What It Feels Like to Fall in Love

January 5th, 2008…the day my life changed. I wish I could say that my story is beautiful and poetic, however I can’t…but I can say, that day was a pivotal point for me. Within a day and a moment my life switched paths.

Let me set the scene for you…

Here is a young(ish) girl. An uprooted New Yorker living in California. A girl with no real passion for anything in particular. No hunger, no joie de vivre (though not for lack of trying to find one). She walked through life – aimlessly it seemed – knowing that there was something more out there for her…a place that she would fit into (where everybody knows her name?), and a passion that was just as eager to find her as she was to find it…but what was it?

She went to school…tried her hand at a couple different majors…Fashion Merchandising Management, Marketing and even toyed with the idea of becoming a Geologist. But something was missing. She thought maybe she could go to trade school to become a mechanic, after all – she had a huge love for all things automotive…but really, did she actually want to be a mechanic? Heck no!

Everyone told her to stick to what was safe…and Business was safe. Did it feel right? Absolutely not. She knew there was something out there…one thing that would just grab a hold of her and not let go. One thing that would make her happy, genuinely happy, for the rest of her life…and almost like how the hair on the back of your neck stands up before lightning strikes, she could sense that it was about to find her and hit her like a ton of bricks.

Fast forward to Christmas time 2007…my mother-in-law decided to purchase a 3-game Shark Pak for her husband for Christmas. I had known that he was a huge Sharks fan but didn’t really know any more about it other than that…heck (I’m embarrassed to say), up until earlier that year I didn’t even know that the Bay Area had an NHL team. Don’t forget, I’m an “ignorant New Yorker” (do any other states even exist?). Needless to say, my husband and I were asked to accompany my in-laws to one of the games. January 5th, 2008 against Columbus.

I wish I could say that the excitement and anticipation of the upcoming game resulted in a week-long cheesy smile plastered on my gorgeous face, put I can’t…I was going along with it because it was something to do, and I had a mild curiosity for what a pro-hockey game actually felt like. Now, before I go any further you must realize – I had no interest in sports for 24 years of my life. None, zilch, nada. Not for a lack of effort though, I mean I’ve been to my fair share of Yankees and Mets games, I even used to play basketball when I was younger and of course lets not forget, followed my high school football team to the Long Island Championships…but really, I hated it. All of it. I was a daddy’s girl and my daddy didn’t like sports. (Not his fault at all, he’s way awesome in other aspects) My daddy liked to teach me about cars, trucks and anything mechanical really…and I absorbed it like a sponge. I was the anti-sports girl who would much rather go tear down a Chevy small block than watch a single play of the Superbowl. Sports and I, we just didn’t see eye to eye.

The day of the game came up faster than I had anticipated and I remember it was a cold, dark, rainy night…
A night I would have preferred spent at home, watching Deadliest Catch re-runs and cozying up next to the dead Christmas Tree…but alas, I found myself walking down the dark, wet streets of San Jose, on my way to HP Pavilion.

I had no idea what to expect. I had nothing to gauge this on, and I definitely skeptical that I was actually going to enjoy it…

I remember rounding the corner and seeing the Tank in front of me…my heart almost skipped a beat. It was gorgeous. The closer we got, the more I felt something stirring inside me. Then we walked up the cement steps and through the doors of what looked like a crystal palace…and that aroma hit me…the smell of cold icy air, hot dogs, beer and churros…and I swear, I’ve never smelled a more comforting aroma in all my life. There was also something else I noticed…something I couldn’t quite put my finger on but now understand…there is something like a buzz, a current of energy that reverberates throughout the Tank on Game Night…its something that I’m sure every arena has, but this was my first time to feel it.

It was amazing to see all the people donning jerseys and t-shirts and feather boas, and teal wigs and face paint, all these people who had two things in common…one, they were all completely and totally devoted to this Sharks team, and two, they all wore the biggest smiles I had ever seen in my life.

As we climbed up to our “nosebleed” seats, I remember thinking “wow, you can actually see pretty dang good from here!”

Then the puck dropped…and my eyes never came off the ice. It was like I was in a trance (a trance which was further compounded by seeing Steve Bernier on the Jumbo-tron after he scored)…and speaking of scoring, I definitely wasn’t prepared for the celebration that erupted when we scored for the first time that night…it was a feeling that, believe it or not, I still get at every single game and it never gets old…its like an electric current just runs through the Tank. Almost like you could literally power the entire city of San Jose with our energy alone. As something I had never experienced before, this completely blew me away. I kept glancing over at my husband and giving him the look of “Why the hell have we never done this before??”
I have recently come to the conclusion that any man who denies his girlfriend/wife the chance to attend a live hockey game is guilty of a form of domestic abuse…yes, take him to the Police and file a report ladies…

It seemed as though with every minute that passed in the Shark Tank that night, something was changing in me. I felt like an Autobot (a cute one) transforming into something badass…but I didn’t know what. All I did know was that I was feeling a couple things that I had not felt in quite some time…and never to this extent.

Joy…complete unadulterated joy in its purest form. I knew I had stumbled something huge. Something that sparked a fire inside of me like I’ve never felt before. While I watched the players fly down the ice with such ferocity and determination I felt like everything else in the world just faded away…all of my worries, all of my stress…I have never felt more right in all of my life…watching the puck pass crisply from stick to stick as the players cycled around the net, I was just in awe…fully immersed in absolute amazement and wonder.

The other thing I recognized making an appearance was an overwhelming sense of pride…unless you’re a sports fan, player (or parent I’m sure) you have yet to truly experience the true meaning of pride. Actually, it wasn’t until recently I realized that pride is a lot like a seed. You plant a little piece of it initially…and with some time and some TLC it begins to grow…and grow…and grow…and grow to the point where it doesn’t even all fit inside the arena on game night. Instead it overflows out into the city and surrounding towns…soon it begins to touch anyone who comes in contact with it.
I strongly believe that there is no pride felt that compares to that of a hockey fan’s…
Why is that you ask? It’s simple…there is absolutely no sport as glorious, graceful and amazing as hockey.

Simply thinking about how in one night, three hours actually, one single hockey game transformed the old lack-luster, sports-hating, no direction finding Joanne into the one putting pen to paper right now…it just amazes me.

Ever since that day I my life has never been the same…and its not just as simple as saying I became a sports fan. Any hockey lover will attest to the fact that its more than just a sport. Falling in love with hockey has proven that it doesn’t only take over your life, but it takes over your heart. Our players are more than just athletes, our arenas are more than just ice rinks, and our fellow fans are more than just friends.

Every time I stop to think about the past ten months, it completely blows me away. I think of how lucky I am to have opened my heart to the greatest sport on earth…and all the joys that have come along with it. I have felt the pride of being a hockey fan, and the thrill of reliving that pride every time I write about the game….but the best part of all (by far) is the people I have met and connections I have made since falling into this community. I cannot even begin to express my thanks to all of the friends I have made. You all have truly shown me that the core values of this sport don’t only exist in it’s players…I have never seen so much compassion, intelligence, heart, character and of course pride…you have all played a huge part in helping me find what it is I have been looking for…

Today I was walking through a store and a little notebook caught my eye…and the quote on that notebook really kind of covers it all…

“What you are comes to you.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Indeed it does…


What's This About Soup and Who is This Campbell You Speak Of?

No. Really. I don’t know who this “Brian Campbell” character is, but what I do know is that the Sharks defensive line is not currently accepting applications.

I kid of course…how could any Sharks fan forget Brian “Soupy” Campbell? We had quite the intense little fling and faster than we could say “Mmm Mmm Good…” he was gone. Ah, such is life.

I think to compare Brian Campbell and Dan Boyle, you need to see it from a Sharks fan’s perspective…and that’s what I am, so that’s what you’re going to get.

This is a tale that has been pushed to the back of many Sharks fans minds, along side the Round Two disappointment and kissing Ron Wilson goodbye…I’m sure many would agree, these three things combined with the acquisition of Dan Boyle, Brad Lukowich and Rob Blake have proven to be the catalysts we needed to propel us into success for the 08-09 season.

However, let’s not forget what great contributions these collectively were to our game. The Campbell versus Boyle debate is something that we as Sharks fans still hear and are asked about on a very regular basis…so I guess now is as good a time as any to air it all out, put it on record and have ourselves a nice big helping of cold, leftover soup.

Reaching back into the dark corners of my memory, I blast through the flashbacks. The flashbacks of the trade deadline and the flashbacks of the end of last season, and all of the emotions come flooding back. The Emotional Roller Coaster of Playoff Hockey…and how sweet it really, really was…

Once upon a time…

The Sharks left for a road trip after a disappointing Valentine’s Day loss at home against Edmonton, and little did we know on that miserable, miserable Valentine’s Day that the team that would return two weeks later would be a welcome change to the one that left. The biggest change of all had much to do with Brian Campbell…now, while February 26th brought us (me specifically…yes I’m selfish about this) the heartache of losing Steve Bernier, it also brought the optimistic wonder of a brand new player…a highly touted defenseman named Brian Campbell. A defenseman that we undoubtedly were in need of. Our blue line needed help and supposedly this was the man who was going to do the fixing.

Not only did Campbell rekindle the fire in our blue line, but he created great chemistry with the rest of the team and it seemed as though new life was breathed into this team who’s recent record was nothing to shake a hockey stick at…the team began to gel so well that Campbell’s presence on the team resulted in a 20+ game streak without a regulation loss. But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself here…let’s go back and take a look at the climactic game that saw Brian Campbell skate straight into the hearts of San Jose’s fans…the Sharks homecoming game after their road trip…the first chance that we Sharks fans got to watch the new kid on the block live and in person.

It would be an understatement to say that the game, and the new addition to the team absolutely blew us away…we didn’t really have an offensive defenseman, and to watch one of Campbell’s caliber and skill playing for our team was truly a trip of epic proportions. The culmination of the night was Campbell’s infamous spin-o-rama goal on Carey Price…it just didn’t get any better.

The only thing that has ever even compared to the Tank that night was perhaps Game 7 versus Calgary or Game 5 versus Dallas…but really, when you hear all of HP Pavilion chanting “Sign him!” its hard not to chant along…especially when it seems like all of your problems have been fixed…and your team has been saved…

20+ games later…the honeymoon is over.
Our beloved “Soupy” takes a penalty in the fourth overtime in game 6 against Dallas…an elimination game.

I don’t think any player in the history of televised hockey has been cursed up and down as much as he was at that moment. Maybe we needed someone to point a finger at, but really at this point it became apparent that Campbell just didn’t want to be here anymore. His play started to deteriorate and so did the “magic” that came with his acquisition. The “sign him!” chants were no more…we knew better. He had no intention of signing here, he was simply on a good-weather vacation to California.

When Campbell left, pretty much everyone who wasn’t a Sharks fan saw it as a loss…we read it in articles, saw it on tv and heard it from friends. But once again we knew better, something bigger was in the cards…and with the trust we have in Doug Wilson, we knew he wouldn’t let us down…this is his team as much as it is ours, and he clearly wants to win.

On Independence Day, Wilson came through with a trade so amazing, I still can’t believe it. With Dan Boyle all but being run out of Tampa Bay, he was left hanging out to dry – and no better time for the Sharks to strengthen our blue line and pick him up…along with his number one man, Brad Lukowich. Two amazing d-men in return for Matt Carle, Ty Wishart (prospect) and two draft picks.

When the general public learned of the trade, the excitement just started flowing from everyone…and soon it was “Campbell who?”

Everyone, not even just fans of the Sharks, were talking about what a fantastic team we were going to have for this new season, and how Boyle was going to work wonders for our team. I really had no idea…I didn’t follow Tampa Bay, I am still new to the game, I really didn’t have a clue as to what we were getting with these guys. Needless to say, I was and still am, blown away.

With four goals, seven assists and a plus-minus of 7 so far for the season, Dan Boyle is proving to be an integral part of our early success…but it’s more than just the numbers. Since he established himself on the team, the blue line has been unstoppable…not to mention the transformation our entire team has made. An incredible amount of shots are coming from the blue line and succeeding…defensemen like Christian Ehrhoff and Marc-Eduard Vlasic have also stepped up their game accordingly and are completely different players from their last season counterparts.

To say that Dan Boyle has made an impression on San Jose is an immense understatement…he’s made an impression on the entire league…an impression that will last far beyond 20 games. Between his speed, puck handling and finesse, Dan Boyle is an immensely valuable player to this hockey league…he is the definition of a true defenseman. We know that he wants to be with us, you could hear it in his voice and see it in his smile from the day he got here. Since coming to San Jose he has been able to shine and be appreciated for the energy, charisma, character and heart he brings to the game. The personalities and experience of Boyle, Lukowich and Blake have brought a new life to San Jose…and the proof is in the Gatorade…the numbers speak for themselves, and the chemistry on the Sharks bench is undeniable.

The truth here is, you can’t really compare Campbell to Boyle…one was born to wear a Sharks jersey and the other wasn’t.
Plain and simple.


A Tale of Two Cities, and Two Places Called "Home"

Many of you who already know me, know at least these two things…

One – That I am a diehard Sharks fan…and,

Two – That I am not from California.

Now while these are two things I embrace about myself (possibly more than anything else) I have to say, the further I find myself sinking into full-on hockey fanhood, I’m recognizing a feeling I haven’t felt before…(in regard to hockey anyway)

Guilt…yes guilt. This could be my Italian Catholic upbringing talking, but allow me to explain…

Twenty-four years of my life, I went about doing my thing…day to day without ever thinking about a puck, a faceoff, a blue line, a blocker or heck, even a hockey player (save that year in high school when I was crushing something fierce on one of the guys on our hockey team…and I attended a couple of games at The Rinx)
I mean, I had grown up on Eastern Long Island (way out there) so I definitely knew who the Rangers were…and I definitely knew that the Islanders sucked…but it was all simply because I heard it all from other people. No one in my family has probably even mentioned the word “hockey” or “goalie” in their lives (until recently because I force-feed them now) but I was ok with it, because I didn’t know or understand what I was missing.

I was aware of the rivalry. The infamous battle of NY versus Long Island. I witnessed it amongst fellow students growing up, amongst family friends and on tv…but I wasn’t a part of it, and frankly didn’t care.

Twenty-four years of not caring ended on January 5th, 2008…and it was then that I realized, all at once, what I had been missing for all of those twenty-four years. But the saddest (or greatest) part of it all, is that I realized it 3,000 miles too late.

This is where the guilt rears its ugly head.

I soon became so engrossed and taken with the Sharks that I started to doubt that my life could ever be without hockey again! How did I carry on for twenty-four years without it?! The bug bit me, and I liked it. I liked it very much.

Then something happened during the playoffs last season…I watched a Rangers game.

And I liked it.

I soon started following the Rangers and researching the team and even (to many Long Islanders’ disapproval) rooting for them.
Even everyone’s favorite chirping machine, Sean Avery started growing on me…(I know, I know)

They say there’s nothing stronger than New York pride, and you better believe I finally started to understand what that meant.
I then started looking at the Islanders…which is where the real feelings of guilt come in.

Here is this team who, quite frankly to the majority of hockey fans, sucks…but I started looking deeper into their talent, and not only did I really begin to respect this team, but it hit me, this is my hometown team. Is this who I should have been rooting for all these years? And when I watch an Isles game on tv it really tugs at my heart strings to see the Coliseum so empty…should I be sitting there, cheering for these guys? In a way, I felt like a traitor.

But then I thought about it…and I still think about it…most people just find it funny that I got into hockey in California of all places, but obviously something bigger has brought me to the Bay Area. (no, I don’t mean an A320) I couldn’t tell you what that is…because I still don’t know. Would I have ever even given hockey a second thought if I had never left NY? Maybe not. I do know, I probably would never have had the chance to experience all that I have and meet the people I have met and done the things that I have done if I had stayed on Long Island, content with my hockey-less life.

So, was I born to be a Sharks fan? It sure feels that way. When I look onto the ice as my guys skate out for the first time each night, in some silly way it feels like family…and when I look around at all the 17,500 familiar faces in the immense crowd surrounding the ice, I feel like I am home.


The Worcester Chonicles (aka Homer"itis")

As someone who loves to write about this game as well as my team, I will be the first one to admit that it’s something that’s a lot easier to do when you have things to complain about. When our teams are doing well (more specifically topping the league in points, ahem) and keeping smiles on our happy faces, we’re conveniently silent, whereas when our boys go about stinking up the place, the rants never seem to end…

This is one case where I’m making an exception.

Cue full blown homerism.

I know I’m not the only Sharks fan to feel this way but, we’re pretty lucky here in San Jose. No, its not the weather, or the Cali beaches, or the meticulously manicured city that makes me say that. Its more than that…it’s something we all know and you can feel the pride in the air any time you venture near the Tank.
What is it that makes us lucky, you ask? Well, allow me to enlighten you.

Home sweet home…the Shark Tank is completely amazing. Ask anyone who’s ever been here and they’ll tell you…from the beautiful concourse, to the seating, and even the Blue Jackets (no I don’t mean Columbus) game time never fails to disappoint. The food could be a little better, but hey, who can complain when you’re watching a live hockey game?

My Comrades…my partners in crime…the fellow fans…and I don’t just mean the other 17,495 people who sit next to me when the puck drops…_I mean our whole community_. I am sure everyone who’s been to HP or knows a Shark fan could attest to the fact that we are quite the little group. We take as much pride in each other as we do in our team, and are as quick to defend one another as we are our boys…and that’s just how it is. Don’t mess.

The boys…Team Teal themselves. What can I say that hasn’t been said by every one of their fans, friends, supporters, announcers, staff members, journalists and even each other? It comes down to the fact that every last one of these men represent the core values of the sport…
Character, heart, resiliency, creativity, work ethic, commitment, hunger.

Its part of their make up. Its what fuels the pride and dedication of their fans…all of these things are what make us lucky to be called “Sharks fans”.

Recently however, I experienced something that many Sharks fans have not had the opportunity to experience. Something that is definitely an extension of everything said above…and it’s something that I feel needs some significant recognition…so I’m gonna give it…

I took a trip back East this past Halloween to take in the “spirit o’ the witch trials” in Salem, Massechussetts…in planning this trip I thought it might be fun to go to Worcester to catch a game, you know – when in Rome. Now, in case some of you don’t know, Worcester is the home of the Sharks AHL Affiliate, the Worcester Sharks.

Needless to say I had no idea what to expect…this would be the first hockey game outside of San Jose that I’ve ever attended…and I was going it alone. That’s right, all by my onesie…but regardless…_I was beyond excited._

I got my ticket. One solitary ticket…_sigh._ But hey, atleast I got to sit center ice, first row behind the Sharks bench right?

When game day came, I went and rented my car…(it was a cute little black Altima that flew up 90 like nobody’s business…) and was on my way…a little nervous to say the least, and I had a one hour trip to get the full on butterflies…

I was told by someone “in the know” that everybody’s friendly in Worcester. I guess I just didn’t think much of it.

Once I stepped inside the DCU Center, it seemed as though everyone I encountered did all they could to make sure I was happy, and when they found out I came out from San Jose they were beside themselves. Everyone was so accomodating and so incredible it made me feel like I was part of the community. There was an instance where they were afraid they were making a bad impression on me but in fact nothing could be further from the truth…

When it was time for the puck to drop I was ready (but unprepared) for just how much these players would blow me away. Now, some of you may be familiar with a couple of their names if you’ve been following the Sharks for the past two weeks…but regardless of what you know, I’m going to assume you don’t…and I want you to introduce you to a few guys who you may very well see more of in the upcoming months.

Meet the Worcester Sharks…the lesser known guys who possess the same core values as anyone else in the Sharks organization. Given the veteran roster our NHL team has, you may not see a lot of these boys but please don’t sell their incredible talent short…

Tom Cavanaugh

This Center made his NHL debut on April 4th against the Kings at the end of last season and on his first shift on the ice, recorded his first point as an assist on Joe Thornton’s goal…needless to say, he found a home in fans’ hearts pretty quickly.

At the game I attended on 11/1 against the Manchester Monarchs, Cavanaugh tallied an assist on the first goal of the night and got the second goal for Worcester.

Its no doubt that his 55 points (19 G, 36 A) from last season is the reason he sees so much ice time…and now with NHL experience under his belt, he’s even more of a force on Worcester’s roster. When you watch him play you definitely get that he’s the “big man on campus”.

Lukas Kaspar

Made his NHL debut in the Sharks home opener against the Anaheim Ducks…went on to notch his first NHL goal against the Kings – which would wind up being the only goal of the night as well as the game winner. Lukas put up the third goal of the game against Manchester and got his first goal of the Worcester season…

Anyone who’s seen him play can attest to the fact that Kaspar’s got a lot of natural talent…and the crowd certainly went wild after he scored and he’s one of those guys who doesn’t try to hide their excitement. It is a pleasure to watch him succeed.

Jamie McGinn

Made his NHL debut at home in San Jose against Pittsburgh but went on to notch his first NHL goal against the Red Wings on October 30th. He came up huge again on Election Day versus the Minnesota Wild when he tallied the second goal of the night.

In my eyes, Jamie is a perfect fit in San Jose. His style of play is so professional, he looks like he’s been in the NHL for much longer than three games, and no I’m not just saying that because he’s scored two goals so far…there’s just something there. He also gels so well with the team and matches the intensity of his fellow linemates that I can’t help but jump to my feet any time he skates onto the ice for a shift. He’s got that hunger – McGinn wants the McWin.

Derek Joslin

This gritty defenseman hasn’t seen any NHL action yet this season but I know that will soon come to an end. I didn’t get the chance to catch him during training camp but from what I saw throughout our preseason, Joslin will only add depth to our blue line if that’s where McLellan chooses to keep him. Much like McGinn, Joslin has a natural knack for gelling with the team…

At the November 1st game versus Manchester, he didn’t register any points but he did catch a tripping penalty which his teammates easily killed. When you watch him on the ice, especially at Worcester, you get a real sense of his strong leadership skills. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time and is a constant support to his linemates.

Thomas Greiss

What can I say about Greiss? Is it his Zoolander-esque looks that do it? Or maybe just his German charm? No…while those things are quite true (and irrelevant) what really stands out when you watch Greiss in goal is how much he has learned from Nabby. During warm ups at Saturday’s game, it felt as if I was back here in San Jose while watching Greiss executing drills. While he still has a little ways to go, the lil’ Nabby protege left me amazed with some of the saves he made that night.

Until we acquired Brian Boucher last season, Greiss was the main back-up boy. Until that fateful road trip game against the Isles last February when Nabby was injured by a slapshot to the mask, (I believe it was Mike Comrie…this Long Islander is not amused, MIKE.) Greiss really hadn’t had the opportunity to show his stuff…and even though they wound up losing the contest it was experience for Greiss…experience from which as far as I can tell, he has grown immensely.

I can’t even begin to express how much recognition this team deserves…but alas, being “sold short” is the name of the AHL game it seems…and proving yourself game in and game out is as much of a necessity as lacing up your skates.

However I would strongly recommend that if you live or ever visit the Boston area, take the trip to Worcester. You won’t be disappointed. In fact I can guarantee that you’ll have an absolute blast…I know I did…and heck, I was all alone.

There are more Sharks that you have yet to be introduced to, in fact I had a much longer list initially…but I figure you can probably only handle one tasty helping of AHL homerism at a time…so I’ll curb it for now and leave you, my reader, with this…something that happened tonight. Something that solidified what being a hockey fan and a lover of the game is really all about…

Tonight I attended the Sharks game versus St. Louis, but what was different about this game was that I decided to invite my best friend Kevin to come along. He is a diehard football fan who has never given hockey a second thought let alone been to a game…he knows what a significant role hockey plays in my life and has expressed interest in having me try to “win him over” by taking him to a game…a way to plead my case if you will. I expected it to be fun, I knew he would have a great time…but I didn’t expect him to love every minute of it like he did. He was completely blown away…and watching his amazement reminded me of January 5th…11 months ago now…when that slack-jawed newbie was me. Not having a clue as to what was going on but being completely taken by the game. It was then that I realized that I didn’t have to plead my case…this sport speaks for itself…and it speaks volumes in a single shift.

When I asked him if he had a good time, and his response was a speechless ear to ear grin, I knew I had my answer.