Red, white, blue and teal – The forgotten game at the Shark Tank

usa-sharks-picture-2As “Get Ready For This” by 2 Unlimited blared over the speakers and the roar of 17,190 fans filled San Jose Arena, the San Jose Sharks made their entrance through the Shark Head for a game that wasn’t on the official National Hockey League (NHL) schedule. In fact, the Sharks weren’t even playing a fellow NHL team. On this night (Jan. 8, 1994), the Sharks’ opponent for this radio only broadcast was the 1994 U.S. Olympic hockey team.

The Sharks, who came into the game with a 12-21-9 record (four points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference), were the sixth and final NHL squad to play Team USA, who had etched out a 33-14-5 record during their pre-Olympic exhibition schedule.

usa-sharks-picture-7Interestingly, this wasn’t the first time the Sharks and Team USA had faced off against each other. During the Sharks’ inaugural season (1991-92), the squads played twice with Team USA taking both games, a 5-4 overtime win on Sept. 21, 1991 in Cleveland and a 6-2 win on Nov. 17, 1991 at the Cow Palace.

With the starters lined up on their respective blue lines for the singing of the National Anthem by Dennis Leach, Sharks fans in attendance noticed team teal had a different look.  A day prior, Sharks head coach Kevin Constantine decided to rest his veteran players, which included Gaetan Duchense, Todd Elik, Bob Errey, Johan Garpenlov, Rob Gaudreau (late scratch), Arturs Irbe, Mike Lalor, Sergei Makarov and Rob Zettler.

In their place were youngsters Alexander Cherbayev, Wade Flaherty, Vlastimil KroupaAndrei Nazarov, Michal Sykora and Dody Wood, all of whom were called up from the Kansas City Blades of the International Hockey League (IHL) specifically for the Team USA game.

It didn’t take long for coach Constantine’s decision to pay off as Cherbayev put the Sharks ahead 1-0 just 67-seconds into the game when he fired a shot from the left faceoff circle past Team USA goaltender Mike Dunham. Sharks forwards Jaroslav Otevrel and Ray Whitney registered the assists.

With play in the Sharks zone minutes after Cherbayev’s goal, Team USA forward Peter Ferraro carried the puck behind the net and sent a behind-the-net pass out in front to defenseman Peter Laviolette, who beat Sharks goaltender Jimmy Waite from point blank range for the tying goal at 5:41 just as the holding the stick minor penalty to Nazarov expired. Team USA forward Todd Marchant picked up the secondary assist.

usa-sharks-picture-4The Sharks regained the lead 72-seconds later when during 4-on-4 play, Sharks defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh got the puck over to Whitney, who from in front of the left faceoff circle faked out Dunham with a deke and slid the puck into the net for his second point of the night.

Sharks forward Dale Craigwell extended the lead to 3-1 at 16:26 when off a Sharks steal at center ice, Craigwell corralled an up ice pass from Cherbayev and beat Dunham on a breakaway. Sharks defenseman Shawn Cronin had the secondary assist.

In the second period, Marchant cut the Sharks lead in half at 4:22 when he beat Waite for his second point of the game. Team USA forward Chris Ferraro, the twin brother of Peter, and defenseman Ian Moran were credited with the assists.

As was the case in the first period when Laviolette scored, the Sharks quickly answered back after Marchant’s goal, this time in 73-seconds, to regain their two goal lead as forward Pat Falloon capitalized on Team USA’s inability to clear the puck away from in front of Dunham. The assists on Falloon’s goal went to Ozolinsh and Nazarov.

Near the midway point of the period (9:44 to be exact), coach Constantine switched goalies as Waite, who made 17 saves on 19 shots, was relieved for Flaherty.

usa-sharks-picture-5With the Sharks on their first (and only) power play of game late in the period, Ozolinsh stretched the lead to 5-2 when he ripped the puck past Dunham at 17:26 for his third point of the game. Sharks forwards Otevrel and Jeff Odgers picked up the assists.

Just as it appeared the Sharks were going to take a three goal lead into the second intermission, Kroupa was assessed a holding penalty at 18:39, and Team USA forward Mark Beaufait, who tried out for the Olympic team instead of returning to the Blades after being cut in Sharks training camp, tipped linemate David Roberts‘ shot past Flaherty for the power play goal at 19:19. Team USA defenseman Barry Richter had the secondary assist.

After a scoreless first half of the third period, Team USA forward Brain Rolston fired a snap shot past Flaherty at 11:37 to cut the Sharks lead to one goal. Team USA forward Chris Ferraro and defenseman Matt Martin registered the assists.

Despite out-shooting the Sharks 13-4 in the third period and 38-18 for the game, Team USA couldn’t get the tying goal past Flaherty, who finished with 17 saves on 19 shots.

usa-sharks-picture-12“There were three things that we wanted to do: rest our veterans, play some guys that have been fairly inactive for our team, and look at some of the younger guys,” said Constantine in a post game interview with the media.

“I thought we played a pretty good hockey game,” Team USA head coach Tim Taylor said post game to the media. “I think we limited the quality chances that the Sharks had. They got some nice goals in the first period, but we basically misplayed the initial rush. Other than that, I thought we played pretty well.”

Even though the Sharks’ win didn’t count in the NHL standings, Sharks fans in attendance that night and the Sharks organization became a part of U.S. Hockey history as the ’94 Olympic team was the last squad to feature a group of players with little or no professional experience.



I would like to thank Mark Purdy of the Mercury News for emailing me the paper’s game recap and box score archive; Sharks radio play-by-play broadcaster Dan Rusanowsky for messaging me the game lines; and Sharks Media Relations Coordinator Jason Plank for sending me the pictures seen in this article as well as the official game sheet and archived articles.

Others who deserve a mention are Michael Malone and David Pollak of the Mercury News, Jasmine Grotto of USA Hockey, UC Berkley Assistant Professor Richard Koci Hernandez and Harry Thompson of USA Hockey Magazine.

To the Sharks fans who took the time to help me with this article by proof reading it, thank you. Your suggestions, edits and reactions to the article are what made me keep going every time a possible lead hit a dead end . This article is for all of you.


At the movies with the Worcester Sharks

Over the last several seasons, one of the most anticipated Worcester Sharks promotional event has been their movie poster giveaways, which occur during the winter and spring.

Living in California, I’ve been fortunate to have some great Worcester fans pick up an extra poster on the giveaway nights and send the poster out to me for my collection. Seeing these posters framed is the definition of true sports art (at least to a Sharks fan like myself ).

Below are the eight movie posters that have been released to date and are in reverse chronological order.

Back to the Future (Spring 2014)





















Dirty Harri (Winter 2013)





















Young Guns (Spring 2013)





















The Usual Suspects (Winter 2012)





















The Lords of the Rink (Spring 2012)





















Iron Men (Fall 2011)





















Band of Brothers (Spring 2011)





















Slap Shot (Winter 2010)

















How to get a sharktastic deal on San Jose Generation 1 Oyo Minifigures

OyoCoutureAs I was scrolling through my Instagram timeline one March afternoon, I stopped on an image that made me say out loud, “What in the world is that? Is that a Lego?”

Through online research, I learned the image in question wasn’t a Lego, but rather an Oyo minifigure of San Jose Sharks forward Logan Couture.

What is an Oyo minifigure you might be wondering? Launched in 2011, Oyo’s are officially licensed building-block minifigures that feature the likeness of NHL, MLB and NFL players with rotating limbs and come with accessories specific to the respective sport.

On Jan. 15, Oyo debuted their Generation 1 NHL minifigures line by releasing team sets of the league’s Original Six teams. Over the course of the next month, more team sets were released, which culminated on Feb. 19 as the Sharks team set was released.

Featured in the Sharks set were Couture, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle and Brent Burns. Upon seeing these minfigures, I immediately wanted to buy all of them but they were $13 each ($65 total for the five), which I thought was a bit high.

While attending a Sharks home game at SAP Center in early April, I saw the Burns and Couture minifigures (along with a new Joe Pavelski minifigure) inside the Sharks Store but passed on them as they were priced for $15 each.

Over the last few weeks, Oyo added S.J. Sharkie, Jason Demers and Tommy Wingels to the Sharks set, bringing the team total to nine. At $13 each on the Oyo website, that’s $117 for the set, which doesn’t include shipping or tax. If you were to buy the set at the Sharks Store, the total before tax would be $135.

Last night (May 3), I discovered a way to get the entire Sharks set for a shade over $100 on the Oyo website. After you add all nine figures to your cart ($124.22), use coupon code “THECUP” to take 10-percent off your total ($111.79). Please be aware that this coupon code only works on teams that qualified for the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

With shipping free since the order is over $30, I selected PayPal as my payment method and noticed the tax of $6.58  was wiped out to give me a new total of $105.21 ($11.69 per figure). Having had my eyes on the Sharks minifigures for a while now, I immediately placed my order as the deal was too good to pass up and most likely the lowest I was going to find.

You might have noticed that neither Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi or Alex Stalock were in the set and that’s because Oyo didn’t make any goalie figures. However, a tweet on April 22 by Oyo (@OyoSportsToys) stated the company hopes to have goalie figures and Game Time sets (aka team specific rink sets) available in the fall.

I think I already know what I want for my birthday (Nov. 9) and Christmas.


21st anniversary of attending my first San Jose Sharks game

tix“We are going to the Sharks game!”

Those were the first words out of my dad’s mouth in Jan. 1993 when he entered the house moments after his shift with the Sheriff’s Department ended for the night.

A couple weeks prior, my dad had asked me if I wanted to see the Sharks play at the Cow Palace if he could get tickets in the Sheriff’s Department raffle.

Being an excited eight year old at the time, I of course said, “Yes, I want to go see the Sharks.”

Even though I was excited, I didn’t know much about the game of hockey. I had seen a few games on television but nothing substantial. I knew who Wayne Gretzky was but that was because of the Pro Stars NBC Saturday morning cartoon and the Wayne Gretzky Hockey NES video game I had gotten for my eighth birthday in Nov. 1992, which was also the day I saw the original Mighty Ducks movie in theaters.

As soon as my dad said we were going to the game, he showed me the two tickets and said I had to keep my grades up. Not only did I keep my grades up, I started watching hockey more frequently on ESPN so I could better understand the game. However, I didn’t get to see a Sharks game on television as ESPN didn’t televise their games (nor mention them on SportsCenter) and the cable provider in my hometown didn’t offer the then SportsChannel network or the KICU channel.

Despite not being able to see a Sharks game on television, I was still excited about getting to see the Sharks play live. In fact, I started telling everyone at school (even if they weren’t listening to me) that I was going to see the Sharks. To this day, I think I was the only person in the entire school excited about going to a hockey game as everyone else was into baseball, basketball and football.

After what seemed like an eternity of waiting, the day finally arrived. That morning, my third grade class took a field trip to the fairgrounds for an agricultural/science workshop and all I could think about was getting to see the Sharks that night. School got out early as it was a minimum day and as soon as my parents picked me up, we started the long drive from South Monterey County all the way up to Daily City.

My grandparents on my mom’s side lived in San Mateo at time and we stopped there to rest for a bit before my dad and I made the 18-minute drive to the Cow Palace  (my mom and brother, who was two-and-a-half years old at the time, stayed with my grandparents).

During the short drive over to the Cow Palace, my dad kept asking me, “Are you sure you want to go?” I didn’t even hesitate when I said, “TOTALLY!” As my dad pulled up closer to the Cow Palace, I read the scrolling text on the electronic sign out front that said, “Tonight, 7:30, Jets vs. SHARKS.” Upon seeing that electronic message, I felt a rush of excitement come over me I had never felt before even though I had been to the Cow Palace a few times prior for then World Wrestling Federation (WWF) live events and Disney on Ice.

As my dad and I walked into the Cow Palace, I found myself surrounded in a sea of teal as the smell of hot dogs and popcorn found their way to my nose. I noticed everything in the corridor looked the same as it did for the WWF events I had attended with the only thing different being the merchandise stands were selling Sharks gear instead of WWF shirts and posters. Immediately, I eyed the Sharks white jersey and my dad said, “We will come back later to the booth. Let’s go to our seats.”

I took one step into the seating area on one of the goalie ends and my jaw dropped. I was in awe of the hockey rink, the players and the giant Sharks flag hanging in the rafters. After several minutes of taking everything in, I gave my dad a giant hug and said, “THANK YOU SO MUCH!”

As for the game, the Sharks played hard but lost 9-5. I remember the fans in the section we were sitting in loved Sharks forward Kelly Kisio, who finished with four points on two goals and two assists, and cheered wildly everytime his name was mentioned by the PA announcer. Also with a four point game that night was Sharks forward Johan Garpenlöv, who registered a hat-trick and yes, I tried to convince my dad to throw his hat onto the ice, to which he laughingly said, “I don’t think so.”

Despite the loss, I walked a little taller and a little prouder the next day at school as I was wearing my brand new (and first ever) Sharks jersey, the same one I had eyed at the merchandise stands.