TORONTO - When the Toronto Maple Leafs get to their locker room for the second intermission, either at home or on the road, one thing is certain.
Patrick Marleau is heading to the cold tub.
The 38-year-old winger strips off his gear in about two minutes, gets into icy water for roughly four more, and is back in uniform with plenty of time to spare for the start of the third period.
"There were some guys when I first came into the league, they would get undressed and go shower. I thought, 'These guys are crazy,'" Marleau said with a laugh after Wednesday's practice. "And here I am ... I'm jumping in the cold tub. It just refreshes me. I feel like I'm going out for the first period after I do it.
"It's a good feeling when you're back out there in the third and you feel fresh."
That's exactly how Marleau has looked most nights since signing a three-year contract worth US$18.75-million with the Leafs this summer after 19 seasons with the San Jose Sharks.
The decision to wave goodbye to the team that drafted him second overall in 1997 — the native of Aneroid, Sask., had 508 goals and 574 assists for 1,082 points in 1,493 games with San Jose — was no doubt a difficult one.
But after weighing the pros and cons both on and off the ice, moving to Toronto with his wife, Christina, and their four sons, made the most sense.
"I didn't really know what to expect," said the soft-spoken Marleau, who recently scored the 534th goal of his career to pass Frank Mahovlich for 33rd all-time. "It definitely affected (the family). That played into it.
"The hockey side of things, I saw a huge upside."
He has 26 goals and 19 assists in 80 games with the Leafs, finding impressive chemistry on a line with Nazem Kadri and Mitch Marner since late January.
"I was surprised, but excited at the same time," Kadri said of his reaction when he heard Marleau was coming on board. "I was looking forward to it."
Kadri has scored 31 times this season for back-to-back 30-goal campaigns, while Marner leads Toronto in points (69) and assists (47).
"We've just got good elements on both sides and the middle," Kadri said. "We work well together."
But between periods — Marner briefly tried the frigid ritual — is a different story.
"I was too lazy to do it anymore," said the 20-year-old, who chooses to instead chug an energy drink. "Whatever works for him, he can do."
The cold-tub routine, which Marleau started about eight years ago, has helped him play 704 straight games, second only to Florida defenceman Keith Yandle's 712 for the NHL's current ironman streak.
Marleau has scored at least 25 goals in 13 of his 18 non-lockout NHL seasons, including four of the last five.
"It seems like it takes a lot of work to get undressed and dressed," joked Kadri, 27. "It certainly shows his professionalism and that he's ready to do whatever it takes to be at his best."
That's exactly head coach Mike Babcock's take, with this specific instance of attention to detail demonstrating why Toronto pushed hard to add Marleau to their young, skilled lineup.
"When you see him practising every day, when you see him play hard, when you see him forecheck, when you see him do all the things that lead to winning ... he doesn't let any young guy who thinks they're a good player off the hook," Babcock said. "They get to see what it's like. They get to watch him eat, they get to watch him live right.
"All those things lead to being a good pro."
For Marleau to have influence away from the rink, however, he needed to produce.
And in that department, he's also come as advertised.
"He's done a ton for us on the ice, which is measurable," Babcock said. "You can't make the impact he's made on our group without being as good as he is on the ice.
"In saying all that, his leadership and his professionalism have been second to none, and I think it's a huge thing for our team."
Ask any player what Marleau has brought to the table other than his 26 goals, and each will point to that leadership as Toronto prepares to play its final two games of the regular season before opening the playoffs on the road next week against either Boston or Tampa Bay.
"At the end of his career when you look at his games played and his points, he's a very impressive player," defenceman Morgan Rielly said. "But he's also an outstanding person. He's been a real leader. We've been lucky to have him."
Just don't expect anyone to join him for an intermission soak.
"It's crazy," Kadri said. "Before I can get my shoulder pads off, he's already geared down completely on his way into the spa.
"I guess when you're getting up to that age you're just looking for whatever to stay fresh."
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