It’s almost October and hockey is back! Still only preseason, but we’re so close. I’ve been very excited about this season in particular—not only because I desperately need the most recent memories of the Sharks to be washed away forever, but also because I’m back in San Jose and I can actually watch games live and on TV at normal times.
Plenty of Sharks fans, including myself, were welcomed back to SAP Center with open arms Saturday with the first-ever Sharks Fan Fest and an evening game against the Ducks. Though the first preseason game at The Tank was Friday night, this felt like the true kickoff to the season.
I had been looking forward to Fan Fest since the Sharks announced the festivities a few months ago and snagged tickets the day they went live. Then, on Friday night, the Sharks tweeted that they needed somebody to be their “fan ambassador” for the following day, meaning they needed someone to tweet his or her experience throughout the Fan Fest. Being that I love social media and Twitter probably just as much as I love hockey, I jumped at the opportunity and I was selected! So if you follow me on any avenue of social media, you heard a lot from me this weekend.
It was such a fun experience from beginning to end. I’ve been in Chicago for the last two years, and Hawks fans are some of the most enthusiastic I’ve ever seen, but I’ve been ready to get back to Sharks Territory.
Doors opened at SAP around 9 am and the first event was the Sharks morning skate/open practice in the arena. I’ve been meaning to get down to Sharks Ice to watch a practice for years now, so I was really happy that this was part of the festival.
After watching a few different drills and figuring out which players were wearing no-contact orange (thusly freaking out…(Vlasic)), I moved on to find the roundtable with General Manager Doug Wilson and Director of Scouting Tim Burke. A lot of events overlapped throughout the day so I knew I wouldn’t be able to see absolutely everything, but I was incredibly interested to hear DW address the fans directly after the…interesting offseason.
Overall, I was impressed with what each of them had to say. Obviously Wilson’s comments were bound to be more controversial than Burke’s, but I wasn’t expecting DW to be very candid. Randy Hahn and Jamie Baker moderated the conversation, asking questions that the whole audience was probably wondering. I could definitely tell that Wilson was watching what he said, but he was still very talkative. At one point, he did preface the answer to a postseason-centric question with, “This is probably the last time I will comment on the postseason.” I hate to break it to you, Doug, but you’ll be talking about that postseason for a long time to come unfortunately. We’ll all be hearing about that one allllll season long.
After about half an hour of discussion, the roundtable ended and Doug Wilson worked his way around the room, shaking hands, taking pictures and talking to fans. That was definitely unexpected, but I thought it was very nice. He came over to my stepbrother and I, asking me who my favorite player was (to which I replied that it will always and forever be Ryane Clowe, regardless of where he’s at). Randy and Jamie also stuck around to sign autographs and talk to fans as they waited for the next roundtable. We waited along with them, seeing as we had great seats and the coaching staff was next to come up just 15 minutes later.
By the time Todd McClellan, Jay Woodcroft, Jim Johnson, and Larry Robinson took the stage, there was a big crowd gathered. Certainly everyone wanted to hear about training camp, the new kids and, of course, the captaincy. McClellan had a whole lot to say about the leadership squad on and off the ice, and asked fans to be patient and look further than just Jumbo and Marleau. Everything McClellan was saying made sense, and I definitely got the feeling that he was pretty frustrated with the media and felt that the lack of captaincy was being blown out of proportion. Unfortunately I completely forget the question that prompted him to say this, but Larry Robinson had my favorite quote of the entire day: “I’m like everybody in the Bay Area; I can’t stand LA.” Obviously the crowd (and Twitter) loved that one.
After the coaches dispersed, I made a beeline for the line to take a photo under the Shark head. It was probably the event I was most excited for among all of the goings-on of the day. As much as I wanted to get player and alumni autographs, I knew that waiting in those lines would eat up the time I’d have to take to get the Shark head photo, so I just went straight to that line instead. It took a little more than an hour, but it was so worth it.
Once that was squared away, Fan Fest was essentially over. It was almost 1 o’clock and the arena had kind of cleared out, so I called it (half a) day, then turned right around just a few hours later to return to SAP for the preseason game against the Ducks.
The whole thing was incredibly fun, but it was especially exciting for me to be tweeting as the Sharks’ ambassador. Perhaps it sounds silly, but social media is a huge part of my life and I love the Sharks, so seeing my words and my writing on their Twitter page was pretty huge for me. In a roundabout way, it also brought some traffic to this blog because there’s a link to it on my Twitter page. These days, whether it’s a blog or official publication or whatever, online journalism thrives mainly because of publicity. So having the opportunity to get some exposure was really cool. Plus I got to connect with Sharks fans, which is always fun. It was a very unique experience and I’m very happy I had the opportunity to do it!