On Sept. 27, my brother and I were lucky enough to attend the San Jose Sharks‘ inaugural Fan Fest event, which was held at the Shark Tank (aka SAP Center) from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. as the Sharks had a preseason home game that night against the Anaheim Ducks.
Having attended the Sharks’ home game the night prior against the Arizona Coyotes, my brother and I stayed the night at Hotel De Anza, which is just down the street (0.4 miles) from the Shark Tank and gave us no excuse to be late to the event.
Upon entering the Tank through the South Entrance, we were handed our complimentary home schedule posters and then made our way up the stairs to watch the Sharks team practice. Having never seen a Sharks practice live before, this was a new and cool experience for me. One drill that stood out to me was the players having to skate around a milk crate with a hockey stick propped up on each side and fire a shot on goal in one motion. In addition, I enjoyed watching the odd man rush drills (offense skated in 2-on-1 and the second defender had to catch up) as well as hearing associate coach Larry Robinson conduct the face-off drill. The highlight of practice though was watching Brent Burns during the shootout drill as he always had a comment and smile after every move attempt.
Once practice concluded at 10 a.m., my brother and I headed up to the concourse and noticed a huge line had formed near the stairs that led to tables where I’ve seen fans eat during game night. As we walked closer to the line, we saw a sign that read “Autograph Session 2” but it didn’t say which players were signing.
Not wanting to wait in line that long not knowing who we were going to see, we continued walking around the concourse and found S.J. Sharkie near the North Entrance taking photos with fans whom had gathered around. It was worth the wait to get a picture with Sharkie as he made each picture unique and memorable by doing something silly that made everyone around and in the picture smile.
After getting our individual pictures with Sharkie, my brother and I continued our walk around the concourse and noticed a second long line had formed for the “Autograph Session 1” but again, no names were listed as to who would be signing. Eventually, we were back standing in front of section 201 and noticed a third long line slightly to our right that was for the Shark Head photo. Realizing this was a rare opportunity, we immediately jumped in line around 10:35 a.m. and watched the line grow longer and longer behind us.
For the first 25-30 minutes, the line hardly moved. In fact, a female usher walked by several times and said the line was going to be cut off at 1:00 pm and that it was up to us if we wanted to take the chance of staying in line without getting a picture in front of the Shark Head. With as slow as the line had moved, that possibility seemed like a true reality. However, something unexpected happened around 11 a.m. and that was the line began moving at a consistent and rapid pace. By 11:20 a.m, we were making our way down the aisle stairs towards the Shark Head and the excitement kicked in again.
I never realized how big the Shark Head truly is until I was standing right in front of it. As we walked onto the mat laid out on the ice, I looked around the inside of the Shark Head in awe as this was truly an unbelievable experience. Once through, the staff photographers took our photo in front of the Shark Head and handed us the card so we could retrieve our picture off the website.
After heading back up to the concourse, my brother and I agreed we made the right decision to get our picture in front of the Shark Head instead of waiting in line for the autograph sessions, especially after we found out pictures couldn’t be taken with players, which was what I was hoping to do.
At 11:45 a.m., we made our way outside to the Kids Zone on the side street, where we each got an individual picture on the Zamboni and I won a Sharkie Reverse-A-Pal by answering a trivia question while waiting in line to do the shootout booth.
The question asked was what is the height of new Sharks enforcer John Scott? My hand immediately shot up because I am the same height as Scott, which is 6’8″. However, the DJ conducting the trivia contest spotted another person first and called him up to his stage. Luckily for me, the gentleman gave an incorrect answer by saying Scott is 6’3″. My hand shot up again and this time the DJ spotted me, called me up and was in awe of my height. After I gave the correct answer of 6’8″, the DJ got off the stage to compare his height to mine and said, “Wow. (John) Scott is going to be huge and near seven feet tall on skates.” The DJ then proceeded to grab my jersey for a mock fight and threw mock punches that didn’t even reach my mouth, which gave the crowd a good laugh.
Once back in line for the shootout booth, my brother actually had to pull my arm down because I raised it again to answer the next trivia question of what former Sharks defenseman use to wear number 27, which of course was Bryan Marchment.
At the shootout booth, I got a few “ooooo” and “aaaahhhh” from the crowd when I scored back-to-back goals going top shelf in the left corner. I have no clue how I did that but I would like to attribute it to my 20-plus years of hockey video game playing on Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Playstation, Nintendo 64, Playstation 2 and Xbox 360.
As we left the shootout booth, we headed backed to Hotel De Anzal to checkout, which brought an end to our Sharktastic weekend as we couldn’t stay for the game later in the evening.
While Fan Fest was fun, there is always room for improvement and I have a few suggestions that hopefully the Sharks organization will implement for the 2015 Fan Fest event:
- Make Fan Fest a two day weekend (or extend the hours for the day) when no games are scheduled so fans can experience everything there is to offer and not feel rushed.
- Use all of SAP Center by having Sharks players (current and alumni) spread out at various booths so fans can line up for pictures and autographs.
- Have an available itinerary online a week or two before the event that lists who will be there and what time they will be doing signings/pictures so fans can plan out who they would like to see and at what times.
- Have a booth set up where fans can sit down with Randy Hahn or Dan Rusanowsky to do commentary on a classic Sharks clip and have the audio recorded so fans have a lifetime memory.
- Mic up the Q&A sessions to the arena speakers so everyone inside SAP Center can hear what is being said as they wait in line.