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Stanley Cup Playoff postcard: San Jose's Tim Campbell appreciates city's playoff passion, remembers early days of Sharks

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / Staff Writer

SAN JOSE -- Getting back to the "Shark Tank" for Game 3 of the Western Conference First Round series between the San Jose Sharks and Edmonton Oilers on Sunday reminded me why I liked this matchup so much.

I've long had an affinity for San Jose and SAP Center, and it's turned out to be a good instinct.

This is a hockey town. It's a place that loves its Sharks, a place where they wear that passion for hockey on their sleeves. And on their jerseys. And in their face paint. And in their teal hair dye.

And with San Jose in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the 19th time, it's comforting to know that Sharks faithful long ago graduated from the ranks of novice hockey fans. They know what matters inside the game, including the small stuff that is so important, the little plays that aren't always appreciated in other places.

It just feels like the playoffs around here. Other first-round series are on the televisions in the bars and restaurants, including favorites like Henry's World Famous Hi-Life and Original Joe's downtown, a slap shot from SAP Center.

And don't forget Santana Row, the promenade of shops and restaurants on the west side of the city. I'll never have to have my arm twisted when that's the choice for an evening out here.

This personal thing for San Jose goes back to the beginning, so maybe being one of many to witness the birth of NHL hockey in the south Bay Area strengthens the positive vibe.

Even before the creation of its highly recognizable logo depicting a shark chomping a hockey stick, the franchise was committed to its colors of teal and black. It was the beginning of a unique identity, something that still strikes a chord and something the Sharks have built steadily over the years.

The Sharks' first public relations director, Tim Bryant, toured me around the city in late 1990, during a visit to write about the NHL's newest expansion team. It included a drive down West Santa Clara Street, where the city's new arena was merely a hole in the ground.

It was before the tech boom, when San Jose's airport was a whole lot smaller than it is today.

SAP Center feels like a hockey rink, and not because it was such an upgrade over the Sharks' home for their first two NHL seasons (1991-93), the smelly Cow Palace north of here in Daly City.

It is a rink with an authentic hockey atmosphere, still among the best with the arena's 24th birthday approaching in September.

Cue the "Jaws" music and send me here anytime.

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