Editor’s Note: To get everyone excited for the season to start, we’ll be running a #TBT post every Thursday, focused on your memories as a Sharks fan. You can keep the conversation going in the comments or head over to the Fanposts section to tell your own story! If we like your story, we’ll feature it on the Fear the Fin Twitter. In our final installment of the series, we’re talking about your first hockey game!
Not everyone is born into hockey. Some of us have to find it for ourselves and fall in love with it somewhere along the way. We’re all here because we love a California ice hockey team. Let’s talk about how we got here.
Way back when I was in grade five (or around there) a family friend gave us his season tickets for a Maple Leafs game. Naturally, my dad and I went. The seats were in the upper deck, but that didn't matter, because I was going to an NHL game. This wasn't some run of the mill game either. No, I was being initiated to live NHL with a Habs-Leafs Hockey Night In Canada (a real show) Saturday-night-in-Toronto battle. My dad is a die-hard Canadiens fan, so I lent my support to Les Glorieux that night - besides, cheering for the away team is an indelible experience. The Habs ended up winning a barn burner 5-4, and at least 40% of the building exploded in Olé, Olé chants for the entire post game. It was an incredible experience to have my first game be part of such a storied history.
For posterity, my first Sharks game was against the Leafs in 2011. Dion Phaneuf was hilariously on the ticket. San Jose smacked Toronto, as they do every year for the past six years I've gone. It's an amazing time to sit with your best friend (Leafs fan) and rain down insults and obnoxious clapping in his face for six straight years. Go Sharks.
My first ever hockey game was the Sharks taking on the Canucks on April 11th, 1998. I went by myself as an awkward teenager whose family didn't care about hockey and dropped me off while they went shopping at the Great Mall in Milpitas. I watched Mike Ricci score a goal assisted by John MacLean and Bill Houlder's mustache on good ol' Arturs Irbe. Game went into OT and ended in a tie, which is what used to happen before the shootout gimmick was introduced, for all of you younger millennials reading. The Taco Bell chihuahua was big at the time and the Sharks co-opted his likeness to rev up the crowd by using the old hockey axiom of "Yo quiero playoffs" on the Jumbotron. I think it was Lord Stanley himself who coined the phrase.
As we all know, the Sharks did make the playoffs that year and it warmed all of our hearts to see Owen Nolan take out Ed Belfour behind the net, and slightly disturbed us to see Bryan Marchment take out Joe Nieuwendyk's knee in the same series.
In case anyone doubts that I was an awkward 16-year-old Sharks fan at the time, photo evidence taken a few weeks prior below:
My first hockey game ever was just this past season: March 9, 2017, Ottawa Senators @ Arizona Coyotes. I bought myself and a couple friends tickets as a birthday gift to myself, and we had an absolute blast at the game. The fries at Gila River Arena are surprisingly good!
The best part, of course, is that the Sens won, and I'm still wholly convinced they did that for me, because it was both my first game and a birthday celebration.
My second game, Sharks @ Coyotes, is coming up later this year.
I grew up near an ECHL team, so I went to many Kalamazoo Wings games as a kid, always taking advantage of the open skate on the ice afterward. Through out college, I saw future NHLers (including a future Shark) take the ice at WMU, as well as the nearby Muskegon Lumberjacks.
But my first NHL game didn’t come until a few years ago. My dad is a huge Red Wings fan, so I got tickets to Detroit versus Calgary for his birthday. We were at the front of the upper bowl in the Joe Louis, but we were still so close to the ice. I’ll maintain that there is no better hockey crowd than Detroit.
My first Sharks game was at last year’s Fear the Fin night at SAP Center. The Blues crushed us, but being surrounded by thousands of other Sharks fans is something I’ll never forget.
The first hockey game I ever really remember going to was Sharks v. Blues in game one of the 2004 playoffs. I remember I convinced my parents to buy the family ticket package because I thought it would be fun. It didn't disappoint. Even though the game was tied at zero going into OT, it had been exciting. I can still remember watching Niko Dimitrakos roof it to win game one. It was awesome.
If you want to see it check out this clip: 2004 Western Quarterfinals 4-8-04 Blues @ Sharks Game 1. The play develops at about the 2:38 mark.
I believe the first Sharks game I went to was against Detroit in the 2001-02 season. I don’t remember what happened at all, but what I do remember is that we got curb-stomped and me and my dad went home by the end of the second period.
Haley Van Horn
I attended my first Sharks game only two years ago. My best friend has been a die-hard Sharks fan as long as I’ve known her. We always tossed around the idea of going to a Sharks game together, but never actually followed through with it (a pretty normal occurrence in our friendship). When opening night for the 2015-2016 season rolled around, she called me up and said she had an extra ticket and I had to come. The moment the puck dropped at The Tank, I was hooked.
Prior to this experience, I was a soccer fanatic. The speed of the game was something I wasn’t used to and that’s why I loved it so much. You never forget the first time you hear the glorious sound of the puck hitting a stick or the chill of the ice. It was an especially powerful moment given the atmosphere of The Tank and the energy of Sharks fans. Truly the best fans in the game! Going into the 2017-2018 season, it’s hard to imagine I ever lived a life without hockey. In such a short time frame, hockey has consumed my every thought. I wouldn’t change a thing about it!
East Bay Ry
(Extreme Stan Rogers voice: Oh, the year was 1988/ How I wish I was in Scarborough now)
When I was ten years-old, my family flew from the Bay Area to Toronto to visit my grandparents for Christmas. My grandfather sometimes got Leafs tickets through work, and he was able to get a pair to the Leafs vs Nordiques game on December 31, 1988. My mum and I took the subway downtown, and we made our way to the corner of Church and Carlton. I don't remember much about that game, but I clearly remember being in awe of Maple Leaf Gardens. I had been to a number of baseball games (mainly at the Coliseum), and I was expecting to be pretty far away from the action. But I was blown away at how close we seemed to be, even though our seats were in the upper bowl (Which makes me wonder just how claustrophobic adults must have felt in there).
My memory is that the Leafs won convincingly and that there was a huge brawl at the end of the game. Hockey-reference confirms this: Toronto won 6-1, and a bunch of offsetting roughing minors, as well as a game misconduct, were called at 19:26 in the third. Two future Sharks featured on the score sheet that night: Al Iafrate scored a goal and Vincent Damphousse had two assists. I got to see some future Hall of Famers (Borje Salming, Peter Stastny, Michel Goulet, and a rookie named Joe Sakic) skated in that game, but none had a major impact.
My first Sharks game was November 8, 1991 at the Cow Palace. This game wound up being the Sharks second-ever regular season win. The Sharks scored really early in the first, which led me to hope that they might actually win. I remember celebrating a lot and being so excited when Pat Falloon sealed the win in the third.
After consulting with hockey-reference, I am reminded that the score was 6-2, so maybe Falloon didn't exactly put the game away (but with as bad as they were, maybe he did). Turns out Paul Fenton scored twice for the Sharks, and Neil Wilkinson had three assists. In a strange coincidence, I saw future Shark Vincent Damphousse in this game as well.
What about you?