Fly with the puck
A game with the San Jose Sharks
April 6, 2020
Sharks Captains by Lora Simakova
Kane, Burns, Hertl, Jones, and finally Couture, the captain, all fly out. Pieces of ice chip off their skates as the players glide with their freshly-sharpened blades on virgin ice. Hyped for the upcoming fight, the enthusiastic fans prepare themselves.
Although these games are amazingly thrilling and provide tons of excitement, what goes into them behind the scenes on game day?
The San Jose Sharks, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, have a rich history and have provided the National Hockey League with many wins.
“The Bay Area was previously home to an NHL team, known first as the Seals and then as the Golden Seals, from 1967 to 1976. When two of that franchise’s owners, Gordon and George Gund, were awarded an expansion club by the league to begin to play in 1991, they chose to base it in San Jose, which had never previously been home to a major North American sports franchise,” said Adam Augustyn, managing editor of Encyclopedia Britannica.
Sarah Escobedo, a diehard fan of the Sharks, has been to many games and has had various experiences with the Sharks.
“I probably go to about 5-8 games in a season and always make it to at least one playoff game. The playoff games are the most exciting, as the production level of their opening gets the crowd going; they do special lighting and give out synchronized light-up bracelets so the whole crowd basically participates in the light show,” Escobedo said. “They hand out rally towels with funny jabs at the opposing team that everyone twirls when we score, and just the noise level is elevated with a packed house.”
Fans like Escobedo are devoted to the team and wouldn’t change any aspect of the team for anything.
The Sharks continue to be a part of the National Hockey League and carry on with their journey to achieve more victories.
Leading up to the game
The Sharks have a long day when it comes to games, starting with a short morning practice.
Scott Emmert, the vice president of communications for the San Jose Sharks, has experience with the team’s schedules and games.
“For a normal 7 or 7:30 p.m. game, teams will have a morning skate for about 20-35 minutes, usually at 10 or 10:30 a.m. if it is a home game or 11 or 11:30 a.m. if it is a road game. If it is an afternoon game, typically 5 p.m. or earlier, or if they have played the night before, teams generally do not skate,” Emmert said.
A home game can be very different from a road game in regards to practices and transportation. Nonetheless, the Sharks have a set-in dining schedule.
“Once they have completed any media requests and they shower, they leave the facility. Most go directly to lunch, either at home or at a restaurant. Some have routines where they go to the same place for each home game. On the road, there is a prepared meal for them back at the hotel,” Emmert said.
Following media requests and lunch, the players have a break before their game. Just like most other sports, the team returns to the arena to prepare and warm-up for their long-awaited match.
“About 3-4 hours prior to game time, depending on the player, they will head back to the arena to prepare for the game. Their prep typically includes equipment and stick preparation, team meetings, and warm-up exercises,” Emmert said.
The sport itself
To this day, their games bring excitement and thrill to people of all ages. Here’s how a game in “the tank” goes down.
Just before the doors open, lines of eager fans stand outside, electrified. The lines are differentiated amongst people due to the recently created clear bag policy.
Opening 75 minutes before the game starts for regular seats and 90 minutes for Sharks365 members, the ticket collectors finally flood with people.
After making it into the arena, the fans have an opportunity to walk around and grab some food.
Following the fans’ free time, the night then continues. As the stadium fills up with the last few fans, and the players prepare for their match, the eagerness in the arena intensifies.
The night starts with a 16-minute warm-up. This is the perfect time for fans to get in a high-five from a player and watch them skate down the ice for their warm-up of the night.
“I love the Sharks because I was born and raised in San Jose. It’s one of the major teams that represent our city, and I remember growing up watching the games on TV,” Escobedo said.
The warm-up sparks interest amongst all. Not only do the players prepare for their match, but they also interact with the fans, throwing pucks over the glass and giving high-fives.
Following the warm-up, the players go back to the locker-room to finish their preparation.
Take a look inside the newly renovated Sharks locker room.
Spread into three 20-minute periods with 17-minute intermissions, the game finally starts with the singing of the national anthems from all participating countries, like the U.S. and sometimes Canada.
As the puck drops, the game finally begins. Long practices, hardcore scrimmages, and sports massages have all led up to this amazing performance that will last around 2.5 hours.
Every game has its unique characteristics, goals, and lineups. Still, every game is unforgettable.
Leslie Litzenberger, a devoted fan, has been to numerous games and enjoys the special experience every time.
“Going to a game is such a unique experience. From seeing everyone flood into the arena in their Sharks gear to visiting the store for some new merch, to grabbing some of our favorite food, and of course the game itself. We always have a blast,” Litzenberger said.
After about 20 and then 40 minutes of game time, short intermissions take place. These intermissions hold great significance in the game and allow fans to entertain themselves in more ways than just watching the game.
These intermissions not only give the fans and players a break, but they’re also used for the technical side regarding the ice. During these breaks, Zambonis glide the ice and renew it with fresh water that eventually freezes over as ice.
Following the intermissions, the game continues.
With many goals, fun chants, and penalties, the game itself is not the only thing offered to fans, as there are many options for alternative excitement.
From Konjoe Burger to The Carvery to Dippin’ Dots, there are many food and drink options open to the fans as well.
“As for food and drinks, they’re pretty good with their selection, and if you get club level seats, the choices are even better with many more craft beer selections, vegan and gluten-free choices, and you can even order from your seats,” Escobedo said.
However, food and drinks are not the only things sold at the games. The merchandise selections are also huge, holding great significance to both the players and the fans.
“Their merchandise is not cheap, but they do always have jerseys and hats. People tend to buy new hats because they will sometimes throw them down to the ice when a player gets a hat trick, which is three goals in a game, thus forfeiting their hat,” Escobedo said.
Apart from food and merchandise, the arena has more to offer than hockey. As the noise level in the stadium approaches an all-time high, the Sharks mascot comes flying onto the ice.
According to the San Jose Sharks, their mascot, S.J. Sharkie, was initially debuted in 1992 and has become one of the most recognized mascots around the world. His task of entertaining the tank includes his well-known tricks of hat-throwing, dancing, and more.
“A consistent and familiar presence at every Sharks home game, Sharkie has the enviable task of entertaining a sold-out crowd in San Jose night in and night out, performing a variety of exciting death-defying and unique stunts and acts. Sharkie’s nightly performances range from rappelling from SAP Center at San Jose’s rafters to speeding across the ice on his four-wheel all-terrain vehicle,” said San Jose Sharks staff.
S.J. Sharkie is one of the top highlights of the game. Fans can also order special services with the mascot. These may include him showing up to specified seats at a game or even buying a package for him to show up at a birthday party.
During the game, the two intermissions give the fans many different opportunities.
For fans that don’t need a break, the jumbotron inside the arena offers little games and videos that they can entertain themselves with during the wait, one of the biggest being the kiss cam.
Below is an example of a video shown during an intermission, which includes the Sharks fulfilling a fan’s wish from the Make-A-Wish America foundation.
15-year-old Hayden Bradley’s wish of being a member of the San Jose Sharks for a day was made thanks to the Sharks Foundation and Make-A-Wish. But it di…
For fans that attend the games in celebration of an event, they can purchase a message on the jumbotron that is shown during these intermissions.
Along with giving the fans a break, the players get one too. They are given a chance to have a massage or ice bath during the intermissions.
“All of those amenities, including ice baths and massages, are made available. It is completely dependent on the player and whatever injury, rehab, or maintenance scenario they are dealing with,” Emmert said.
When the game comes to a close and the winning team is decided, the fans always think of their wishes to meet the team or ride on the Zamboni.
“I’ve always wanted to meet the team. Of course, I have my favorites: Logan Couture, Evander Kane, Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier, the list goes on. If I could, it would be really cool to actually be on the ice and learn how to shoot with the players, but I don’t know if they’ve ever done anything like that,” Escobedo said.
Other fans wish for unique experiences.
“I’ve always thought it would be cool to shadow broadcaster Randy Hanh. I’d love to sit in the broadcast booth and watch them in action. It must be so hard to remember all the players’ names and numbers for both teams,” Litzenberger said.
Nonetheless, the team has a tough time picking which fans get the amazing opportunity of meeting the team or overall having a unique experience.
“Most of those opportunities are through winning a contest or a special events package that is offered through our ticketing department,” Emmert said.
Of course, the game gets to the point when every goal matters, and any goal could decide the winning team.
“When the Sharks win, the vibe inside the arena is electric. It’s such a thrill. I’ve been to a lot of games, so I’ve seen a lot of losses in addition to a lot of wins, and the losses always make for a sad walk out to the car. They can’t win every game, of course, but it sure makes it a lot more exciting,” Litzenberger said.
Yet, with wins come losses, as they are inevitable.
“When we lose, I feel let down. But I think most Sharks fans are pretty good with losses because we know that they will win again, and we’re always hoping that the next game or the next season we’ll get to see them win the Stanley Cup,” Escobedo said.
Every fan has their reasons for loving the team, but most can agree that the devotion stays forever.
“When the Sharks win, it makes me feel proud. And the camaraderie between Sharks fans is just the next level. I think most Sharks fans would agree that we are ride or die when it comes to the team,” Escobedo said.
8,213 Likes, 28 Comments – San Jose Sharks (@sanjosesharks) on Instagram: “Sending a Jumbo-sized hug and Hertl-sized smile as we head into the weekend ??”
As the night comes to an end, the fans leave the stadium and prepare for the rest of their night. Still, the Sharks have a few more duties to fulfill before ultimately going down for the night.
“Once the game concludes, players are again made available to the media by request. They also have post-game training and workouts and any medical treatment that may be required. After that is completed, they are free to head home. If it is a road game, the team typically boards a bus and then heads to the airport to fly to the next opponent’s city or home, typically arriving in the early hours of the morning,” Emmert said.
When the last few people finally leave, the stadium’s lights get shut off, and doors get locked, all in preparation for the next game.
“Sharks fans are amongst the most passionate in all of the sports. They truly are the reason that attending a game at SAP Center is such a great experience,” Emmert said.