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I was born in Canada, and I have loved hockey for as long as I can remember. I learned to skate in my backyard before I was three years old. According to my mum, the first sentence I strung together was “he shoots, he scores”. I grew up hearing stories about how great of a player one of my uncles was. He has a page on hockeydb.com. Some family friends even got a cup of coffee in the NHL. My grandfather owned a rink. I loved shooting pucks at my dad in the basement. I don’t say any of this to brag, but rather to illustrate just how much a part of my life hockey was. There are two things from the earliest part of my life with which I was obsessed: Star Wars and hockey.
And then, when I was four, we moved to California. At least I still had my Star Wars action figures and the promise of Return of the Jedi.
All of a sudden hockey was gone. I should probably mention that this was in the early ‘80’s, and the Seals were long gone. There was no internet. We didn’t have cable. Neither the local newspapers nor evening news ever mentioned hockey. It was like Shreddies and Coffee Crisp: things that I loved nostalgically, but were no longer available to me.
Well, that’s not entirely true. Whenever my grandparents or other relatives from Canada would visit, they would bring hockey paraphernalia, in addition to chocolate bars and boxes of cereal. When I visited, I spent as much time watching or playing hockey as I could.
But these visits were brief, and their doses of hockey quickly wore off when I returned home, so I moved on. I followed other sports, particularly baseball, almost compulsively. The successes of the A’s and the 49ers made it easy to get excited about following them. At some point, I made peace with the fact that there wasn’t a local NHL team and that hockey would only ever be a treat when I visited my grandparents.
Then I started seeing rumors in the sports section of the Mercury News. There was speculation that the NHL was looking to expand and that the Bay Area was a strong contender. I followed with rapt interest as the brothers Gund sold their shares in the North Stars and were granted an expansion team in the Bay Area. Soon the team had a name, colors, a logo, and a great looking jersey. There were dispersal and expansion drafts (which inadvertently laid the groundwork for their future success), and the Sharks had actual players. I knew all their names, and I could hardly wait for them to take the ice. Before I knew it, I was at the Cow Palace with my mum watching the Sharks play the Oilers in November 1991 (the Sharks lost, because of course they did).
They were terrible their first two seasons, but I didn’t care. Not only could I watch hockey regularly, but the sport was becoming part of daily life in ways that it never had been prior to the Sharks. For instance, my local sports card store started carrying hockey cards. I had collected baseball cards for sever years, and I was beyond excited to start collecting hockey cards. (My Doug Wilson and Bob McGill cards were displayed more proudly than my Gretzky and Lemieux cards.)
People were interested in the Sharks and in hockey. The game was growing. I met other people who liked hockey, and eventually we had regular street hockey games. Hockey was once again a regular part of my life.
Over the years, the Sharks have given me plenty of reasons to cheer for them—from big wins to lovable players. But the reason I am a fan of the San Jose Sharks is because they made hockey part of my everyday life again.
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