A week after Patrick Marleau was drafted into the NHL, his hometown of Aneroid, Saskatchewan, threw a party. Since then, Aneroid has had plenty more to celebrate as the 27-year-old center has become one of the game's best players and most respected leaders.
In this week's Facing Off, the San Jose captain talks about how he's evolved into a playoff sniper, why Sharks players better beware if Joe Thornton is knocking on their door and what message the Western Conference was sending to Sid the Kid and Alexander the Great at the All-Star Game.
Question from David Amber: I read you had 167 points in 53 games one season in minor hockey in Saskatchewan. At what point did you know you would one day be an NHL player?
Answer from Patrick Marleau: Well, I always dreamed about being one, but it didn't really hit home until my second year of Junior, when everyone starts to talk about you getting drafted. People started saying I was going to get drafted high. So then, when it happened, I was thinking, "Wow, I'm actually going to play in the NHL."
Q: You played your Junior with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL. Why doesn't Seattle have an NHL team?
A: I don't know. They have a pretty strong hockey following there. I remember our rivals from Portland used to get 18,000 fans a game, so there are definitely hockey fans in that part of the country.
Q: How did last season's arrival of Joe Thornton impact your game?
A: It helped me so much. Just seeing how he approaches the game, he really wants to be the best player in the league. He works hard every game. He is always creating things on the ice for his teammates, so I appreciate him.
Q: You're the captain. Does that mean you don't have to room with anyone on the road?
A: No, I think I have a choice and actually my roommate has a choice, too. But we both like company, so we room together.
Q: So who do you room with?
A: It's Joe.
Q: What kinds of pranks do you guys pull?
A: We've done a few of the "leaners" to some of the guys; you know, the garbage pail full of water. We knock on the door and when they open it, their room gets soaked. Joe has also been known to get some toothpaste on the doorknobs and that sort of stuff. Some guys think it's funny. Some guys get mad.
Q: Who on the Sharks would make the best president?
Q: On days off, away from the rink, living in California, what do you do?
A: Well, we have a four-month old son, Landon, so our lives have changed. But my wife and I still go to the mall. In San Jose, there are outdoor malls, which are cool. We still try to go to the movies and just hang out. Most the guys on the team love to golf on off days.
Q: So, I guess you are also changing diapers on your off days?
A: Yeah, a lot of them. Yesterday I changed a whole bunch. We go on long road trips almost every month, so I try to help out when I'm home and get all the Landon I can get before I leave on the road. It's tough to go. I miss him so much.
Q: San Jose doesn't have an NBA, MLB or NFL team. How are the NHL players treated in the community?
A: If you run into a Sharks fan, they are really passionate. They know everything that is going on in the league and they want to talk to you about the team. We do a lot of charity stuff in the community, so the fans appreciate that. We have really good attendance at our games. It's a perfect spot for a hockey team because there is a fan base to support it.
Q: In your last 28 playoff games, you have scored 17 goals. How different is it to play with your season on the line in April and May?
A: I just enjoy the intensity of that hockey. You can really tell the difference in the playoffs. During the regular season, everyone wants to win; but in the playoffs, it's even more intense.
Q: Describe the rivalry that has developed with Anaheim.
A: Nobody wants to concede to the other. All season, we have been separated by just a few points. We both realize getting to the Stanley Cup means either going through Anaheim or going through San Jose, so we are both trying to get that edge during the regular season that can continue during the playoffs.
Q: The Ducks lead the league in fighting majors and have built a reputation as a team that will bully its opponent. Looking at the Sharks' roster, there's not a single player under 6-feet and most players are listed at 220 pounds or more. Come playoff time, are we gearing up for an old-time hockey showdown?
A: We have played them five times this year, and every time, it's a total battle. We are one of the biggest and one of the youngest teams in the league, so we can handle ourselves. Things seem to always get heated when we play the Ducks, so it will definitely get interesting if we meet in the playoffs.
Q: Looking around the league, right now, which team is the favorite to win the Stanley Cup?
A: If I had to pick a team other than us, I would say Buffalo. The Sabres seem to be on the same page. When they get a team down, they don't sit back, they bury them. They have a killer instinct that I think a lot of teams, including us, can learn from.
Q: Last season, you were one of the finalists for the Lady Byng Trophy. Do you see a time when fighting won't be a part of the game?
A: No, I don't think so. I think it will always be part of the game. I don't think they should ban it. Players sometimes need to fight when they hit a breaking point with a guy on the other team. I don't think it hurts the game if two guys want to fight.
Q: As the Sharks captain, if the team is going through a funk, are you the type of guy to call players out and make sure everyone is accountable?
A: Not all the time. We have had team meetings this year where things have been said, but for the most part, we have lots of leaders on this team. We have Kyle McLaren and Scott Hannan to take care of the defense and we have Joe and Mike Grier up front. So, if someone misses something, it won't go unnoticed and someone will say something.
Q: You just played in your second All-Star Game. How seriously do the players take the game itself?
A: I think it was taken more seriously than in past years. We wanted to put on a good show and I think it was better. Guys were really skating and trying defensively. Even though there were a lot of goals scored, the pace was a lot better than in the past.
Q: With Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin getting most of the media attention around the league, did you Western Conference guys want to make a point to the East that, "Hey, we have some stars here, too?"
A: Yeah, definitely. The league has picked those two guys to build the NHL around. I think they are both superstars that handle themselves really well, so it makes sense. But we did want to let people know there are great players in the West, too.
Q: If you win the Stanley Cup as the captain, you get top billing. So, when you're done appearing on talk shows, what are you going to do with the most prized piece of hardware in sports?
A: I'll probably have to take it back to the farm in Aneroid, Saskatchewan, or maybe to Swift Current, where there are more people. But I definitely have to bring it home to my parents.
Q: What about your wife? She's a California girl. Her family probably wants some time with the Cup, too.
A: [Laughs] Yeah, they'll have to fly out there to see it I guess. And my son will definitely have a nice seat in the Cup, if we win. That would be a dream come true.
ESPN reporter David Amber is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.