Patrick Marleau is ready to make NHL history. The 41-year-old made news this week when he officially returned to the San Jose Sharks on a one-year, $700,000 contract. Marleau’s new deal marks the third time he has returned to San Jose, and presents an opportunity for him to climb past the legendary Gordie Howe.

Marleau is closing in on the most games played in NHL history. He currently stands at 1,723 total games, ranking fifth among all players. He needs to play in just 44 more games to tie Howe’s record of 1,767 games and 45 to claim the title as his own. Assuming good health, it feels appropriate that Marleau will surpass Howe with the Sharks.

Here’s how the Total Games Played list looks as of today:

Gordie Howe – 1,767 games, 26 seasons
Mark Messier – 1,756 games, 25 seasons
Jaromir Jagr – 1,733 games, 24 seasons
Ron Francis – 1,731 games, 23 seasons
Patrick Marleau – 1,723 games, 22 seasons

For fun, it’s worth noting that Joe Thornton — longtime teammate of Marleau — is ninth on the list with 1,636 games.

Marleau’s illustrious career, which began all the way back in the 1997-98 season with the Sharks, has spanned decades. The NHL he was welcomed into back in 1997 seems like a distant memory. All you have to do is watch Marleau’s first career goal to appreciate how crazy it is that he’s still skating today.

His ability to stay healthy and keep competing as the years have mounted is phenomenal. In addition to approaching Howe’s total games played tally, Marleau currently holds the second-longest active consecutive games played streak at 854 games. That’s the fifth-longest Iron Man streak in league history.

Marleau’s career has always been one that’s appreciated, but it continually flies under the radar. He has never led the league in scoring. He has never had more than 86 points in a season and has only broken the 40-goal mark once. However, Marleau’s consistency on offense and ability to turn in high-level performances night in and night out for more than 20 years places him into an elite category.

The NHL is expected to announce their plans for next season in the near future. At that time we’ll be able to calculate when Marleau could surpass Howe and officially cement himself into the list of all-time greats.

About David Rogers

Editor for The Comeback and Contributing Editor for Awful Announcing. Lover of hockey, soccer and all things pop culture.