20+ years of hockey.

Laurie and I are both part of the increasingly rare group known as first season sharks fans (and cow palace survivors) — laurie was the 150th person to put a deposit down once the Sharks started taking reservations. Our first year at the Cow Palace we did a partial season, in year two, we upgraded to full season and we’ve been doing full season tickets ever since, and we’ve been sitting in 127 since the arena opened.

It’s hard to think this is the Shark’s 20th anniversary, but it is, and that’s a lot of hockey passing before us. We typically get to between 35-40 games a year in San Jose; every year we tell ourselves we’ll sell off a few more tickets, and every year, we rarely do. Our best guess is we’ve been in the house for 650 Sharks games so far, plus/minus about 20. Add to that our season working for the San Francisco Spiders (35 games with the spiders, plus about 30 games with the Sharks that year), and our regular road trips which have included games all over the west coast, from San Diego (the IHL Gulls) and Vegas (the IHL Thunder) and Phoenix (the IHL Roadrunners) to Vancouver, Portland (the WHL WinterHawks), Seattle (the WHL Thunderbirds and Laurie’s seen games in Everett) and even places like Victoria (go Salsa!) for some junior-A action. We even made it to Fresno for the ECHL all-star game a few years ago, mostly so we could say we did…

All in all, a lot of hockey; not bad for an LA-born southern california boy. As of now, my arena life list includes:

NHL —

  • San Jose Arena (Sharks)
  • Cow Palace (Sharks)
  • The Fabulous Forum (Kings)
  • Staples Center (Kings)
  • The Pond (Ducks)
  • GM Place (Canucks)

IHL (may it rest in peace) —

  • San Diego (Gulls)
  • Las Vegas (Thunder)
  • Long Beach (Ice Dogs)
  • San Francisco (Spiders)
  • Phoenix (Roadrunners)

WHL

  • Portland (Winter Hawks)
  • Seattle (Thunderbirds)

BCJHL

  • Victoria (Salsa) — both in the old arena (now torn down) and while they were playing in Esquimalt

Still on my list to od some day — a trip through the Ottawa/Toronto/Montreal area for the NHL teams and the OHL/QMJHL teams I can fit in along the way; I really want to do the Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton trip in the winter when there’s hockey (we’ve done it for baseball, back when there was still minor league baseball in those cities), and a major run through BC to hit some of the WGHL teams, especially out in the Okanagan. Someday.

Until then, I’ll just have to “settle” for the Sharks. Not that I’m complaining.

I was thinking about this at the game the other night — the Sharks (that were at that point losing to Edmonton and looking ugly doing so and I wondered if this team could win against some of the more classic Sharks teams, and the invoked the name of Robin Bawa as I’m known to do. This is not an insult to Bawa, FWIW — he wasn’t the most talented Shark ever to skate in teal, but he brought his work ethic with him every night.

This got me thinking about the good times and good players back in the early days of the Sharks, and given this is the 20th anniversary, what the heck. I decided to create my personal all-time Sharks All Star team.

The rules were simple. Players had to be no longer playing in the NHL to be eligible. I’m trying to build a full team. For reasons I’ll go into shortly, I decided to do three “offensive” lines instead of two, plus an energy line, plus a fourth line, for five forward lines total. Three defensive pairings and two goaltenders.

Here’s my list.

Forwards:

  • Igor Larionov, Sergei Makarov, Johan Garpenlov
  • Kelly Kisio, Owen Nolan, Jeff Friesen
  • Jamie Baker,  Mike Ricci, Vinnie Damphousse
  • Mike Sullivan, Gaetan Duschesne, Ulf Dahlen
  • Jeff Odgers, Andrei Nazarov, Shawn Cronin

Defense

  • Sandis Ozolinsh, Jay More
  • Rob Zettler, Doug Zmolek
  • Mike Rathje, Gary Suter

Goaltenders

  • Arturs Irbe
  • Mike Vernon

Notes on these choices —

  • The reason I went with five forward lines is because the line of Larionov/Makarov/Garpenlov was a special one for the Sharks (and I hope at some point the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame inducts them in as a line), but I wanted to recognize some of the others that contributed as well and I wanted more than three spots. So I made a special exemption here rather than what typically happens, which is the checkers and energy guys get screwed. So we have three “top six forward” lines, plus a checking line, plus an energy line.
  • I included Nazarov over Link Gaetz because I think in the grand scheme of things, he contributed more,l onger, to the Sharks, even though Gaetz is legendary — albeit not in a positive way. My other candidate for enforcer is probably Lyndon Byers.
  • I declared Nabokov “not retired” and not eligible. And then Laurie and I had a long discussion about whether Vernon would be chosen over Nabokov even if he was eligible. I argued in favor of Vernon; I don’t think I won the argument.
  • Players I’d find a way to attach to this list if they were retired: Ray Whitney, Brad Stuart, Marco Sturm, Evgeny Nabokov (probably; I rarely disagree with Laurie on goalies, because I wouldn’t win).

So, who’d be on your list?