Welcome to the refreshed Fear the Fin! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to share your story, head over to the FanPosts to write your own post. Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card. We’re collecting all of the stories here and featuring the best ones across our network as well. Come Fan With Us!
January 18th, 1997.
I am 28 years old now, and I can still paint the picture of Owen Nolan breaking in and pointing top corner like I was watching it live. My favorite player from my favourite team just called his shot against The Dominator. Nothing seemed cooler, and as I get older, I doubt anything will ever be that cool again.
This sequence encapsulates the exact moment my Sharks fandom was cemented forever. When you are a precocious little kid, coming up fast on your eighth birthday, the only thing that remains constant is your parents and siblings. Your tastes and desires change in an instant, your tiny brain jumping from one favorite to the next being influenced by everyone at school.
Growing up in Canada, deep in Leafs Nation, it is not easy being anything but a ravenous Toronto fan. Compound that with the fact my Dad is French Canadian and pledges his loyalty to the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge along with the rest of my extended family and you have to eventually make a choice. That choice was made for me when I was born, as I was clad instantly in a Habs knit sweater and my Dad snuck me out of the nursery at three days old to watch Hockey Night in Canada in the hospital lobby.
Then a wonderful thing happened when I was two years old. The legend, which I have confirmed with all parties and I believe to be true, goes as follows. My aunt, who I will be eternally grateful to, saw a Sharks T-shirt in a store. San Jose was in the midst of their first season, so the edgy, cool, teal; stick-chomping Sharks apparel was being pushed hard. I don’t know who thought teal was edgy or cool, but the 90’s were weird.
So my aunt scooped up the shirt, knowing only my dad was teaching me about sports. My aunt knows nothing about hockey so she had no idea what a grave mistake she was making. I received that shirt and instantly renounced my Montreal fandom and devoted myself to the Fin. I was two, so I am pretty sure I didn’t declare this in some grand soliloquy, but in the coming months and years I would ask for more Sharks gear. By the time I hit school at age four, there was no coming back.
I am not going to sit here typing that I remember the 11-win season, or the first time they made the playoffs. I remember knowing I cheered for San Jose and seeing highlights and generally following what they did via my Dad. I am technically a Day One fan, but my hardcore fanaticism started a bunch of years after that.
So thanks to my aunt, this is the technical reason “why” I am a fan of the Sharks. A random stroke of luck, breaking my Dad’s heart and setting myself up to have my heart broken repeatedly every spring. However, I think why you are a fan of a specific team usually has a much deeper meaning and significance.
For me, the deeper reason goes back to January 18th, 1997.
I was already deeply in love with the game of hockey, even playing myself. I knew I cheered for San Jose, and I knew I got made fun of by other kids. I also knew my Dad still thought I would come back home, rekindling my love for Montreal. I wasn’t going to because even then it is way more fun to needle and taunt my Dad.
January rolls around, and all eyes are on San Jose. The All-Star game being in the Bay Area gave credence to the franchise and a sort of belonging. To me as a fan it was just a place I had never been to, and didn’t mean much. What mattered much more was Owen Nolan lacing up his skates for the West.
Nolan, as I have pointed out before on Fear the Fin, is far and away my favorite player ever. When you’re small, a power forward who scores goals, gets in fights, and seemingly dominates the rink, is like catnip. I thought Nolan was the greatest and was over the moon that he got to play in the All-Star game.
My Dad and I vigilantly watched the game, as we did because sports. Nolan potted a goal and then another and already I was pretty excited that he was playing like an All-Star.
Mark Messier turns the puck at his own blue line and Owen Nolan picking it up with a clear breakaway sent my tiny heart aflutter. A couple strides into the offensive zone, with that ugly purple jersey flowing, and Nolan was about to go one on one with Dominik Hasek. Nolan looks up, takes his hand off his stick and points top corner. I sprang off the couch, Nolan snapped one bar down, and I took off like I was shot out of a cannon, screaming in pandemonium that MY favorite player just did the most insane thing I had ever seen in Hockey.
This moment validated everything I had believed in with the Sharks. Nolan was the greatest and he played for San Jose. No amount of chastising from other kids would ever shake my love for the Sharks again. Nolan had just given credibility to me that the Sharks were a franchise that I could and should be proud to cheer for. I went to school that Monday beaming with joy and all my friends told me how awesome Nolan was.
So yes, I got a shirt and decided to cheer for the Shark team when I was small but I needed more. I needed that moment to prove that I had made the right choice, something to show me that my team belonged. On January 18th, 1997 that moment happened.
Why am I a fan of the San Jose Sharks? Because Owen Nolan was the baddest MF’er on the planet for one night.
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