Randy Hahn reflects on iconic Sharks tenure ahead of 2,000th game broadcast
Hahn reflects on Sharks tenure ahead of 2,000th broadcast originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
Editor's Note: Sheng Peng will be a regular contributor to NBC Sports California’s Sharks coverage. You can read more of his coverage on San Jose Hockey Now, listen to him on the San Jose Hockey Now Podcast, and follow him on Twitter at @Sheng_Peng.
It was right place, right time for Randy Hahn.
In 1988, the Edmonton native and his then-wife, meteorologist Roberta Gonzales, were living in San Diego. But Gonzales had just been hired by a San Jose television station, and Hahn saw a column in the San Jose Mercury News that would change his life.
“We paid to have the Mercury News mailed to us, in those days you could buy a subscription by mail, there was no internet then," Hahn recalled to San Jose Hockey Now. "It'd be like three or four days old, but we wanted to start to get a feel for the community by reading the paper, and also, looking at ads for places to rent because we were going to move there and whatnot.
“There was a very famous writer for the Mercury News. It was a local notes column. It was like Herb Caen in San Francisco at the Chronicle. This guy's name was Leigh Weimers, and he would write about local things, local stories, local personalities, things that were going on around town. It was probably the most widely read thing in the Mercury News, outside of the sports page or the financial page.
“And in Leigh Weimers' column was a story about a group of hockey enthusiasts who were going to meet at the House of Pizza in San Jose, which still exists to this day, and they were going to talk about trying to bring an NHL team to San Jose.”
Hahn went to the House of Pizza meeting, which he recalled as “a bunch of hockey fans wearing sweaters of Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens and whoever your favorite team was in these days, we're talking 1988.” The fans were talking about wearing their jerseys and rallying in front of City Hall to let mayor Tom McEnery know that they wanted an NHL team in San Jose.
The long-time San Jose Sharks play-by-play man never got to wear a Los Angeles Kings jersey in front of City Hall -- that was the first NHL team that Hahn worked for, as the team’s pregame, intermission, and postgame in-studio host on Prime Ticket -- but he could see that his newly-adopted city was ready for pro hockey.
Hahn got together with Bay Area attorneys Jim Hager and Greg Siehl and accountant Roberto Maragoni to form NHL Hockey San Jose, their quest, to help bring the NHL to the South Bay.
“But then we got a letter from the NHL to tell us that that was their trademark name, and we couldn't use it. But that's exactly why we did it because we wanted to get noticed. We graciously agreed to change it and that kind of was the beginning of what became the Sharks,” Hahn said, of what became Pro Hockey San Jose. “The big disclaimer here is that neither myself or the two attorneys ever had any of the financial wherewithal to be owners in this thing. We were trying to create the environment for ownership to come in, and then that's exactly what we did. That's what happened because we were contacted by various groups that wanted to own the team, and we directed them to the NHL and to the city, and eventually it happened. We had a couple of thousand members of our organization after a year and a half or so, and that became the initial season ticket list for the Sharks.”
The rest is history, and the San Jose Sharks dropped the puck for their first regular-season game on Oct. 4, 1991.
It took Hahn a couple years to establish himself as the Sharks TV play-by-play voice -- he was part-time, behind Bay Area legend Joe Starkey, for two seasons -- but in 1993, he was elevated to full-time, and he has only missed two games since, in 1993 and 1995, for the births of his sons Randall and Michael.
Two thousand games later -- Tuesday against the Arizona Coyotes marks the milestone accomplishment -- and Hahn couldn’t help but reflect on those couple twists of fate that led him to a lifetime with the Sharks.
“None of it would have happened,” Hahn acknowledged, without his ex-wife’s move and reading the Leigh Weimers column. “I might have applied for the job when it was advertised, the play-by-play job for the Sharks in that first year. But I would have been an outsider applying for it, like probably hundreds of other people did. I had no American Hockey League experience. Until I did my first Sharks game, I had never done a pro hockey game.”
Not surprisingly, Hahn is a fountain of great stories. Here are some of my favorites from his 45-minute conversation with San Jose Hockey Now:
It’s well-known that Hahn’s first play-by-play job, as a 16-year-old in Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory, was the Sourdough Rendezvous, a local sled dog race.
Less known? Hahn’s first big interview was Colonel Sanders. Yes, that Colonel Sanders, of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame.
“He was on a promotional tour at that time," Hahn remembered. "I think he had already sold the recipe to the corporation, but they kept him on as a promotional person. He would go around and try and visit as many of the franchises as he could under his contract. He came to our small town in the Yukon Territory, there was only one location. It just so happened that I was a student in high school, and I was invited to be a kind of a guest student interviewer on this radio station, our small town station.”
Hahn says his most nerve-wracking interview was with then “king of the world” Michael Jordan during the 1994-95 NHL lockout.
“I took a job in Chicago just to get me through the lockout,” Hahn said. “One day, Michael Jordan was opening up his new restaurant. So they sent me out there, and he had a bunch of people that wanted to interview him, and I was in line and I got my 15 minutes with him.
“It was a little intimidating. But then as it turned out, I ended up working on some charity events with him and got to know him a little bit better.”
The first San Jose Sharks game Hahn called was Oct. 26, 1991, a 9-0 loss at New Jersey.
Hahn recalled then-Devils and future Sharks forward Claude Lemieux and goaltender Chris Terreri were the first and second stars of the game. But his favorite memory?
“The legendary Link Gaetz had two fights," Hahn said. "A double game misconduct, which I don't even know what that means. He also had a major penalty, a five-minute major for slashing so he had a total of  minutes in penalties.”
Hahn’s 1000th game was also a San Jose Sharks’ loss, though the result was a lot closer, a 2-1 defeat to the Calgary Flames at home on Dec. 5, 2009.
“I remember Darryl Sutter was general manager for the Flames, and he came over to my booth during the broadcast, because he had been our coach [from 1997 to 2002],” Hahn recounted, laughing. “He had hands full of popcorn, and he stuffed them in my suit jacket while I was broadcasting on the air. That was his way of saying, congratulations.”
Hahn’s favorite game to call goes back to his work bringing the NHL to San Jose.
“No. 1 would be Game Seven against Detroit in 1994," Hahn said. "Jamie Baker game-winning goal. That was one of the biggest upsets up to that point in Stanley Cup playoff history, because I mean, the year before, the Sharks were 11-71-2, that's when they still had ties. And they improved by 54 points, I think it was, over one season, and made the playoffs as the eighth-seed. But I think the fact that we started Pro Hockey San Jose, and that I was so involved with that for so long to try and make it happen, then three years later, to see myself sitting in a broadcast booth in Detroit, and calling the shocking upset by this team that was sort of just a figment of our imagination not that long before? It's one of the only times I've had tears in my eyes doing a broadcast, and that's always going to be No. 1. For me, that's the greatest game in Sharks history.”
Hahn also cited Barclay Goodrow's goal in Game 7 against the Vegas Golden Knights, the playoff game against the Colorado Avalanche after the Columbine High School school shooting, Dan Boyle scoring the game-opening goal the next game after losing a playoff game with an own goal in 2010, and the Sam Tageson game as other emotional contests that he was a part of.
Two thousand games, you’d think you wouldn’t change a lot to get to this point, but Hahn admitted one significant adjustment because of fan feedback.
“There was a time when I was willing to use the word shutout when a Sharks goalie had a shutout going, and the fans hate that so much," Hahn said. "Let's be realistic, can what I say on TV ever really affect what's going to happen on the ice? Of course not. But when I say it, and then our guy gets scored upon, it's my fault. So I've now decided, I don't say shutout. The only time I say shutout is if we got it, it's over, and we got the shutout. Or if the other goalie on the other team is trying to get a shutout, and then I'm now trying to jinx him.
“So I've gone 180 and I've completely turned into who I thought used to be the crazy fans thinking I could affect it. I'm now that guy.”
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Hahn says he will keep calling games as long as he’s still having fun and the fans want him around. And he’s still having a ball.
Three thousand games, anybody? That’s just 13 years away.
“Hopefully, my body holds up," the 64-year-old Hahn said. "So far, so good, I don't have any major problems so far. At the end of the day, it's also going to be about what the fans want. I do work for the Sharks, but really, if you really want to be honest about it, I work for the fans of the Sharks and if they continue to like what I do, then hopefully, the Sharks allow me to do it.
“When that changes, then it'll be time to say, ‘He shoots, he scores’ for the last time, and that'll be fine.”