Next generation of hockey fans out in large numbers at San Jose Sharks-Minnesota Wild game

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Sunday, January 23, 2011 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment


Young Sharks fan at San Jose vs Minnesota Wild game
YOUNG FAUXHAWKED SHARKS FAN POINTS AT SJ SHARKIE ON ICE AFTER WIN

Young fans lifted over glass trying to lure Devin Setoguchi signed hockey stick
YOUNG FANS TRYING TO GAIN ATTENTION OF #16 DEVIN SETOGUCHI

San Jose Sharks three stars of game signed hockey stick giveaway
EACH SJ 3-STAR OF GAME GIVES YOUNG FAN A SIGNED HOCKEY STICK

Young fans cheer San Jose Sharks on to the ice to start game NHL
#60 JASON DEMERS GREETS GROUP OF YOUNG FANS AS HE TAKES ICE


Near the end of the first period of Saturday night’s Sharks-Wild game a fluttering puck deflected over the glass. An alert fan caught the puck with a one-handed grab before it traveled a few more feet into my head. In the second period Joe Pavelski attempted a dump into the offensive zone. The puck ticked off the inside edge of the photo hole and dropped near the blueline. Two periods, two near misses. Waiting for the other shoe to drop in the third, nothing happened until the waning seconds of the Sharks 4-3 win. Several small Shark fans appeared over each shoulder with their faces glued to the glass.

The Sharks have a tradition of giving away signed sticks to young fans after each home contest. Each San Jose player named as one of the 3 stars of the game sign a stick, then skate out on the ice and hand it over the glass to a young fan. It is a small part of the organic movement to develop the next generation of hockey fans in Northern California, and one that should be a model for non-traditional NHL franchises. From the large San Jose Jr Sharks program to develop a growing amateur hockey community, to the management of several local hockey rinks, to the support of street hockey and roller hockey, to the development of literacy programs and fantasy camps, there are a number of avenues off the ice for young fans to find their way to the game.

The end result, along with success on the ice, is that San Jose may have transitioned into a bonafide hockey market. “I am excited about the ice centers and how many are playing hockey in this non-traditional hockey market,” Greg Jamison said as he stepped down as Sharks CEO last year. “I think (San Jose) has become a pretty strong traditional market.” On-ice success and a co-mingling of fans of other Bay Area professional sports teams have buoyed Northern California’s NHL franchise, and Comcast’s growing televised hockey coverage and related sports programming have stabilized a horrific media climate. Ratings have endured a slow but steady climb, and interest appears to be transitioning from seasonal to year-round. The 4-rink Sharks Ice in San Jose, the largest ice hockey/skating facility on the West Coast, and the 3-rink Rolling Ice facility, the largest roller hockey facility on the West Coast, are creating rink rats that would not look out of place in the Northeast or in Canada.

The players themselves have been an integral part of that development. They routinely volunteer and donate to a long list of charity programs, mostly off of the media radar. Saturday night it was Jamie McGinn and Devin Setoguchi who were the San Jose players named as 3-stars of the game. Jamie McGinn registered an assist and 6 hits, 2 of the freight train variety. Devin Setoguchi scored 2 goals, and tried to set up his linemates late instead of going for the hat trick. A group of young fans gestured wildly at Devin as he skated over looking to give away the autographed stick. One young girl beemed with excitement as she lifted the stick over the glass, holding it high over her head as she walked back to the parking lot with her parents.

The next generation of Sharks fans at the tank went home happy.

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