After 24 years, the wait finally is over. Sharks general manager Doug Wilson will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. The deserved recognition is long overdue, though Wilson himself didn't see it coming.
"Very humbling and very unexpected," Wilson told Sharks play-by-play broadcaster Randy Hahn. "Just to be in consideration with these types of people and this type of award or selection or whatever ... we're still processing it.
"The very first thing that flashed through my mind was all the people ... [from] my entire life and journey, you think about all those people during this time. And getting calls and texts from them right now, it makes us realize how fortunate we are to do something we love for as long as we have with as many amazing people as there are in our game."
Wilson's induction is solely for his playing career. Long before he assumed his current position with San Jose, he established himself as one of the top defensemen in the NHL throughout a decorated career, the majority of which was spent with the Chicago Blackhawks. After the Blackhawks selected him with the No. 6 overall pick in the 1977 NHL Amateur Draft, Wilson would go on to spend his first 14 seasons with the franchise, being named to seven All-Star games and winning the Norris Trophy in 1981-82.
Following the conclusion of the 1990-91 season, Wilson's tenure with the Blackhawks came to an end. Though he had multiple offers on the table, he ultimately opted to take a leap into the great unknown -- joining a burgeoning expansion franchise located in the heart of Silicon Valley. The Sharks traded for him prior to their inaugural 1991-92 season and he was named the first captain and All-Star in franchise history. He spent the final two seasons of his playing career in San Jose, totaling 48 points (12 goals, 36 assists) across 86 games.
"What was amazing about that decision was the opportunity to be on the ground floor of something brand new, and to be like a pioneer and go to the beautiful Cow Palace," Wilson said with a chuckle. "But it was a really challenging, incredible opportunity. Easy for me to make that decision. I had the ability to choose between four or five other teams during that timeframe, but Mr. [George] Gund, in particular, his love for the game.
"What was really difficult was my kids were seven, five, three and one. So my wife had to go from Chicago -- where she was born, had her mother and family and support there -- to a place she had never been, and here we are going on 20-day road trips and she knew nobody. So, she's the Hall of Famer in our family, to be able to do that, support that whole journey. But it was a great choice coming out to San Jose at that time."
A great choice at the time has only been validated since. After Wilson hung up his skates following the 1992-93 season, he remained around the game, working in player development and with the Players Association. He was named GM of the Sharks prior to the start of the 2003-04 season, and his 17-year tenure (and counting) in that position has been largely successful.
Since Wilson was named GM, no NHL team has won more regular-season games (710) or accumulated more standings points (1,567) than San Jose. The Sharks have qualified for the playoffs 15 times with Wilson at the helm, and their 30 Stanley Cup Playoff rounds over that span are tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins for the most in the league.
Of course, there's one glaring void on Wilson's long list of accomplishments: a Stanley Cup. Despite the Sharks' vast postseason experience, they've yet to end up on top. With his Hall-of-Fame playing career now well behind him, that failure serves as daily motivation.
"It drives you every day," Wilson explained. "You want to compete, you want to put the best team on the ice every year. We have four Stanley Cups in our family. Unfortunately, my brother has them all. But it's that journey for that. When you see a player like Joe Thornton ... that's what drives you. The want and willingness to compete. And that's why it's so important to have owners like we've had and like we have in Mr. [Hasso] Plattner, who's committed to that.
"When you miss the playoffs, it hurts and it runs deep. Everybody in our organization understands where we want to get back to, but that is the driving force in this business. You've got to be prepared from day one of training camp and as the year progresses, grow as a team and get better. But there's no doubt that's what drives all of us in this game."
Wilson rightfully will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame for his standout playing career. If he and the Sharks ever are able to get that gigantic monkey off their backs, he might have a chance as an executive, too.
Doug Wilson fondly remembers 'great choice' to join expansion Sharks originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area