Sharks Celebrate their 25th

Celebration in downtown San Jose brings in history, emotions and special guests

Arturo Hilario / El Observador

On Tuesday the San Jose Sharks hockey organization relived the history of how they came to be a quarter of a century ago in a 75 minute celebration at the SAP Center. A dinner reception and stage were set up where hockey ice is usually held, and the night operated as if it were a hockey awards show, minus the statues.

The players, dressed in tuxedos, walked along a teal carpet (as opposed to red) inside the SAP Center  before the ceremony began, joined by supporters and fans alike. All current Sharks players on the roster were present at the event, as well as a slew of former players, staff and civic leaders, who were all crucial in some way or another to the development of a Northern California hockey franchise.

San Jose was awarded an NHL franchise on May 9, 1990, and played its first two seasons at the Cow Palace while the San Jose Arena as it was called then, was being constructed. The thought of there being no central stadium or entertainment hub was reality until the Arena opened its doors. Evident at the celebration night was the sweat and tears that went into getting not only the team here, but the place to host the Sharks.

During the event the main speakers highlighted the trials and memories of bringing hockey to the bay, and the different, but shared experiences over the last 25 years. The speakers included NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, San Jose current and former mayors Sam Liccardo, Tom McEnery, Susan Hammer, Ron Gonzales and Chuck Reed, Sharks Majority Owner Hasso Plattner, Television Play-by-Play announcer Randy Hahn and Sharks Radio Play-by-Play announcer Dan Rusanowsky, former CEO of Sun Microsystems (and self-proclaimed hockey fanatic) Scott McNealy, and Mercury News Sharks beat writer Mark Purdy.

For fans newer to the sport, or younger in general, this throwback to the beginning, middle, good and bad times was insightful as it was emotional. By honoring the foundation and all those who made it happen it was interesting to think that there was a time without Sharks hockey, without the Marleau’s and Nolans. Without Sharkie even.

In the late 1980’s the thought of a hockey team in the area was unfounded, who would care?

This was all revealed through montages, videos and rare footage shown to the dinner guests and the fans in the stands, who purchased drinks, popcorn, and wore their team colors and jerseys as if it were a  hockey game night.

Many laughs were had as some jokes were met with resounding applaud and cheer, while others sort of left the crowd quiet. Cameras focused in on players, past and present, with Captain Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, and Brent Burns receiving the most acclaim from cheering fans. Those on stage expressed their love for the team, the sport, and most importantly the community of San Jose, who in 25 years have become some of the most fervent and supporting fans of not only the Sharks franchise, but of hockey in general; a far cry from the early days when the NHL struggled to get California interested in the sport.

Usually objective in his reporting, Mercury News columnist Purdy ended his entertaining and nostalgia-laden speech slot by saying something in honor of the night. “Viva Los Tiburones, viva San Jose.”