Dan's View From Center Ice - 3/14/2012
Do you remember the way that the San Jose Sharks fought back from an 0-3 deficit in a Stanley Cup playoff series to force a decisive Game Seven?
If you check the history books, you won’t find any such series, but it actually happened, even though there is no definitive record of such an event ever taking place.
It was the spring of 2008, and the Sharks were facing elimination in the Western Conference Semifinal round against their Pacific Division rivals, the Dallas Stars. Instead of throwing in the towel, they won Game Four, 2-1, at American Airlines Center, and kept the series alive. On the glimmer of hope that they received, they captured victory in Game Five, 3-2 in overtime, on the strength of a Joe Pavelski goal in the extra session.
Heading back to Dallas for Game Six, the hope was to force a Game Seven, but the history books show that San Jose lost that contest. What is misunderstood is that the team did force a Game Seven, but that it didn’t take place at HP Pavilion, as the original schedule indicated.
Instead, Game Seven of that series happened on the very same night, May 4, 2008, at American Airlines Center in Dallas. You may remember the drill: the game was tied, 1-1, at the end of regulation time. Evgeni Nabokov made one of the greatest saves in franchise history against Brad Richards early in the first overtime, and the Sharks and Stars would play three full overtime periods, the equivalent of another full game, on that night, without a decision.
As the game went to a fourth overtime, it dawned on me that San Jose was being delivered its Game Seven, but it occurred on the same night that Game Six was played. As we all remember, Brenden Morrow of Dallas ended the Sharks’ season on that night, in that fourth overtime, and so hopes for a Game Eight, as it were, came to an end, too.
Even though that series ended in disappointment, there was no doubt that the team laid absolutely everything on the line on that evening, and it was really all that anyone could ask for, given that the magical ability to mystically force an outcome was not possible. As we all remember, it was a night that could have gone either way, and we are all convinced that had Morrow’s shot not gone in, and had a Sharks’ change been successful, San Jose would have won the next scheduled game at HP Pavilion and would have moved on.
Fast forward to today. The Sharks are in a situation that they didn’t exactly expect. Instead of being above the fray, holding a commanding lead in the division and waiting to wrap up their plans for home ice through all rounds of the playoffs, they are smack dab in the middle of the battle to get into the playoffs. As of this writing, they are in a four-way points tie for the eighth and final playoff spot, currently seeded ahead of Colorado, Calgary, and Los Angeles because they’ve played less games and have a higher points percentage.
The final weeks of the season are going to be as exciting as one can imagine, and the situation today resembles the scenario presented to the team on that evening in 2008. Instead of waiting for Game 82 to find out the playoff qualification and seeding scenario, the playoffs have arrived 14 games early. As of this moment, the Sharks are in the Stanley Cup playoffs, but only by the slimmest of margins. If the season ended today, Round One would present the St. Louis Blues as an opponent.
But the playoffs are here, now, and it’s a best-of-fourteen series. Twenty-eight points, there for the taking, with the opportunity to take away 26 points away from Western Conference rivals at the same time. So far, San Jose is 0-0-1 in that series, so that means that they have earned one point, and have given one point to a rival.
REMEMBERING TIM BRYANT
The more I think about the excitement, and the sheer permutation of the possibilities, I can’t help but think how much former Sharks Director of Media Relations Tim Bryant would have enjoyed it. Very sadly, I can’t do that. While on the most recent road trip, all of us in San Jose were shocked to hear that Tim had died at the age of 53, while on a brief vacation with a buddy at baseball’s spring training in Florida.
Tim was so instrumental in creating the fabulous giving culture that characterizes the Sharks’ media relations organization, and that is a quality that perennially puts the department in contention for the Dick Dillman Award, presented to the top media relations group in the NHL. He was instantly organized, ready to react at the drop of a hat to anything that occurred in the topsy-turvy world of pro hockey, and he had a distinct vision for how important it was to present his team to the public.
Tim really cared, not only about the Sharks, but he cared about everyone he worked with, whether they were Sharks employees, members of the working media, or even the kids who came by the Cow Palace to watch practice. He was an intense character at times, but only because he was fully focusing his efforts on doing the most professional job possible. But he always managed to take a step aside from the crazy world he was managing and make time for you.
Tim really respected the radio and television part of the equation. When I arrived in 1991, he immediately told me that he wanted the radio voice of the Sharks to pick the three stars at home games. “You’re at every game, you call a good game, and you know the game,” he said. “You can handle the professional responsibility. I want someone like that to pick the stars here.” I have always been honored to do so, and it has always been important to me.
It didn’t matter what the record of the team was, or whether the Cow Palace wasn’t cooperating, Tim knew that he was representing his ownership, his franchise, and, yes, his newly adopted city in his work. He made the most of his resources, found excellent people to work with him, and set the stage for the world-class media organization that exists in San Jose today.
In those early years, he was often the first representative of San Jose that spoke to media and hockey professionals in other cities, and because of that excellent first impression, his work immediately gave San Jose a good name to those who had never encountered the city before. Certainly, that carried over to all reaches of the Sharks offices.
We had some great moments, and some not-so-great ones, as is the case when working with an expansion team. But Tim always put things in proper perspective. He did so last season in Detroit, during the Stanley Cup playoffs, when our group all got together and reminisced between playoff games in the Motor City. We laughed through all of the crazy stories, including the 17-game losing streak, the “Link Gaetz Era,” the busy fax machine at the first trade deadline, the opening of the new building in San Jose, and the great playoff successes of the first two seasons in the South Bay. It was great to see him. I will always treasure our conversations from that visit.
Little excited Tim more than the way that the building now known as HP Pavilion opened, and how the Sharks morphed into the team that shocked the hockey world that year. I often remember the late Gaetan Duchesne ribbing other members of the media relations department on the road, telling them that “it wouldn’t be like this if Tim were here.” The thing is, “The Duke” was saying that to Tim when he traveled with the team, saying that things were going more smoothly when either Ken Arnold or Roger Ross, his assistants at the time, were on the trip. I’m hopeful that their spirits are laughing together today, if that is possible.
It’s probably best that Tim died doing something that he loved, which was going on vacation with either family or a few buddies, and soaking up the atmosphere at spring training. Tim loved baseball, too, and if you think that a professional sports guy would have to get away from sports when on vacation, well, you just didn’t know Tim.
An excellent article about Tim was recently written by my broadcast colleague, John Keating, at the Fox Sports Detroit website. I think it’s an excellent description as to his character, and the respect that he earned from all in the sports community. You can read the article here.
Our condolences are extended to his wife, Theresa, and their son, Danny, who was just a wee lad when Tim was with the Sharks. Rest in peace, Tim. We’ll always remember you.