older and younger players.
Since taking over last summer, Grier has added a number of veterans like Nico Sturm, Matt Benning, Luke Kunin, Jan Rutta, Kyle Burroughs, Mikael Granlund, Mike Hoffman, and Anthony Duclair to complement top prospects like William Eklund and Thomas Bordeleau.
For long-time Sharks beat reporter Ross McKeon, also co-author of ex-Shark Bernie Nicholls’s autobiography, Grier’s blueprint is familiar.
In the summer of 1996, Sharks GM Dean Lombardi, after missing the playoffs, acquired 30-something veterans like Nicholls, Hrudey, Tony Granato, Todd Ewen, Tim Hunter, Marty McSorley, Al Iafrate, and Todd Gill to complement youngsters like Owen Nolan, Jeff Friesen, Viktor Kozlov, Mike Rathje, and Marcus Ragnarsson.
Meanwhile, Grier’s San Jose Sharks are four years and running out of the postseason.
“The franchise is in a similar position,” McKeon said. “Dean realized he needed to put good examples around these young players to teach them the good habits. I do see the similarities [between Lombardi and Grier’s plans].”
We’ve talked about Hrudey-Marleau. Nicholls told McKeon about his relationship with Nolan in his autobiography.
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