For a team with some two decades of history, the San Jose Sharks have few numbers with an illustrious history. #19 will probably forever be cemented as Joe Thornton's number, as will #12 with Patrick Marleau (I still have a coffee mug with Marleau wearing #14 on it, though). #11 is Owen Nolan and #18 is Mike Ricci. Even #39 has two standard bearers, Logan Couture and fan-favorite Jeff Friesen.
As for #23? Scott Gomez is currently the latest in a not-so-glorious lineage of #23s. In fact, only five other players have worn Michael Jordan's number for San Jose. And even if you could combine them into some sort of Voltron of San Jose Sharks, I still don't think you'd get that good of a hockey player. Let's take a trip down memory lane with a history of San Jose's #23 (in chronological order), because chances are you've forgotten some of these guys.
Let's get one thing straight here: Link Gaetz was pretty awful at hockey when it comes to the NHL level of talent. However, Link Gaetz was an 100% certified awesome enforcer. In just 48 games with the San Jose Sharks, Gaetz amassed 326 PIMs, or 6.8 PIMs per game. To compare, that's more than 2 PIMs per game more than a pansy like Tiger Williams (AKA the NHL's all-time PIM leader). He also rocked the mullet like a pro wrestler, which made him all the more intimidating.
Here's Gaetz at his best, going toe to toe with an in-his-prime Bob Probert. Yowza.
(Note: Nazarov wore #23, 47, and 62 with the Sharks, but for the sake of this article, we'll toss him in the list). If you're going to talk about Andrei Nazarov, you'll need a soundtrack and the most appropriate tune is Broken Face by The Pixies. Why's that? Well, this crosses over to Battle of California territory, but Matt Johnson of the Los Angeles Kings loved to try and beat the bejesus out of Nazarov, including one time he actually did break Nazarov's face (orbital bone). In fact, they fought on four occasions between the 1996-97 season and the 1997-98 season:
- March 16, 1998 (twice in one period)
- November 13, 1997
- February 5, 1997
(Nazarov was in Tampa Bay for the 1998-99 season, but he also fought Johnson on October 30, 1998. For awesome video links to all of the fights between Nazarov and Johnson, go here.)
Outside of the fisticuffs, Nazarov was not a bad fourth liner, at least for one season. A former 10th overall draft pick (that is, the same draft slot as some guy named Teemu Salami or something like that), the 1996-97 season saw Nazarov get 12 goals and 15 assists in 60 games. I don't know about you guys, but if Frazer McLaren did that, I wouldn't be pondering if whether or not he was worth six minutes a night. Nazarov only broke double-digit goals one more time, though -- with the Calgary Flames in 1999-2000. Today, Nazarov looks like a college professor or the melting-face dude in Raiders Of The Lost Ark but he's actually head coach of a KHL team.
For fans that have only been San Jose Sharks fans since the turn of the millennium, the thought of captaincy has probably only meant Owen Nolan, Patrick Marleau, or Joe Thornton. Yet, there was a dark period when Todd Gill -- acquired for current Sharks radio broadcaster Jamie Baker in 1996 -- wore the C and also acquired the title of Least Interested Captain In Sharks History.
Gill moved on with less than two complete seasons under his belt. He played for six more NHL teams, but, you know, who cares about those teams? Gill's currently a head coach for Kingston of the OHL, so maybe he'll work his way back to an NHL locker room some day.
Shawn Heins is in the Hockey Hall Of Fame.
Let me repeat that for you, especially you younger Sharks fans. Shawn Heins is in the Hockey Hall Of Fame. And no, he doesn't work there as a ticket seller.
For a number of years, Shawn Heins had the record for hardest recorded slapshot at 106 MPH. Of course, this took place at the All-Star festivities for the now-defunct IHL, so it's kind of a footnote in history. However, the stick he used made it to the HHOF (I don't know if it's there though -- can any readers verify this?) and outside of that, Heins has had a pretty good career at the secondary pro level. As a hard-hitting defenseman, Heins has averaged about .6 points per game across minor and European leagues -- and he's still playing in the Swiss A league -- though he never really made a dent in the NHL despite stints with the Pittsburgh Penguins (when they were really bad) and the Atlanta Thrashers.
Niko Dimitrakos will probably be remembered for two things -- having the same phonetic name as Lou Reed's German muse, and this goal:
For some reason -- call it intuition or simply trying to be optimistic about a thin roster -- then-coach Ron Wilson thought he could mold Dimitrakos into a top-six forward. Alas, it was never meant to be, and in the 2005-06 season (AKA The Year Of Joe Thornton), Dimitrakos was shipped off to the Philadelphia Flyers before disappearing to leagues geographically closer to his Greek ancestry. To this day, Dimitrakos is digitally immortalized in video games with a completely mangled Gary Thorne pronunciation ("Duh-
Scott Gomez got his first point in teal and finished last night's game as the second-line center. Even though he doesn't have the numbers yet, I get the feeling he'll be The Greatest #23 In Sharks History So Far by the time May comes around. Because, you know, based on this impressive roster, that is one mighty feat indeed.