SAN JOSE, Calif. — Patrick Marleau walked to the stage as the fans chanted his name and began tearing up.
The emotions carried through the entire ceremony until his No. 12 jersey was raised to the rafters Saturday night as the first to be retired in San Jose Sharks history.
“It was surreal,” Marleau said after the ceremony before San Jose met the Chicago Blackhawks. “It just flashes before your eyes that everything I did led up to that moment. I was just so appreciative that it went so well, that I had the career that I had, that I had the support I had. It just all flashed before me. All that hard work finally paid off.”
Marleau, 43, had the most accomplished career of any San Jose player so it was only appropriate that his jersey was the first to be raised to the rafters at the Shark Tank.
The weekend long celebration was capped by the ceremony that featured about two dozen former teammates, video tributes from former coaches and teammates, and an appearance by Bay Area sports greats Barry Bonds, Rollie Fingers and Chris Mullin.
The jersey retirement puts a coda on a remarkable career in which Marleau set several franchise records and also played in an NHL-record 1,779 games — breaking the previous mark of 1,767 set by Gordie Howe.
“I don’t know if I have a favorite moment because I was living my dream every day and I got to do the majority of that right here in San Jose,” Marleau said in his speech.
His night started with a “teal carpet” ceremony that featured throngs of cheering fans — many in Marleau jerseys — cheering as about two dozen former Sharks walked in before Marleau and his family arrived.
Marleau signed autographs for the adoring fans and posed for pictures with his wife, Christina, and four sons, before heading inside for the jersey retirement.
He was the franchise’s first homegrown superstar after being drafted second overall in 1997. He holds the Sharks records for games played (1,607), goals (522) and points (1,111) as he helped make the team into a perennial contender and a fixture in the South Bay.
“I’m so happy to be a part of that that story to be part of the evolution of hockey in the Bay Area,” he said.
Marleau ranks 23rd with 566 goals and 52nd with 1,197 points for San Jose, Toronto and Pittsburgh. He also won Olympic gold medals for Canada in 2010 and ’14.
It was as a celebratory weekend for Marleau, starting with a ceremony at San Jose City Hall on Thursday when a teal flag featuring Marleau’s number and silhouette were raised.
San Jose mayor Matt Mahan officially declared Saturday, “Patrick Marleau Day.”
“You can’t mention San Jose without mentioning the Sharks, and you can’t mention the Sharks without thinking of Patrick Marleau,” Mahan said.
There then was an alumni game played Friday night featuring Marleau, his sons, and several of his former San Jose teammates before the jersey raising ceremony on Saturday.