November 19th is not an auspicious date in San Jose Sharks history, but whether you decide on picking this particular date or if you throw a dartboard at a wall calendar and pick the date that you hit, you usually find something interesting. Let’s take a quick snapshot of November 19th in Sharks history and see what we find:
2011: SHARKS 4 at DALLAS 1 (FINAL)
- The Sharks arrive in “Big D” fresh off an impressive 5-2 home win against Detroit.
- San Jose trail Dallas by one point in the battle for second in the Pacific Division. LA leads the division with just two more points than the Sharks, but Todd McLellan’s team has two games in hand on Dallas and three in hand over the Kings.
- Off the ice, 43-year-old Tom Galiardi is confirmed as the new owner of the Stars. He is introduced in a news conference along with new team president , Jim Lites.
- As the action commences, the Sharks’ strong power play gets them off to a 2-0 lead. Brent Burns scores on the man advantage to give the defenseman his very first goal against the Stars franchise. That leaves only Minnesota, his former team, on the list of clubs that Burns has not scored against – a mark that would end with a goal on February 26th at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
- Logan Couture makes it 2-0 with a power play goal at 1:23 of the second period. Couture already is having an interesting night. He lost his stick during a Douglas Murray penalty in the first period while defending against the Stars’ point men. Making a snap judgment to skate about 10 feet to the bench to get a new stick, he gets back in position just as Dallas sends a shot to the net that is stopped by Antti Niemi, causing a sigh of relief. By the end of the night, he could have had a hat trick: one great opportunity at the 4:00 mark of the second was saved by an outstanding block by defenseman Stephane Robidas, and he was stopped on another sure-looking chance by goaltender Andrew Raycroft.
- No love is ever lost between these two teams, but things got extracurricular at 4:13 of the second period when Jim Vandermeer and Krys Barch dropped the gloves and battled it out. Two seconds later, Eric Nystrom and Jamie McGinn were going toe-to-toe. 37 seconds later, Brad Winchester took a pass from Andrew Desjardins and made it 3-0.
- A total of 100 minutes in penalties were called in this game. Barch should have been called for instigating an altercation with Ryane Clowe at 18:16 of the third, which would have brought suspensions, but officials Chris Lee and Tom Kowal elect to call him for unsportsmanlike conduct instead. The mitigating circumstance was a late third period slash by Clowe on Stephane Robidas that was missed, but was replayed several times on the big screen, much to the displeasure of Stars fans and the referees.
- Mike Ribeiro, who always seems to bring it against the Sharks, ended an 11-game goalless drought in the third period to notch Dallas’ only goal. It ended a 194:11 goalless drought for the Stars.
- Three Stars: 1. Logan Couture; 2. Joe Thornton; 3. Patrick Marleau
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Sometimes, it’s the simple things that make us the happiest, even if we savor those simple things from a seat 3,000 miles away from the action.
In the particular case of hockey, I’m talking about the commencement of training camp for the American Hockey League’s Worcester Sharks at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts. For those of you who are wondering, it is 3,120 miles from HP Pavilion to the DCU Center, which is a 48-hour drive if you can skip all food, sleep, and trips to the rest room. By the way, the drive does require tolls, so perhaps we should add an hour to the trip to allow for time to count change. Start your engines!
While it may seem a world away, head coach Roy Sommer and associate coach David Cunniff have been conducting Worcester’s training camp, and it is there where some of those simple things that make us all happy are going on. I’m talking about the irresistible feeling of drawing cold rink air into one’s lungs, accompanied by the sounds of pucks thwacking into sticks, skates cutting their way through the ice, and punctuated by the wonderful sounds of those skates shaving up ice as players start and stop their way through a practice or, very shortly, an actual game.
Worcester will hit the ice in pre-season action beginning this Thursday, when they take on the Connecticut Whale at the Hart Center, home of Holy Cross college hockey. Then on Friday, it’s a trip to one of the most traditional spots in the AHL, Springfield, for a pre-season game against the Falcons that will be on WTAG Radio for all of us to sample.
There are 35 players in training camp at the moment, and there are a few interesting stories to monitor closely. Here are just a few:
Freddie Hamilton: A draft selection from 2010, Hamilton is projected to be one of the top forward prospects in the Sharks Organization. He scored 35 goals last season for the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL, the team that went all the way to the league final round before losing in the J. Ross Robertson Cup series to the London Knights. It’s going to be very interesting to see how Freddie adjusts to professional hockey.
Matt Tennyson: He was born in Minnesota, but Pleasanton is his hometown and the Sharks were his favorite team growing up. Tennyson played defense at Western Michigan University where last year his coach was former St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings coach Andy Murray. He showed some promise in a limited stint in the AHL last year after the conclusion of his collegiate career, and he’s ready to build on that this fall.
While much of the hockey world is focusing on such topics as Gary Bettman, Bill Daly, Donald Fehr, Steve Fehr, and the CBA, many fans are clamoring for anything else of note that will pique their interest in these summer months. So, while scanning the news, I noted a pleasant story that I thought I’d share with you:
NIITTYMAKI SIGNS DEAL WITH TPS TURKU
Last season, Antero Niittymaki endured a year filled with health problems that led to a condition that many thought spelled the end of his hockey career. Faced with a hip joint replacement after several seasons of labrum tears and other hip problems, the goaltender was in a situation that no other goaltender had overcome.
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Back in the halcyon days of the NHL, which was when I was growing up for all of you who are under the age of 25, the team that was closest to my home was the New York Rangers. I listened to the radio calls of Marv Albert and Sal “Red Light” Messina and heard the names of players like Eddie Giacomin, Rod Gilbert, and Brad Park battling it out with the likes of Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, and Eddie Johnston, among others. It was my introduction to the National Hockey League.
I had some favorite players, and paid attention to their sweater numbers. Jean Ratelle wore #19, Rod Gilbert wore #7, Brad Park wore #2, Bobby Rousseau wore #22, and Pete Stemkowski (yes, that Pete Stemkowski) wore #21. Thus, when it came time for me to actually try to put on the equipment and learn how to play, I thought that I’d choose one of those numbers as my very own.
What I found out was that circumstances often threw a wrench into the works in my grand plans for a proper sweater number, and that was the case in all sports that I tried to play. In soccer, my number was 26 because that was the shirt that fit the best. In my one season playing lacrosse, I was assigned #46, and I learned to love it, because I was barely on the school team and proud just to be in the locker room.Read the rest of this blog entry >>
May 6, 1994: The Explosion
We’ve all chronicled the Sharks’ victory over Detroit in the 1994 Western Conference Quarterfinals many times, and we’ll never forget Game Six of the next round against Toronto, when a post denied Johan Garpenlov’s chance to score a series winner in overtime. But in that Toronto series, Game Three provided an opportunity for a fan explosion that ranks among the greatest, and least discussed, moments in Sharks’ playoff history.
San Jose had defeated Detroit, but they won Game Seven on the road. Then, they split the first two games of their series against the Maple Leafs. When the Men in Teal hit the ice in San Jose on May 6, 1994, it was the first time that Sharks fans could gather at the building now known as HP Pavilion to celebrate together, and to show their appreciation for what their team had accomplished.
One day after getting the attention of the hockey world when they brought Hall of Fame defenseman Larry Robinson into the fold as an associate coach, the San Jose Sharks made another exciting addition to their coaching staff on Tuesday.
Jim Johnson has joined the organization, and his addition brings another experienced hand into the coach’s office. You’ll likely see that he’s 49 years old, a 14-year NHL veteran, another former defenseman, and a man who has coached internationally for USA Hockey, for Lugano in Switzerland and with several NHL teams, including the Washington Capitals where he assisted Dale Hunter last season.
But I want to focus on the apropos age, 49. That intersects with my first thought upon hearing the name, Jim Johnson. Now that Jim is here, I’ll have to have him solve a little question that I have concerning him.
It was during one of the Cow Palace seasons. The Sharks were an exciting, new expansion team with more enthusiasm than wins and everyone was coming to Daly City to check out the Bay Area’s new sports arrival.
Forty years ago, a team of legends from the USSR and another from Canada caused the hockey world to stop, stare, and shake its collective head in awe. There was nothing routine about it, from the fact that it was an eight-game series instead of a best-of-seven, to that it was played in September instead of May and June, and that it marked the first time that the Soviet and Canadian hockey cultures had ever collided at the very top level.
On Wednesday evening, some of the Russian legends came to Sharks Ice at San Jose to begin a commemorative tour of California with their former teammates, holding a clinic with some lucky young hockey players, and playing in an exhibition against a few former Sharks and Jr. Sharks coaches in a fundraiser for the Jr. Sharks Scholarship Fund.
The appearance of the Russians brought back all of the memories of that 1972 Summit Series, which was ironically called the “Friendship Series,” a name that was soon forgotten alongside the détente that inspired it. It was a series for the ages, and one that changed professional hockey forever.
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So, the Stanley Cup Champion has been decided, the Awards Show has just ended in Las Vegas, the draft and free agency are coming up, and baseball, soccer, and motor racing seasons are in full swing. What’s a hockey fan to do when he has a few minutes of free time from armchair GM’ing?
As they say in Quebec, “Mesdames et Messieurs, le calendrier est arrivé.”
It’s an annual rite of passage that has traditionally occurred in July. But on the second day of summer, the 2012-13 National Hockey League schedule has arrived, and all across the continent, fans, executives, players, coaches, and broadcasters are all in full analysis mode.
First things first: the season is scheduled to start on October 12th, which is nearly a week later than this past campaign. It begins with a quick foray into Southern California, but into Orange County and Duck Hockey. There are only eight games in October, which is a lower number than usual, but that includes a marquee Opening Night against the New York Rangers on October 15th at HP Pavilion. That’s very exciting.
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When NHL clubs gather at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh on June 22nd and 23rd, the future stars of the world’s fastest game will undoubtedly be selected in the NHL Entry Draft. While it is a time of great excitement for everyone involved, it is also a time when some of the most important work is done by each organization.
For families of prospective draftees, it is a time when many years of hard work and dedication are validated by being selected, whether it is in the first or seventh round. It is a time of reward for all of the hard work that the teams’ scouting staffs have placed into pounding the pavements of the hockey world to find the next great member of one’s organization.
It’s a fun time for fans, too, who pack the arena where the draft is located, have “draft parties” in their respective communities, and who handicap the results by doing a little armchair GM’ing of their own. There are often trades executed, which happen right before everyone’s eyes, and there are lots of wheeling and dealing moments to watch.
QUALITY OF DRAFTS
Normally, everyone wants to know whether the upcoming prospect pool is deep enough to call the draft a “good” or “deep” one. My view of it is that every draft is a good draft, and it is a fact that every draft produces outstanding NHL players.Read the rest of this blog entry >>
There are all sorts of storylines bouncing around the web, the printed page, and the airwaves as professional hockey’s marquee event gets underway on Wednesday at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. The teams have been set, the battle lines have been drawn, and all that is left is for the Stanley Cup Final series to get started between the Los Angeles Kings and the New Jersey Devils.
Both teams have been to the Stanley Cup Final before. The Kings are here for the second time in their 45 years of history, and the Devils are here for the fifth time in their 38 years of existence as an NHL team. The Devils have three Stanley Cup championships so far, and the Kings have yet to sip champagne instead of beer after the Final series concludes. Both teams are playing an aggressive, hard-skating, well-defended style of hockey with a level of consistency that is certainly envied in other cities.
There are ironies and interesting side stories in this series, as is the case every year. For instance, the last time that the Devils won the Stanley Cup in 2003, they also faced a team from California in the Anaheim Ducks, and it took them a full seven games to bring the trophy to the Garden State.
Anaheim’s leading scorer in that playoff run was Adam Oates, who has changed coasts to become a valued member of the New Jersey coaching staff. Oates, the Sir Stanley Matthews of hockey, took a page out of that great soccer player’s playbook by making others around him better throughout his 19 NHL seasons, and he’s doing the same thing today from his spot behind the bench.
New Jersey’s assistant coach Larry Robinson, one of the great defensemen of his era, is primarily known for his Stanley Cup winning years with the Montreal Canadiens, but his last three NHL seasons were spent with the Kings in Los Angeles. Robinson joined the Devils as assistant coach after his playing career ended, but became the Kings head coach for four seasons before rejoining New Jersey in 1999.
Robinson took over the head job late that season and promptly directed the Devils to the Stanley Cup in 2000 and a trip to the Final in 2001. Since then, he has been on and off the Devils coaching staff and has had an integral role in working with the Devils defense.
Peter DeBoer, the head coach of the Devils, must be really enjoying himself this season after a couple of tough years in Florida out of the playoffs. His Devils defeated the Panthers in the first round, then notched revenge for 1994 in defeating the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final. On the ice, he’s coaching some familiar faces: David Clarkson of New Jersey and Mike Richards of Los Angeles were integral pieces of his 2003 Memorial Cup championship club in Kitchener.
On the other side of the ice, it certainly has been interesting to see the Dean Lombardi-Darryl Sutter partnership working well at the right time. The Kings and their fans have been through lots of agony since that 1993 trip to the Final against Montreal, missing the playoffs in 11 of 15 years from 1994 to 2009. They have a very dedicated fan base in Los Angeles, and they have had a tremendous run to this point.
The Lombardi-Sutter axis brings the Sharks into the mix, of course, because of the many years that each of them bled Teal. But in terms of the players themselves, the only Sharks connections are on the Devils side: right wing Steve Bernier has played in 22 playoff games wearing a San Jose uniform, and backup goaltender Johan Hedberg was a member of the Sharks Organization from 1999 to 2001.
Overall, I really like the way that both of these teams are playing. They have a combination of great goaltending, solid defensive team play, opportunistic scoring, and special teams that are working when it matters most.
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