As long as sports have existed, they have bred fandom and created fans. These fans come in all shapes and sizes and all different types of fandom. You’ve got your casual fans, die hard fans, fair weather fans, and all sorts of fan in between. Of course, there is also a type of fan that is often looked down upon or derided for their antics. These fans belong to that dirty three syllable word: bandwagon.
Most of the time, bandwagon fans come up during the endless sports debates people end up having. Eventually, these debates run out of topics or get heated enough where one person will accuse the other of being on the bandwagon. “You’re just on the bandwagon of this team,” says one guy. “You’re a bandwagon fan, not a real fan,” says another girl. “Penguins fans are all just bandwagon fans since 2008,” says everyone not living on the Allegheny River.
Generally, these bandwagon fans usually hop on around playoff time, choosing a front who they can cheer on during a cup run. But every once in a while a situation presents itself where the bandwagon makes its’ first stop much earlier than spring time. Enter San Jose.
The Sharks’ acquisition of Erik Karlsson (thanks, Pierre Dorion) has brought upon quite the wave of potential bandwagon fans. Most of these fans are Eugene Melnyk-weary Senators fans, finally at their breaking point with a frustrating situation. The departure of players is normal in the hockey world, but Karlsson is no ordinary player when it comes to the Ottawa faithful. Erik Karlsson is the player. He brought light and joy to dismal seasons. He provided a shred of hope that somehow, someway he would drag the Senators to the playoffs once again.
Now a curious thing has happened in the aftermath of the Karlsson heist trade: Senators fans have indeed been popping up at Fear the Fin and in the Twitter mentions. Ottawans have taken to following Karlsson to the Bay and deciding to bandwagon the Sharks this season. And who can blame them?
So for all you Senators fans who are swapping in Spartacat for Sharkie, for everyone who only wants the best for Karlsson after years of a less than desirable situation and for those who just love the color teal, this is the definitive guide for bandwagoning the San Jose Sharks in 2018-19.
First, and foremost, we Sharks faithful know you are here because of and for Karlsson. There are no hard feelings that your Shark fandom will probably end sometime in the summer of 2019. We understand that you aren’t abandoning Ottawa forever,though some of you may, and that you will be here just for the good times that this upcoming season promises. It’s all good. We welcome you to our small, but mighty, fanbase. There is a right and wrong way to do this, so let’s get down to making you the best damn bandwagon Sharks fan you can be.
1. Be honest
There is nothing more silly than hearing someone say, “San Jose is like my third or fourth favorite team. I’ve always loved California.” Just call it like it is: you’re here because you love Karlsson. That’s okay, he is awesome, we love him already, too. So don’t pretend that the 2011 Conference Final loss deeply affected you. It didn’t, but that’s cool. We will create new memories together this season.
2. Be friendly
The Sharks are not an old franchise and in fact started just a mere two years before Ottawa got the Senators back. This means there aren’t old bitter people who think that you can only be a fan if you saw Doug Harvey mix it up with Norm Ullman in the corner. Being so young means that San Jose is always welcoming new fans and being in a non-traditional market means that new fans are discovering the Sharks and hockey in general all the time. So as long as you swing by with a friendly face and are ready to enjoy the ride, San Jose will embrace you as our new friends. And let’s be honest, Senators fans as a rule are pretty nice, unlike a certain other Ontario-based franchise.
3. Learn some Sharks history...
Even though it is a short history, San Jose has had quite the 27 years. Our General Manager (Doug Wilson, though I’m sure you need no introduction) was also our first captain. The Sharks have iced a Hart winner in Joe Thornton and a Norris winner in Brent Burns. Jonathan Cheechoo captured the Rocket Richard Trophy one season as well. This year, the Sharks are honoring former captain and Sharks legend Owen Nolan. San Jose is also one of the most competitive teams year-after-year, only missing the playoffs twice since 1998.
4. ...But prepare for immense heartbreak
Notice how a Stanley Cup wasn’t listed above? San Jose, as you have probably seen once or 15 times over the years, have been branded as master choke artists. Your bandwagon fandom will inevitably come across the term “Shorks,” a term for when the Sharks are doing their worst impression of themselves.
The Sharks also infamously blew a 3-0 series lead (see No. 5). Sharks fans have steeled their heart over countless close calls and playoff fizzles. Just mentally prepare yourself now, it’ll be easier that way.
5. The rivalries
6. Talking points
It’s always good to have some talking points about the upcoming season. The easiest point can be Karlsson-centric. Just bring up what the defense pairs will look like. Should Karlsson play with Vlasic creating a super pair? Or should they spread out Vlasic, Karlsson, and Burns?
Another great point to talk about is who will man the fourth-line center position. San Jose, as stacked as they are, could always upgrade their depth. There aren’t a lot of in-house candidates, so it looks like a trade will happen. Just speculate on random middle-six centers the Sharks could grab, like Eric Staal or Marcus Kruger.
Finally, it never hurts to just lob out the eternal question: is Martin Jones above average?
7. Traditions and jokes
The longest standing tradition is when a power play happens, everyone in the arena does the Shark Chomp. Just move your arms up and down with fingers pointed together like teeth, while the Jaws music plays. It’s fun, just go with it.
Brent Burns and Joe Thornton have started their own tradition of “Lifestyle Beards.” They will 100 percent try to rope Karlsson into letting his beard grow to outrageous lengths. Thornton also introduced us to the “Rooster Trick,” which is a polite name for what you’ll see it called on Twitter. Sharks fans are really into this happening for the first time and if you are unaware, here’s a little background on that particular wisdom. Tomas Hertl, our beloved Czech king, also introduced San Jose to the phrase “fun must be always.” Use it liberally, whenever it feels right.
A few years ago especially, the Sharks were well-known for their social media and video productions. Their holiday videos are stuff of legend, as are their commercials, the lip reading series and most recently, Brent Burns Texas Life. While this is the most fun and games team in the league, The Deep has been an incredible video series documenting the team over the last few years and will give you a good idea of who this organization is. Their YouTube channel is a gift.
Be sure to catch the pre-game pomp and circumstance, as San Jose lowers a giant smoking shark head down to the ice. The players then come busting through with “Seek and Destroy” playing to a traditionally raucous SAP Center crowd. This is the best intro in the NHL and Sharks Operations kicks it up a few notches for the playoffs as well. You must also point out to every other fan base, ahem Las Vegas, that this is indeed the best intro and all others pale in comparison.
We would be remiss to not get you in on the best Sharks tradition. After the announcer states who is the anthem singer for that game, and right before the singer gets into the songs, Sharks fans collectively take a deep breath and let out a “HEY (TEAM X) YOU SUCK!” Shout out to section 209 for delivering us such a gift. The only rule is, never Chicago, to honor Greg Raye, may he rest in peace, the Chicagoan transplant to the Bay who started the whole thing.
We’ve got a Pickles, Jumbo, Donkey, Cooch, Dilly, Scorensen and Melk Man. San Jose is home to a Wookie and the world’s okayest goalie. And every now and again, we all get a raging Joner.
That’s not even mentioning the pipeline, where you’ll find Ferraro Rocher, Sasha Fierce and Checky Cheese, among others.
9. Old Guy Without a Cup
Joe Thornton deserves to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup before he rides off into the sunset. If nothing else, cheer for Joe.
Of course, there is not enough space to cover everything that could be said about the San Jose Sharks. This has merely scratched the surface of what the Sharks mean to all of us who bleed teal. But this is a start, and it is a good basis for how to bandwagon the Sharks correctly. Sharks fans are good people, and are excited to share our team with all the Senators fans who want to come along for the swim. This is Sharks Territory, Go Sharks.