We put together a Q&A with Nate P., the manager of the Golden State Warriors’ SB Nation site, Golden State of Mind, to talk Bay Area sports.
FTF: San Jose was a powerhouse in the NHL while the Warriors struggled. Now, the Sharks have struggled since their first ever Stanley Cup Final appearance, while the Warriors are dominant in the NBA. Is there room for two teams to be successful in the Bay Area?
ABSOLUTELY! Back in the late ‘80s when the Warriors were exciting but still not great, the Raiders were gone, and the Sharks didn’t yet exist, there was a time when the A’s, Giants, and Niners were all pretty good in the late ‘80s. And at various other times during the Giants’ more recent of run of championship success, at least one of the Niners, Raiders, or Warriors has also been in contention or emerging. It can certainly happen, but I also think that the Sharks will probably need a sustained period of success before they really establish a footprint in such a crowded market — even when those other teams aren’t successful, they’re all so well-established with pretty dedicated fanbases that hockey remains an afterthought.
FTF: Which Sharks players, if any, do you know about? Do you have a favorite Sharks player (current or former)?
(Thank God you didn’t ask this in a podcast format because I would’ve sounded silly trying to recall the names.)
During the 2011 run to the Western Conference Finals, I sort of became enamored with Antti Niemi simply because the dude seemed to stop everything. So, I suppose he’s my favorite insofar as he’s the first name that comes to mind. Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton are other names that stand out — in addition to Teemu Selanne from a bit further back — but Niemi is the guy who made a lasting impression on me.
FTF: Being in different parts of the Bay, do the Sharks/Sharks fans have a presence in Oakland?
When the Sharks made the Stanley Cup Final back in 2016, it was quite visible and fans came out to fill some of my favorite spots to watch sports in the East Bay. I just think they have developed a rep as a team that will almost inevitably disappoint at this point and that’s really hard to get into. But when they were first established back in the ‘90s, I know a lot of people were into their gear (teal + a shark + ‘90s = merchandising boon). But I think now it’s more of thing where people will come out to watch the games when they’re good.
FTF: On Sharks-Warriors night, the Sharks always give away mash-up jerseys, usually in Warriors colors with the Sharks logo, and the players wear them for warm ups. Would you want to see the Warriors do something similar? Would it be weird to see the Warriors in teal?
The Warriors have a few alternates now and I think seeing another one would just annoy me more than anything. But the idea of the players wearing some kind of mash-up warm-ups could be interesting, particularly during a time when the Sharks were making a playoff run at the same time as the Warriors — the Bay Area solidarity gesture could be fun.
FTF: The biggest Pacific Division rivalry in the NHL is the Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings. Is there any kind of Northern/Southern California rivalry in the NBA? What is it like playing Southern Californian teams?
Short answer: hell yes.
Mid-range answer: Yes and aren’t all Bay Area fans obligated to hate all L.A. teams?
Longer answer: I’ve hated the Dodgers since Kirk Gibson got a homer off Eckersley. I’ve hated the Lakers ever since Kobe Bryant arrived (long story). But the real L.A. rivalry for the Warriors recently has been the Clippers.
There aren’t a whole lot of NBA teams that just genuinely dislike each other, but these two were at one point the most heated rivalry in the league. The fact that they were from LA just added to it for me.
We had a pretty petty off-season summary of the rivalry, but that piece somehow omitted this epic clip that sums up the rivalry perfectly:
Chris Paul... FLOP OF THE YEAR? pic.twitter.com/36vrCFCnS1— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) January 9, 2018
I could go on about that... but to sum it up, the rivalry is dead now because the Clippers are on the cusp of rebuilding and the Warriors are still winning. But we were still talking about it in our podcast just posted today and the Warriors still seem to take far too much pleasure in beating them.
The Warriors should not STILL be getting this much joy beating the Clippers— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) January 6, 2018
FTF: The Sharks are playing the Arizona Coyotes tonight. Arizona was a relocation team in the 90s and has always struggled to find their footing, only winning the division title once in their history and otherwise in constant contention for a first overall draft pick, amid relocation rumors and management issues. Is there a comparable team in the NBA? How do you feel going into those games?
That’s an interesting question and I almost didn’t answer, but then I got interested in why this hasn’t really happened in the NBA (and I don’t know enough about the NHL’s structure to come to any substantive conclusions).
The Clippers would probably be the closest team to fitting this description, but they’ve found success in recent years and are now a perennial playoff team (though, as noted above, they’re at the beginning of what could be a downward spiral). Any number of other teams could be considered similar — the Minnesota Timberwolves and Sacramento Kings have active playoff droughts with the Kings having to stave off relocation — but they’ve also had significant runs of success.
Relocation aside, that team was really the Warriors until the last five years or so — from 1993 up until 2013, the Warriors appeared in the playoffs just twice (1994 and 2007). So I always have empathy for those teams and fanbases (except for the Clippers). It’s hard to stick with a team through that, though the payoff for the Warriors has been amazing.
FTF: Which Warriors player would make the best hockey player? What position would he play?
I would say Steph Curry, but given that he’s dealing with another ankle injury as I type this, it’s hard to imagine him surviving the physicality of a hockey game.
GSOM: What is it about the NHL’s structure that you think has allowed for Arizona to struggle for so long?
It’s a culmination of issues at this point. Initially, after being moved to Phoenix, they saw a reasonable amount of success in that they were able to make playoffs in five of their first six seasons, even after losing star forward Alexei Zhamnov. Despite having a decent team, sharing an arena built for the NBA became a major issue. The arena simply couldn’t accommodate 200 feet of ice and the Coyotes had to slash their capacity and sell seats with obstructed views. It became increasingly difficult to build a fanbase around a team that they could have created some excitement for.
That bad arena came with a bad lease and in the middle of the 2003 season, the team moved to Glendale, a half hour drive from their previous home and out of Phoenix proper. Once again, the Coyotes were struggling to make and maintain a fanbase.
After that, the issues just compounded. They were chosen to host the 2006 All Star Game, which was then canceled for the Olympics. They declared bankruptcy in 2009 and were owned by the NHL for a significant period of time. The new ownership group has a failsafe that they can move the team if they’ve accrued $50 million in losses by this summer. There have been employment controversies, the release of Shane Doan, who had been with the team since they were in Winnipeg, and constant rumors of relocation.
It’s not that hockey can’t succeed in the desert (hello, Vegas), and it’s hardly an issue that comes down to the structure of the NHL. Few teams haven’t seen some level of success or had significant streaks of missing the post-season (though Cup droughts are a separate matter, as thirteen teams have never won a Cup). Parity in the league is obviously a problem, but the Coyotes still haven’t established themselves as a team. Between ownership, arena, and front office issues, they become a difficult team to cheer for and a fanbase can have an effect on a team’s mentality and identity, as well.
GSOM: As a Sharks fan, how do you feel about this Warriors promotion? Is there any part of you that feels like it diminishes the Sharks’ position in the Bay Area?
I’m all about that Bay Area Unite life. Bay Area fans are so incredibly passionate — they love their cities and they love their teams and they can only make each other better by sharing fans and learning about all of the sports the Bay Area has to offer.
I think the Sharks have their own thing going in San Jose, though. The only team they share the city with is the San Jose Earthquakes and let’s be honest with ourselves, hockey and soccer don’t get nearly the level of attention in the US as football, baseball, and basketball, and the seasons only barely overlap for the two. While there are plenty of Bay Area sports to love, San Jose is a hockey town through and through. They know what they’re about.
Besides, the giveaway jerseys every year are so sick.
GSOM: How would you pitch hockey to a Bay Area basketball fan?
If you’re a Warriors fan, you appreciate skill, right? There’s a reason you want to watch Steph Curry and Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson go in and do their thing day in and day out — because they are so skilled in what they do, that watching it comes together is so smooth it feels like magic.
That appreciation for skill has to carry over to a sport where a basic function, being able to skate, is a required skill set all in its own. The level of shooting ability these players are able to have with a stick as their primary agent while they have knives strapped to their feet is nothing short of magic.
If that thing that draws you to the Warriors is the team they’ve been able to build, hockey is the ultimate team sport. While it might be different to see guys only play 20 minutes of a 60 minute game, that means for 40 minutes, they’re relying on the other guys to do their jobs. The level of trust and camaraderie is at an all time high when it comes to hockey — and isn’t that some we love about the Championship-winning Warriors?
But if that won’t convince you, here’s Andre Iguodala with a 2017 Sharks draft pick, Sasha Chemlevski:
And finally, Bay Area hockey will love you back. Former Shark Jason Demers, who will take the ice tonight with the Arizona Coyotes, is a huge Golden State fan: