Fan Favorite Grand Prize Winner - 4/15/12
This past Saturday was one of the most memorable evenings of my life, as it's not every day that a professional athlete shakes your hand and hands you the jersey literally off his back. While it's not quite mega-millions lucky, I overcame some pretty daunting odds to be the grand prize winner of the Sharks Fan Favorite contest. I can best describe getting the phone call notifying me of my victory as stunning. I was at work, didn't recognize the number and almost didn't answer the call! Once I found out everything I had won, time moved at a crawl until Fan Appreciation Night finally arrived.
The tour of HP Pavilion far surpassed anything I anticipated. The building is truly huge, and most people don't get to see a fraction of how big it actually is. The offices, locker rooms, press areas, and storage areas create a maze of passages that I was fortunate enough to explore. Seeing all the framed photos of every Sharks team in history was a big thrill, as was watching Doug Wilson walk right past me in the lobby. After touring the rafters above the ice, I felt a bit bad for Randy, Drew, Dan, and Jaime as their recent move to the rafters is way, way up there...no where near as close as their previous perch from the front of the upper bowl. I guess my season tickets in the last row of the upper bowl are closer that I thought!
Riding the Zamboni at intermission is a thrill and experience like none other. It's a surreal feeling emerging onto the ice from the tunnel and being surrounded by a stadium of fans. I can only imagine what it's like for the players, playing on center stage below the cauldron of raucous fans. I have a greater appreciation of the home ice advantage that we can create as fans, because simply looking up at a mostly quiet group of fans milling around still gave me a slight sense of being a gladiator.
Of all the thrills and perks of the night, getting to go on the ice post-game, after an overtime victory over a bitter rival, and receiving the jersey of the player that most would agree has been the face of the franchise for the better part of two decades...words really can't describe. Patrick Marleau was incredibly kind and sincere, even chatting with me for a brief minute before we posed for a picture. I was sure to let him know that I hoped he ends his career here in SJ. I think he truly is a fan favorite in every sense, from his play on the ice to the way he carries himself off of it. He is a perfect reflection of the organization as well, as everyone I encountered all day, from blue coats to secretaries to our tour guide, was incredibly generous and kind.
A huge thank you goes to everyone involved in making Saturday an experience this lifelong fan will treasure forever.