[Note by Dave Valentine, 01/24/09 12:55 PM PST ]
My Sharks history is probably not near as interesting as Morti’s. It certainly doesn’t involve international intrigue. It’s more like a long and winding road with a cast of old geezers. (What else would you expect?)
My first exposure to hockey was at age 11, when my dad took me to watch the Oklahoma City Blazers. Wait! Before you start guffawing at the thought of a hockey team in Oklahoma, let me fill you in. This was 1965. These were days of the Original Six, and the Blazers were the top farm team of the Boston Bruins. The best talent Boston was hoarding skated at the Fairgrounds Arena. In ‘65, ‘66, and ‘67 the Blazers won the CHL championship behind quite a few future NHL stars. Most of you young’uns won’t recognize the names, unless a few current and former GM’s come to mind. But for the sake of any purists, or students of hockey history out there here are some of the guys I watched when I was a tad.
Harry Sinden, Gerry Cheevers, Bernie Parent, Doug Favell, Glen Sather, Derek Sanderson, Wayne Cashman, JP Parise (Zach’s dad), Ross Lonsberry, Rick MacLeash, Reggie Leach, Dallas Smith, Ivan Bolderiv, and Jean Pronovost. Should you actually care about any of those names, Wikipedia has some pretty nice bios on most of them. So anyway, it’s no surprise I was a Boston fan also.
Mind you, these were days long before satellite TV, ESPN, or even cable. I got my news by diligently following the local paper every morning, and eventually Stars and Stripes, when I was stationed overseas in the Navy.
Fast forward to 1976 when I returned to San Diego, still in the Navy, and had the great fortune to see Bobby Hull and Gordie Howe playing in the WHA, and skating against the San Diego Mariners.
In 1981 I ended up in the Bay Area, still a Boston fan. I mean, what else was there? BS (Before Sharks, in this case) a group of business men in the Bay Area, hockey enthusiasts all, were working to get a franchise somewhere in the region. These guys got a few pre season games scheduled in Oakland for several years. I don’t know their connection to George Gund (although I’m certain there is some thread there). One of those guys was the Chief of my police department. We, local cops, always got first shot at great seats for those games. It became an annual event for us. Normally a three game series. The first would be a mauler party. A whole bunch of drunk cops in motorhomes, playing street hockey in the Oakland Arena parking lot. The second game we’d take our kids. And for the final game, we’d act like the first two days didn’t happen, take our wife’s, and hope no one at that last game recognized us from the first.
Eventually, as history will bear me out, the Gunds landed the Sharks franchise in San Jose. I was able to attend my first NHL regular season hockey game that year, at the Cow Palace. For the next 10 years I went to as many games as I could. Begging, and occasionally buying my own tickets.
As for Plank’s question, "How the hell did Dave Valentine end up being a Shark’s fan in South Carolina?" Well, that’s pretty simple (and if you’ve read this far you say "Why don’t you just tell us, already?") I was injury retired from my department in ‘99. I hung around the Bay Area for a few years. But, I gotta tell you, my retirement check, while although not bad, wasn’t cutting it in the economics of California. Then someone told me about NHL Center Ice. Hell, that made it easy. I packed up the truck and moved to.....South Carolina.
So, there you have it. The old guy in South Carolina. Playing and watching hockey for over 40 years.