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[Ed. Note: Some lists chronicle the best in hockey. Others the worst. Others the most memorable or greatest or essential. What Puck Daddy’s 2016 Summer Series seeks to do is capture those indefinable, quirky, oddities that occur every season. Moments that defy prediction or, in some cases, logical explanation. Welcome to WEIRD NHL.]
By: Mike Chen
1. SJ Sharkie’s Mid-Air Peril
The late 1990s were a weird time. People enjoyed listening to nu-metal, wearing overalls was fashionable, and rappelling from the rafters was a popular thing at live events. SJ Sharkie, team mascot extraordinaire, decided that he wanted to outdo fellow Californian Wild Wing’s “I’ll set myself on fire” disaster back in 1995, committed to his usual pre-game entrance of dropping down from the rafters a la WCW’s Sting. But this time, something wasn’t quite right, and it had nothing to do with the fact that Norm Maracle was starting for the visiting Detroit Red Wings.
Sharkie started his routine, girded his loins, and began his descent.
Except he didn’t quite get to the bottom. Let’s let long-time Sharks broadcaster Randy Hahn take it from here:
Eventually, Sharkie did make it all the way down to the ice. The game itself was delayed by 12 minutes once the players got on the ice. “He was in good spirits, waving to the crowd,” Sharks forward Steve Guolla said. “I don’t think I would have been in good spirits.” (Yes, Steve Guolla was an actual NHL forward back then.)
Historically, the Sharks and the Red Wings have had many epic battles since San Jose joined the NHL, but only one of them wound up with a mascot hanging precariously over the ice — and only one that made it on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
2. Kevin Bieksa and the Stanchion of Doom
Sometimes, it’s easy to think that the hockey gods just hate the San Jose Sharks. If not the franchise, then at least stalwarts Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. How else can you explain the weird bounces, hot-for-one-series goaltending opponents, or just plain bad breaks the duo has seen during their playoff careers in teal?
(Tangent: The more rational Sharks fan may point out that really, their teams with stacked skaters got subpar playoff goaltending with save percentages below the magic .920 standard.)
As Puck Daddy Overlord Greg Wyshynski likes to say, take your eye off the puck. For a split second in a critical double-overtime against the Vancouver Canucks, everyone took their eye off the puck. Everyone, that is, except for Kevin Bieksa. Yes, Kevin Bieksa has done more to the Sharks than just fight Patrick Marleau.
You can see here at the 1:01 mark of the video, no one is looking at the puck. Players have straightened up from their usual skating gait. Joe Pavelski is waving his arms to indicate “out of play” to the refs. And Antti Niemi is actually looking in the other direction. Yet the puck bounced along the stanchion and the glass, then somehow made its way to Kevin Bieksa’s feet. One scoop shot later and the series was done.
Of course, you could say that the series was decided much earlier when Niemi coughed up seven goals in Game 2, or when he let up four on 13 shots in Game 4. But no series is over until it’s over, and this one is a good lesson for young hockey players: play until you hear a whistle because that puck may be bouncing along the stanchion.
3. San Jose Earthquakes AKA Seismic Events During Playoff Games, Not Soccer Teams
In 1989, the Bay Area was in the middle of World Series fever with the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A’s facing off against each other for the so-called Battle of the Bay. This series is best known for the 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake that rocked Candlestick Park and put the World Series on pause.
More than a decade later, an earthquake hit another Bay Area post-season game. Except this time, play continued. On May 14, 2002, a 5.2 earthquake hit, rolling through the arena over about ten seconds in the middle of the third period. No one seemed to notice on the ice. “I didn’t feel anything. This building is pretty loud, so it’s shaking anyway,” said Milan Hejduk at the time.
Above the ice, though, was a different story.
I was at that playoff game, sitting in the upper deck of the then-Compaq Center with my buddy. We all felt things rock and roll for a little bit, and living in the Bay Area, you know what an earthquake feels like. Still, we weren’t totally sure given the arena atmosphere, and the fact that it was a pre-smartphone era, so we couldn’t just check social media. However, there was one clear piece of evidence that yes, we did have an earthquake: the light fixtures and the American and Canadian flags hanging above the ice were swaying back and forth.
“I looked around, I said something wrong is going on here. Everything was shaking,” said Michel Goulet, was Colorado’s vice president of player personnel at the time. “You start thinking, ‘Should I run or what?’”
The Sharks probably wish Goulet and the rest of the Avs ran. Tied in the third period, the game went to overtime and an eventual game winner from Peter Forsberg, propelling the series to a deciding seventh game. That game led to another weird moment in Sharks history, with Teemu Selanne missing an open net that could shifted the fortunes of the series. Instead, San Jose lost the final game 1-0.
4. A Rained-Out Hockey Game
Though Donald Trump wants you to think otherwise, California is in an extreme drought for the past few years, something that has plagued the state off and on for several decades. Rain in Northern California is about as scarce as Columbus Blue Jackets playoff appearances, which makes March 10, 1995 extra bizarre.
On that night, a game between the Sharks and Red Wings was rained out because one block away on Santa Clara Street, the Guadalupe River was overflowing.
The game was rescheduled before the Stanley Cup playoffs in early 1995, with the Sharks losing 5-3.
The March storm generated some of the biggest one-day rainfall recorded in Bay Area history. As a result, the city invested some $120 million over the next several years to restructure the surrounding area as a means of future flood prevention. That means in order to prevent another rained out game, San Jose bought 13 ⅓ Martin Jones contracts (3 years @ $3 million) or 1.1 Shea Weber contracts ($110 million total).
In baseball, rain delays happen regularly; there were 24 during the 2015 MLB season. At the US Open and Wimbledon, rain delays are part of the Grand Slam tennis experience. But only one team in NHL history has ever hosted a rain delay, and I suppose if San Jose never lifts the Stanley Cup, at least the team will have that.
5. Dan Boyle’s Own-Goal Disaster
Dan Boyle is the best two-way defenseman in Sharks history (I’m still counting Brent Burns as a one-way defenseman). His competitive spirit and candid interviews made him beloved among the fan base. He is also unfortunately known for perhaps the biggest playoff gaffes in franchise history and maybe one of the biggest own goals in NHL history next to Steve Smith.
The scene: April 18, 2010. Tied 0-0 in overtime in Game 3 at the Pepsi Center, a routine clearing play became this:
Own goals tend to be deflections, ill-timed kicks, or weird bounces. Dan Boyle’s own-goal, though, was something to behold: essentially a shot on goal on his own net. You can’t really fault Evgeni Nabokov for failing to react; he was probably as stunned as everyone else at his team’s All-Star defenseman throwing the puck at him.
Though perhaps it was a bit of the hockey gods creating a karmic balance. After all, the Sharks were also the recipient of this bizarre Marc Bergevin own-goal. See, he throws pucks into his own net just as well as he throws PK Subban under the bus.
Jo Paw-velski, the lucky black cat of the 2016 playoffs
Mark Messier, San Jose Shark for several hours
Previous Weird NHL Posts: Anaheim | Arizona | Boston | Buffalo | Calgary | Carolina | Chicago | Colorado | Columbus | Dallas | Detroit | Edmonton | Florida | Los Angeles | Minnesota | Montreal | Nashville | New Jersey | New York Islanders | New York Rangers | Ottawa | Philadelphia | Pittsburgh
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About the author: Mike Chen used to cover the NHL for Fox Sports and SB Nation but now writes science fiction books and geekery for The Mary Sue. He’s been a Sharks fan since the early 90s and has a Jeff Friesen lithograph to prove it. Follow him on Twitter: @mikechenwriter