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Bay Area's Acolatse Climbing with Sharks

Friday, 10.19.2012 / 12:54 PM / 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 z - ANA 82 54 20 8 266 209 116
2 y - COL 82 52 22 8 250 220 112
3 x - STL 82 52 23 7 248 191 111
4 x - SJS 82 51 22 9 249 200 111
5 x - CHI 82 46 21 15 267 220 107
6 x - LAK 82 46 28 8 206 174 100
7 x - MIN 82 43 27 12 207 206 98
8 x - DAL 82 40 31 11 235 228 91
9 PHX 82 37 30 15 216 231 89
10 NSH 82 38 32 12 216 242 88
11 WPG 82 37 35 10 227 237 84
12 VAN 82 36 35 11 196 223 83
13 CGY 82 35 40 7 209 241 77
14 EDM 82 29 44 9 203 270 67


J. Pavelski 82 41 38 23 79
J. Thornton 82 11 65 20 76
P. Marleau 82 33 37 0 70
L. Couture 65 23 31 21 54
B. Burns 69 22 26 26 48
T. Wingels 77 16 22 11 38
D. Boyle 75 12 24 -8 36
J. Demers 75 5 29 14 34
T. Hertl 37 15 10 11 25
M. Nieto 66 10 14 -4 24
A. Stalock 12 5 2 .932 1.87
A. Niemi 39 17 7 .913 2.39
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