COMMENTARY | When Anaheim Ducks forward Teemu Selänne announced late in August he would return for 21st and final season in the NHL, a collective sigh of relief rose from the legions of San Jose Sharks fans in northern California. Yes, that's correct. Part of the fun of going to SAP Center, aka the "Shark Tank," is jeering a few select opponents, and Selänne has a well-earned spot on that list, if not at the very top. Below is a starting lineup, if you will, of Sharks fans' most despised opponents.
Teemu Selänne, F, Anaheim Ducks
Selänne played two full seasons and part of another for the Sharks and performed well during his time in teal, contributing 64 goals and 121 total points in 176 regular season games. But, he earned his place hearing the wrath of fans after his exit from San Jose for two reasons. First, as a Shark, he never regularly displayed the fiery passion and grit that marked his play in the 2002 Olympics for his native Finland. In the Olympics, Selänne was a warrior. In San Jose, he muddled along with a collective minus-16 plus/minus. Secondly, he unforgettably missed an open net in a one-goal loss to Colorado in game 7 of a 2002 Western Conference semifinal playoff series. Add to it that Selänne plays for division rival Anaheim, and the boo birds have reason to sing.
Burrows is a biter. Dogs bite. Hockey players don't. Well, at least all but one doesn't. It doesn't help that Burrows skates for the much despised Vancouver Canucks, the team who bounced the Sharks from the 2011 playoffs.
Jordin Tootoo, F, Detroit Red Wings
Sharks fans' ire for Tootoo doesn't make them special, for Tootoo isn't liked in many opposing rinks, a result of his grit, his mouth, and his sometime chippy play. Former Shark Brad Staubitz, despite his current spot on Anaheim's roster, will never have to buy a beer for himself in San Jose pubs after his 2009 beat down of Tootoo.
Chris Pronger, D, Philadephia Flyers
Pronger likely won't play again, the result of a history of significant concussions, but deserves a spot on this special roster. As a Western Conference foe suiting up for St. Louis, Edmonton and Anaheim from 1995 to 2004, Pronger was a significant thorn in the side of Sharks players and fans, contributing the way he did his entire career - hard-nosed play, shut-down defense, and timely goals.
Steve Ott, C, Buffalo Sabres
Okay, so Ott isn't a defenseman, but his space on this squad is well earned after his nine season stint playing with the Western Conference rival Dallas Stars. Ott's style is to aggravate and get under the skin of his opponents, and he excels at it, so much so he seems to revel in it. His performance, much of it after the whistle, in the Stars elimination of the Sharks in six games in their 2008 playoff series is simply the stuff of bad boy legend.
Ed Belfour, G, Member Emeritus
Yes, "Eddie the Eagle" has been out of the NHL since the conclusion of the 2006-07 season, but his memory still chaps Sharks fans. In 1997, the Sharks dealt three players for the soon-to-be-free-agent, all in a push to make the playoffs. Appearing in 13 games, Belfour posted just 3 wins and pedestrian .884 save percentage, and the Sharks failed to even qualify for the playoffs. To make matters worse, he bolted that summer for Dallas as a free agent, leaving the Sharks, literally, empty handed. Adding insult to injury, Belfour later won a Stanley Cup with the Stars.
@RayHartjen is a longtime rink rat who's been on a decades-long quest to get the stink of hockey gloves off his hands.
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