Twenty Years With the Sharks

On Sunday and again last night, I saw the Sharks play the best hockey I have seen in 20 years. It doesn’t seem like 20 years ago that my family and I would pile into the car and drive to the Cow Palace in Daly City to watch hockey. I shared seats with a good friend who had never been to a hockey game in his life, until opening night at the Cow Palace.

We went to that first game together. I had, of course, gone to many hockey games and remembered sitting in unheated ice rinks in Massachusetts and Vermont with ski clothes and after-ski boots on to stay warm. “You better dress warmly,” I warned him. I too put on a few extra layers, and wore my very warm ski jacket for opening night. I even wore gloves. Well, you can just imagine what a surprise it was to find the Cow Palace hotter than a hot house in summer.

I never lived this one down. I sweated more than the players that Opening Day game.

The Cow Palace stunk. Literally. The circular hallway leading around the arena seating was filled with smokers puffing away on their cigarettes in between periods and whenever the urge moved them to go out for a butt. I could hardly breathe. (It was before it was illegal to smoke indoors.) But, going to the games was still fun. We would frequently stop at a pizza place with the kids just off the Daly City exit before the game. However, the drive home was the real killer, and the losing record for the Sharks those first few years made it even tougher.

By the time our new Arena opened we were die-hard fans. A few friends got together, pooled our resources and wrangled the best darn Suite in the arena. It was Suite C-8, concourse level and party central. The Suite proved to be the perfect customer-appreciation spot for our company. The Sharks continued to confound us with their inability or unwillingness to shoot the puck. It drove us nuts. Our Suite members, one in particular, became renowned for bellowing at the top of his lungs: “Shoot the puck!”

It was the age of the Russians with Larionov and Makarov, the two Russian Army players more famous in Russia than in U.S. hockey circles. But they could play hockey. My son had a friend whose mom came from Russia and while I visited her one day, I asked her how to say “shoot the puck” in Russian. She told me it was (pronounced) “shy boo, shy boo!”  I then asked her to type out the words for me in the Russian language. We had a giant banner made with the Russian Cyryllic words on it. We even had T-shirts made with our company names and the Russian words and a big red star emblazoned across the chest like a sash. We were the ultimate fans.

Our suite was probably best known for the Tequila shots we passed around after each goal. We called it Tequila Goal. The goals were so far and few between that we decided having a Tequila Goal before a goal might be a more fun. And we didn’t have to wait so long between shots.

The team struggled in those days too often. One suite-holder’s wife called the waiting and waiting for a goal or even a shot on goal for that matter “endless foreplay.” It was certainly endless at times.

But then something happened. Their third season, the Sharks squeaked into the 1993-94 playoffs, seeded eighth. They faced the number-one seed, Detroit. San Jose erupted in a playoff frenzy. You’d think we’d won the Stanley Cup. I even bought a teal shirt—something I had never done for any team ever before. I finally understood the meaning of being a real fan. We had parties at sports bars when they played back in Detroit, and our Suite went nuts with cheering for the home games.

The Sharks beat the Redwings in what must have been the biggest upset in pursuit of Lord Stanley’s Cup. The city was charged up to say the least. Our team now faced the Toronto Maple Leafs. We almost pulled off another upset but lost the final two games in Toronto. It didn’t seem too bad at the time, since we had celebrated the Detroit victory so much. I had a bet going with a fellow publisher of a weekly newspaper in Toronto. I had to send him an official Sharks jersey which I am sure he never wore.

We kept that suite for a decade or more, until pricing and policy made it not make sense anymore. I had sold my company and couldn’t justify the expense just for myself. I go to a few games every year when my sons come home for a visit and I make sure to watch most games on television. It’s not that bad with high definition flat screens. When I was growing up in Massachusetts it was tough to see a black puck on a small black and white television. Consequently, I didn’t watch many games on television.

Times sure have changed. Here we are still playing Detroit but our San Jose Sharks are looking a lot better than they did so long ago. So does that television picture. Go Sharks!

10 Comments

  1. You say you will never live that down? It was pretty hot, that’s for sure. But, as a former Buffalo Sabres season ticket holder, I may have failed (all these years) to mention that I was just as surprised (and embarassed)as you.

    Your recolection of those past years, although increadibly accurate,was also stikingly incomplete.

    How could you fail to mention your birthday, the limo and the tequilla goals at the end of that night?

  2. As another transplant from back East, my experience and frustration with the Sharks mirrors Coach Cohen’s (without the suite). Season tickets have given way to special occasions at The Tank and new restaurants with wall to wall viewing screens. How ironic that the Sharks are taking more shots (they led the league in shots on goal this year) and some of their aging loyal fans are taking fewer shots than we did before.

  3. That probably was a LOT more information than is needed by one who is a “sunshine” fan.  But, I am interested in supporting your efforts with sanjoseinside.com   Go Sharks.

  4. I can’t believe it’s been 20 years. My mom worked for the company that brought the SJ Sharks to the bay area. In 1991, my family moved to San Jose. This happened to be the summer between my junior and senior year of high school. As I moved into our Willow Glen home, kicking and screaming, I vowed to hate San Jose and the Sharks forever. I wanted to graduate with the kids I grew up with in the east bay. I didn’t want to start a new high school my senior year. My mother felt tremendous guilt, and for my tantrum, I was promised a job at the SJ arena—any job. I chose to be suite attendant, and out of pure nepotism, I was given the most prestigious suites, C-8 being one of them. I will never forget the day you asked me if I would be interested in selling ads at your newspaper. My smart ass reply made you laugh. “I’ve been selling you food for 2 years, you tell me!” The Sharks, the move, the arena, and suite C-8 opened doors for me that I never knew were possible. I am still in the advertising industry and wouldn’t change a thing. I love the Sharks, I love San Jose and I send much love to you and your family, David. Love, Stevie

    • Wow! That is a very gratifying message. Thank you Stevie. I remember that time very well. You were the best and were a fine sales person.
      David

  5. Prior to the arrival of the Sharks, I made many trips to Oakland to watch my beloved Oakland Seals.  When the NHL took ownership of the Seals from Charlie Finley, it did not take much time for them to relocate the team to Cleveland.  I was lost without hockey, so I had to make trips to LA to watch the Kings to satisfy my thirst.  I too was at that first game at the Cow Palace and have been a season ticket holder ever since that first game.  Sharks fans have shown incredible support for the team over the years and deserve a Stanley Cup final.  Go Sharks!

  6. I remember the Toronto series, but more specifically when Johan Garponov,with his yellow laces, with the score tied shoot the puck over the goalies shoulder and then heard the clink sound off of the goal. Watched that one on the video screen at the Shrktank.

    I moved to St Louis in 95 and still watch my Sharks on NHL Center Ice.

  7. Thanks for taking me back to my own memories of trips to the Cow Palace and many good times at ol’ C8. I hope the Sharks win tomorrow, though I’ve reverted to a Penguins fan due to my childhood in western Pennsylvania. The Red Wings are a good team to beat. Let’s do it.