Friday, April 29, 2022

Another Fin-Tastic Season

Two hours from now, the San Jose Sharks will take the ice for their last hockey game of the 2021-2022 NHL season.  It's been another rough season as we didn't make the playoffs again.  But the team battled through injuries, COVID protocols, people actually getting COVID, and a weird condensed schedule.

If you've hung out around here, you know that Eliot and I are pretty diehard about our Sharks.  Eliot's been a fan since he was three and the team was first introduced to the NHL.  Over the past 14 years of us being together, I've grown to love them as well.  I can now tell you more current facts about hockey than I can any of the other sports. 

We really have enjoyed watching the Sharks this season- even if some other fans are starting to lose their patience.  We've been really lucky.  In 29 seasons, the Sharks have made the playoffs in 21 of them.  As a New England fan, I've been really spoiled with successful teams, but I still support the team no matter what their record is.  This season, there have been a lot of great moments and we've enjoyed the ride.

The first thing that comes to mind is Timo Meier's history making 5 goal game back in January.  That was insane... so much so that I wrote an entire blog post about it.

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A few weeks later, Timo was our representative for the All-Star Game.  While there, he reunited with Joe Pavelski on media day and my heart exploded into a million pieces.

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The following day was the NHL All Star Skills competition and they took another photo together in their team jerseys.  If that wasn't spectacular enough, they sat together during the event.  Pavelski's son Nathan was on the ice with him and Timo, Joe and Nathan were talking and having a great time.  I was so pleased to see them together and hanging out like old times sake... all the heart eye emojis!

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Speaking of reunions... while they both aren't Sharks anymore, my heart melted a little bit when Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton reunited at the Panthers vs Stars game.  It was also Jumbo's milestone 1700th NHL game!!!  Big Joe and Little Joe!!!

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This season was the first time that Joe Thornton returned to the Shark Tank.  That was really emotional for both Eliot and me.  He was a Shark since I started watching them, and he and Patrick Marleau have both done so much for the Sharks franchise.  The Sharks organization and the fans gave him a wonderful welcome home!

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It's clear that these guys are family and that they really love each other.  Brent Burns and Joe Thornton also took a photo together when the Sharks played the Panthers in Florida.  Sharks Beard Brothers finally reunited!!!

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And there was another reunion in Florida when Patrick Marleau and his family visited Florida a few weeks ago and hung out with the Thornton family.

Brent Burns also took a photo with Joe Pavelski when the Sharks visited Dallas this year!  It's my crazy 8's reunited together again!!! 

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There have been a lot of other fun moments too.  Earlier this year, the Sharks mascot SJ Sharkie celebrated his 30th birthday back on January 28th.  For the occasion, they gave away shirseys at the January 22nd home game.  Thankfully, Eliot's Dad has connections and he was able to get ahold of two extra shirseys so Eliot and I can both have one!  We love Sharkie!!!

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Fun must be always, and on March 16th, Tomas Hertl signed an eight year contract extension ensuring that we'll keep having fun with Ninja Hertl in the future!

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Speaking of fun, the Sharks provided a few games of four in the net, tacos you get!

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The biggest surprise for Elissa and I this year... cookie nachos exist and you can get them in the Sharks Club Level.  And I don't need to say anymore about that wonder.

The greatest highlight this year was being able to see hockey in person again.  Eliot and I attended the game in Pittsburg during our New Years trip with his family.  Then, we also attended two home games at the Shark Tank during our California trip.  It was so good to see our boys in teal play live again!  It's been far too long!

Unfortunately for Sharks fans, the season was starting to feel like it was ending in depressing drizzle.  We have known the Sharks were eliminated from the playoffs for about two weeks now.  While some fans have given up, Eliot and I have watched all of the games.  We cheer our boys in teal on no matter the circumstances.  Plus, I wanted to get my fill of Sharks hockey since we won't be seeing them back on the ice for five months.  We could have stopped watching too... but Sharks fans who did missed what was probably the highlight of our entire season as a fan base.

The thing that rallied Sharks fans (and the team) to enough energy to push us into next season was our final game against Las Vegas this past Sunday night.  Wow.  We might not have made the playoffs... but this was our playoff game, trying to spoil the playoffs for them.  (I could have written an entire post about this one game, but since I already had posts planned right through until now, you get to hear all about it in this post!)

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This was a big game for us.  Sharks fans hate Vegas, even though the Golden Knights have only been in the league for five seasons.  We have a lot of history in those five short seasons, and we don't like each other.  The players aren't exactly fond of each other either.  So each season, we look forward to those games with extra animosity.

This time around, Vegas was surprisingly struggling to make it into the playoffs in a wild card spot.  No one could have predicted this, but Sharks fans were relishing in the fact that we could be the team to put the playoffs out of Vegas' reach.  In fact, pretty much the entire NHL was cheering for the Sharks except Vegas.  (The Sharks really don't like Vegas, but I should be clear that no one in the NHL likes Vegas.)

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The game started well with the Sharks scoring first.  Then, Vegas tied it later in the first period.  In the 2nd period, Vegas scored again... and again a few minutes later.  The Sharks scored right before the end of the 2nd to bring it back to 3-2.  In the 3rd period, Vegas scored again and I was starting to get a little worried since it was 4-2.  But the Sharks didn't give up.  With only 2:06 left in the 3rd period, the Nick Bonino scored right after we pulled our goalie for an extra attacker.

Things were beginning to look bleak as the seconds ticked down to the end of the third period.  We kept our goalie on the bench and the guys were trying to make a play in those last few seconds.  Brent Burns saved a potential clear and rocketed the puck towards the net.  It missed, as the seconds were disappearing.  Then, practically out of no where, it was Timo Time.  Sharks forward Timo Meier scored a goal with less than a second left to tie the game and send it into overtime.  (No exaggeration.  It was quite literally less than a second... actually .9 seconds left to be exact!)  Eliot jumped out of his chair screaming at the television.  I went absolutely nuts too.  I couldn't believe it.

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Timo's reaction to the goal said it all.  He rocketed over to the Sharks bench somewhat taunting the Vegas fans along the way by putting his hands up next to his ears as if he couldn't hear them booing him.  He didn't let the Vegas fans get into his head. (He had previously been booed by them back during All-Star Weekend... this was nothing new.)

Side Note: If you haven't figured it out, Timo Meier has been my favorite Sharks player all season.  He's always had a fire in his belly even in the worst situations.  He's never stopped trying and he's never stopped fighting.  And clearly, I'm not the only one who has seen it as he was just named Sharks Player of the Year. 

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Before overtime was starting, my heart was racing and I was having a hard time trying to slow my heart rate.  I pretty much spent the entire overtime holding my breath.  We got a penalty that we had to kill.  Both teams had a bunch of chances.  But no one scored, and the game was going into a shoot out.  

Eliot and I hate when the game is decided by a shoot out.  We usually don't do well in them, but tonight, luck was on our side.  The Sharks had a secret weapon in the form of #23, 20 year old rookie Thomas Bordeleau who was only playing in his fifth NHL game.  He scored on a nifty move, and the Shark's bench went nuts.

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At this point, I was hoarse from screaming like an idiot.  You'd think that we just won the Stanley Cup with how much Eliot and I were cheering.  (This is always the point where I remember that we should probably warn our neighbors that the Sharks are playing and that we aren't being attacked by intruders.)  This game was well worth all the cheering and being hoarse the following day though.

For Sharks fans, this was our big moment this season.  This win was also reminiscent to the "Pavelski Payback" game against Vegas three years ago to the day this past Saturday.  There are a lot of similarities between the games too.  The Golden Knights got punched in the gut by #23 in teal on April 23, 2019 and April 24th, 2022... and both games ended with the Sharks winning 5-4.  Deja Vu Vegas?  (#sorrynotsorry) 

Appropriately, it was Timo Meier that first embraced 20 year old Bordeleau in a giant hug to celebrate as the entire team bombarded him at the glass.  We might not have made the playoffs, but this is the reason we watch the Sharks.  They're still fighting and supporting each other.  (For those wondering, Joe Pavelski and the Dallas Stars put the final nail in Vegas' coffin two days later with their win against them in a shoot out.)

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While our season is over after this last game against Seattle tonight, I feel like we can ride the wave of the Vegas win into the next season.  And as much as I wanted the Sharks to make the playoffs, there are some benefits.  Eliot has wanted us to finish in the lower standings because we're more likely to get a higher draft pick.  I'm looking at it from the perspective that by not making the playoffs that there is less stress watching them.  I've missed seeing our guys compete for the Stanley Cup, but the games are more enjoyable to watch when you aren't holding your breath half the time!

At this point, Eliot and I are rooting for former Sharks players.  I'm personally cheering for Joe Pavelski with the Dallas Stars and Joe Thornton with the Florida Panthers!  I'd love to see either of them raise the Stanley Cup!  Of course, I also dream of the day that the Sharks will finally raise the cup for the first time... someday.

I know fans usually say "there's always next year" when their team doesn't do well, but there is always next year.  Next year, Eliot and I hope to go to more games in person and take a road trip to see the Sharks play at a few other arenas we haven't been to yet.  And I'm sure that we'll find our way to San Jose at some point to see a few home games.  This season might be ending, but we have a lot more to look forward to!

As another season comes to a close, I choose to remain optimistic and hopeful for next year.  I'm also grateful for all the fun we had watching these guys compete this season.

Thank you for another fun ride guys!!!  Enjoy your summer and we'll see you this fall!

GSharks!!! °o°

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