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Bay Area's Acolatse Climbing with Sharks

Friday, 10.19.2012 / 9:54 AM PT / News
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Bay Area\'s Acolatse Climbing with Sharks
Sena Acolatse, born the year before San Jose entered the National Hockey League, is on the cusp of being the first Bay Area native to play for the Sharks.
Dena Acolatse admits that "Slap Shot" is one of her favorite films. That's basically the only connection her family ever had to hockey. Dena grew up in the Bay Area and worked in Silicon Valley, and her husband, Connel, came to California from Ghana to study and eventually work.

There wasn't any reason for them to believe their son, Sena, had a future in the sport. But a year after Sena was born, the San Jose Sharks arrived in Northern California.

Now 21 years old, Sena Acolatse is on the cusp of being the first Bay Area native to play for the Sharks.

"It's funny. One of my favorite movies of all time is 'Slap Shot' with Paul Newman. Great movie," Dena Acolatse told "That was always my impression of hockey: a bunch of people fighting in the stands and all the hitting and fighting. So it was kind of funny to end up a hockey mom."

Sena's first sporting exploits were in soccer, a favorite in his father's native country. But living in Fremont, Calif., a few blocks from the Iceoplex, it was only a matter of time before Sena ventured to the rink to learn to skate. Once he saw the Sharks play, Sena was hooked.

"That's what got me into hockey: watching the Sharks," Sena said.

It helped that the team was rounding into form at that time. It acquired Owen Nolan from the Colorado Avalanche to go along with young talents Jeff Friesen, Marco Sturm and Patrick Marleau. With coach Darryl Sutter leading the Sharks' first era of sustained success, Sena Acolatse was captivated.

"When he was in first grade, he first went to a Sharks game. You could just see his eyes wide as could be. He had never seen anything like that," Dena said of Sena. "The Sharks just ignited this passion in him. It's from that point he said, 'I want to do this.' It just took him over."

When the family relocated to Edmonton, 7-year-old Sena protested. But the move helped kick-start his life in hockey, setting the stage for what could someday be a historic return to the Bay Area.

"I remember putting up a huge fight about it, but I ended up loving Edmonton," Sena said. "I was still a Sharks fan for a bit, then I got converted to the Oilers. I'd try to tape my socks and sticks like Doug Weight. He was my favorite player."

Adopting the Oilers as a favorite team wasn't the only major change for Acolatse. In Fremont, Sena laced up the skates a couple of times a week; hockey in Edmonton was a daily affair. That fast track in Alberta eventually landed the defenseman with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League. After a 31-point second season, Acolatse struggled in his final two campaigns and was ignored in the NHL Draft.

That's when the Sharks came calling.

"I guess everything happens for a reason. It worked out in the end," said Acolatse, whom the Sharks signed as a free agent in April 2011. "When I heard 'Sharks,' I was more than excited. I still watched them. I still followed them. When I heard they were interested in me, I didn't hesitate."

Acolatse quickly made his mark last season in his first full campaign with the Sharks' American Hockey League team in Worcester, ranking fifth among the league's rookie defensemen in goals (8). Now looking to improve his defensive game, Acolatse is poised to become the first player from the Bay Area to suit up for the San Jose Sharks (although, to be fair, Worcester teammate Matt Tennyson lived briefly in Northern California after being born and raised in Minnesota).

One of Acolatse's childhood heroes could have a hand in the prospect eventually playing for the Sharks: San Jose's development coach Mike Ricci works with the team's AHL prospects and was a longtime favorite of Acolatse's during his playing days.

"I was a little shocked when I first saw him. He had no teeth. He still has no teeth," Acolatse said. "He's so funny and good with the guys. It's kind of cool that one of my favorite guys is someone I can work with now."

If Sena Acolatse gets to play for San Jose, he could prove as influential to local players as Ricci was to him.

Author: Tal Pinchevsky | Staff Writer




1 x - ANA 78 49 22 7 227 216 105
2 x - NSH 78 47 22 9 224 193 103
3 STL 76 46 23 7 229 190 99
4 CHI 76 46 24 6 217 176 98
5 MIN 76 44 25 7 219 186 95
6 VAN 77 45 27 5 224 208 95
7 CGY 77 42 28 7 229 204 91
8 WPG 77 39 26 12 217 204 90
9 LAK 76 37 25 14 201 192 88
10 DAL 77 37 30 10 239 248 84
11 SJS 76 37 30 9 212 215 83
12 COL 76 35 29 12 206 213 82
13 EDM 76 23 40 13 185 255 59
14 ARI 77 23 46 8 161 256 54


J. Pavelski 76 36 31 9 67
L. Couture 76 25 37 -4 62
J. Thornton 72 14 48 -5 62
B. Burns 76 16 40 -6 56
P. Marleau 76 17 36 -17 53
T. Wingels 69 15 20 -5 35
T. Hertl 76 12 17 -2 29
M. Nieto 66 8 16 -11 24
M. Vlasic 70 9 14 12 23
J. Braun 65 1 22 6 23
A. Niemi 29 22 7 .914 2.62
A. Stalock 7 7 2 .905 2.55
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