It's been much too long since skates have hit the ice at HP Pavilion -- check that, much too long since non-ECHL and non-hockey skates have hit the ice. As fans, there's that buzz that comes with going to a home game, the extra boost that gets you through the work day so you can drink overpriced alcohol and ponder why Danny Miller is screaming over the PA.
God, I missed live NHL hockey. And despite the San Jose Sharks being a little overshadowed by some rugby-ish team from further up the peninsula, many Bay Area sports fans are looking forward to the home opener. It came several months too late, though, and with the Sharks getting rammed out of the 2012 playoffs earlier than expected, time may have caused some fans to forget some of the idiosyncrasies of a home game.
Sure, there are a few official tweaks, such as longer intermissions (18 minutes instead of 17 minutes to let the ice settle following the Zamboni run). And we'll see if the Sharks will skate through the giant shark head to the usual refrains of Metallica's Seek And Destroy or something new, though the Thuggee cult-like war drums and towel waving will wait until the playoffs (Seriously, I half-expect SJ Sharkie to emerge from the ice dressed as Mola Ram while holding the still-beating heart of Wild Wing).
What's probably not going to change? Well, it's not all rainbows and unicorns upon a visit to HP Pavilion. Yes, we're all excited to go to a home game again but here's a refresher course on some of the less-appealing traits of a night out at the Shark Tank.
(Some people will note that I didn't list the power play chomp here, and while it gets a lot of hate, I personally don't mind it. Kids dig it and when done in sync, it's a neat visual across the rink.)
Dumb people and the "leaning forward" controversy
If you only a tend a game or two per season, this may produce a Metal Gear-esque question mark over your head. For regulars, though, you know what I'm talking about and I find that fan reaction ranges from mildly irritated to seething rage -- and it can be on both sides of the argument.
For the uninitiated, the Sharks have a pre-game announcement requesting fans refrain from leaning forward in their seats as "this may obstruct the view of others behind you." If you do lean forward and fans behind you complain, ushers will hand the perpetrator a little card asking them to not do it. If they persist, they get a talking-to, and depending on the level of their resistance, they can get thrown out.
(Short aside -- I've been to half a dozen NHL rinks and I've never heard anything like this. However, I sat next to an old woman at the Air Canada Centre who was complaining about the rude people leaning forward in front of her. When I told her about the rule in San Jose, she commented how they should do that everywhere.)
Factor beer into this, especially on a night when the Sharks get blown out, and you get some particularly nasty scenarios. I've had the person behind me yelling at the person in front of me on and off for an entire period about this stupidity. It's all fairly ridiculous, but the Sharks set themselves up for fairly by instituting this rule. If they hadn't, no one would complain and life would go on. But because they have such a bizarre rule for a sporting event, you'll get looks of disbelief from people who've never heard it before and you'll also get aggressive season ticket holders who seem to revel in being a dick to those who aren't aware.
There's nothing inherently with saying "Hey, don't block people's views. Thanks." But when you empower one group of fans to try and dictate the rules to the others, then mix alcohol and testosterone and suddenly people are getting very pissed off -- and it has nothing to do with the Sharks penalty kill. It's an equal mix of unpleasant, annoying, and completely unnecessary.
The trumpet player under Highway 87
I've been going to Sharks games since HP Pavilion lacked a corporate sponsor, and as long as I can remember, there's been the same trumpet player guy hanging out under Highway 87 before and after games serenading passing fans with his so-called "music."
Now, you may think that a street musician is no bother; heck, he might even add something to the festive atmosphere. I beg to differ, based on the following facts:
1) He hasn't gotten any better in 20 years. Seriously, he's been playing the trumpet for how long and he still
2) He's a dick to people who don't give him money. Mr. Passive-Aggressive Trumpet Player has signs about how he should get paid for making the world a better place, and he'll randomly make snarky just-out-of-earshot comments
3) He tortures a rabbit every year. This can be construed two ways -- A) the fact that he has a chained rabbit hanging around with him under the freeway, even during cold nights or B) the fact that the rabbit has to listen to him attempt to play the trumpet all the damn time.
Four in the net, nothing you get
Oh, Round Table Pizza, how I've ignored you since you stopped sponsoring the four-in-the-net promotion. Those were the times, when Jonathan Cheechoo scored at will and my ticket stubs covered my lunch during the work week.
And now? Last year, we got the highly unsatisfying Jack In The Box Taco Minutes promotion. Now, don't get me wrong -- I love Jack In The Box tacos like the Doctor loves fish fingers and custard; it practically fueled my time at UC Davis. However, there's the issue of 1) the rarity of goals scored within the last two minutes of the second period 2) the value of two tacos (.99 cents) versus a freaking personal pizza ($5 or so). And without Torrey Mitchell, we've seriously lost all hope at getting any free food.
The Sharks website doesn't currently list any food-related promotions. I sent a tweet to their official Twitter account about this but they didn't respond. So who knows what promotion is back, if any. Perhaps Jack In The Box felt burned by the lockout, or maybe they weren't going to renew.
In the good ol' days, a third Sharks goal was often followed by a "WEEEEEEEEEEEEE WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANT PIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII-ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZA" from the upper bowl (I think it's from section 210 or so but I could never tell). Last year, we had the Taco Torrey meme. This year, we may not get anything. Of course, free food is secondary to winning, but I sure know I enjoyed a Sharks home win better when I got a free freakin' pizza out of it.
If you do have to pay for food...
Let's say you showed up at the Shark Tank hoping for free food, only to discover that no corporation wanted to sponsor it. Worry not, my friend; the food at HP Pavilion is not terrible. Overpriced, yes, but not terrible if you know where to look.
As arena concessions go, the standard arena grill (run by the same catering companies that make your work's cafeteria experience so memorable) should be avoided at all costs. However, two of your best bets are a short hop away -- the gourmet hot dog stand outside of my 205 seats has a really good Chicago dog (as in enjoyable on a normal-life scale, not just the arena-food curve) and Una Mas burritos outside of 127 are a reasonable representation of a California-style burrito.
The upstairs food by 210 is generally overpriced and underwhelming, though Gordon Biersch's garlic fries are a tasty way to line your stomach with grease. There's also a full-service bar on that level, a fact that many fans are totally not aware of.
Finally, one word of advice -- sushi at a sporting event? Never a good idea.
Why the hell are you booing Teemu Selanne?
Seriously? People are still doing it? I know he's an Anaheim Duck, but come on folks -- it's Teemu. How can you not want to jump into a sauna with the guy?
Going to a Sharks game is one of my preferred ways to spend an evening, but it's definitely got its quirks. What are your least favorite bits of the Shark Tank experience?