The one thing that I’m going to take away from All-Star Game Media Day actually happened before player availability.
The San Jose Sharks christened a brand-new outdoor street hockey rink at Roosevelt Park, and after most of the media had left, Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski and Erik Karlsson were still out there, playing street hockey with local kids and a few mascots, including SJ Sharkie. And after Pavelski and Karlsson had left, Burns was still out there, hooting and hollering like a madman, playfully cross-checking and spearing the mascots, setting up the kids to score and just generally acting like a big kid. It was a treat to watch Burns being Burns.
There’s a new rink in San Jose!— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) January 25, 2019
Thanks to the @NHL, @SharksCare and @SAP a newly refurbished community hockey rink was donated at Roosevelt Park as part of the 2019 #NHLAllStar Legacy Project. pic.twitter.com/eOicdvZy8k
Anyway, between Roosevelt Park and Media Day, I talked to a host of interesting figures.
Karlsson talked about why it was important to not skip this particular All-Star weekend, Burns gushed about the new Roosevelt Park rink, Gary Bettman revealed his memories of the Cow Palace, Thomas Chabot spoke on Karlsson’s impact on him last year in Ottawa, Roman Josi elaborated on how Mark Streit influenced him and other Swiss players like Timo Meier and Keith Yandle shared a funny story about his uncle and Sharks scout Mike Yandle.
Fear the Fin: Erik, it would’ve been so easy for you to miss the All-Star Game, considering you didn’t play in the last three games before the break. Why was it so important for you to be here, to participate?
Erik Karlsson: It’s in San Jose. It’s for this organization, this city, this fanbase. I’m a part of that. I want to do my part. It’s important for me to be here this weekend to give them back something. I’m fortunate to participate. I’m looking forward to it just as much as everybody else is, especially my two teammates.
Fear the Fin: You’ve expressed your love for All-Star games, can you ever see yourself skipping out on one?
Brent Burns: They let me come here, I’ll come.
FTF: I wanted to ask you...
BB: No stats, right?
FTF: No stats, promise you. (laughs) What did being there to unveil the outdoor street hockey rink mean to you?
BB: It was unbelievable. To see the quality of that rink. To see the kids out there. That’s how we grew up playing. We were blessed to play out doors. Here, it’s a little different. There’s no frozen ponds or lakes. Street hockey, ball hockey, that’s how we grew our passion for the game. The whole facility was unreal.
FTF: Did you realize you were the last Shark out there, playing with the kids?
BB: I was going hard, I wanted to score a goal.
Reporter: What are your thoughts on Gritty?
BB: I want to meet Gritty. Gritty is awesome. We tried to set him up to come to the house. Do something with the kids, play some floor hockey.
I haven’t met Gritty. I’ve seen a lot of his escapades, pretty good. He’s legendary.
Reporter: Would you like to play in China?
BB: 2011, my last year in Minny, we went to Finland, loved it. The travel’s tough. But our travel’s tough all year anyway. To go to a new place, explore a new country, see the excitement of new fans, I think it’s awesome.
Reporter: Do you like Chinese food?
BB: I love ... but I don’t know if what I’m eating is Chinese. I love it, yeah. I like the sweet and sour chicken, but I don’t know if it’s really Chinese.
FTF: It’s not really, no.
Fear the Fin: When you started out as commissioner about 25 years ago, San Jose was a new market ...
Gary Bettman: My first game as commissioner was with George Gund at the Cow Palace.
FTF: I didn’t know that! What does it mean to you to come back here and San Jose is one of the league’s stronger markets?
GB: It’s very gratifying to see how popular hockey, the Sharks, have become, how much a part of the community they are.
FTF: What are your memories of that Cow Palace game?
GB: I remember saying to myself, “Whoa. Can’t wait to get to the new arena in San Jose.”
Fear the Fin: Thomas, what was Erik Karlsson’s impact on you last year?
Thomas Chabot: It was quite big for me. Growing up, he’s the kind of defenseman I tried to model my game from.
FTF: Did you learn anything from him that you think you’ll carry for the rest of your career?
TC: I think it was mostly as a rookie, your first year, you don’t want to make any mistakes, you want to keep playing. Just to have him on my right side, playing with him, he kept me calmed down, poised. We were just having fun, making plays.
FTF: You guys play kind of similar style games, so did you learn from him, with your styles, that you can’t dwell on mistakes, you have to stay aggressive?
TC: For sure. When you play with a guy that talented, I think you just let him do his thing. As a young guy, to see the plays that he would make, out of nothing, it was just amazing to see that.
Fear the Fin: Roman, can you talk about the emerging Swiss player, especially someone like Timo Meier?
Roman Josi: I think it’s great. A couple years ago, there’s a couple goaltenders. There was Mark Streit, he was the first guy who really made it. Now, there’s all those forwards coming into the NHL. It’s great for Swiss hockey. You see the way that Timo is playing this year. He’s unbelievable.
FTF: Timo has talked about Mark Streit’s impact too. Is he the Wayne Gretzky of Swiss hockey?
RJ: Yeah, you could say so. (laughs) He was the guy who opened up all the doors for us. He changed the point of view for Swiss guys about the NHL. He’s always been a big idol for me. There’s a lot we can thank him for, for sure.
FTF: What was Mark’s impact on you?
RJ: It was huge. I remember meeting him at 19. Then the next summer, he asked me if I wanted to go train with him. Became good friends with him, still are. There were so many things that he taught me. He was a great professional.
Fear the Fin: Your Uncle Mike is a Sharks scout. What was his impact on your hockey career?
Keith Yandle: Any time you play hockey, it’s a family affair. Whether it’s taking you to hockey games, taking you to practice. He was a guy who was always there, help out my parents if I needed a ride or anything. He was always taking care of us. I definitely owe a lot to him.
FTF: Any good Uncle Mike stories?
KY: Is this “PG” or no? I remember one time, I was playing in a summer league game. Guy was running me. He was an older guy. I was 13 or 14. He was probably 20, trying to pick on me.
I remember looking over, and [Uncle Mike] is like, “You gotta fight him.” I went out and fought him. Stick up for yourself, stick up for your teammates.
He was a tough guy. Definitely not the way I play now, but you need that in your bag a little bit.
FTF: Did you win the fight?
KY: I don’t even remember. Probably not.