The San Jose Sharks will have a third of the starters for the Western Conference in the 2007 NHL All-Star game in Dallas on January 24. Both Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo were selected by the fans in online balloting.
It is another level of respect for Sharks hockey that the two were recognized by fans across North America and Europe.
“For Cheech and I to be voted on by the fans, you tip your hat to them,” said Thornton. “You are either being selected by the fans or the coaches, so it’s a good honor.”
Thornton, whose three previous All-Star appearances were all with Boston, is making his first appearance as a Shark. The NHL’s reigning MVP was selected a starter in 2004. Jumbo Joe doubts he will ever tire of being an all-star, but he already has a favorite appearance.
“Probably the first,” said Thornton. “It is special and you are super excited.”
Cheechoo, who played in the NHL’s 2004 Young Stars Game, will be making his All-Star debut at the NHL level, although he did play in the 2001 AHL All-Star event.
“I knew I was in the running and Ron (Wilson) told me I was in,” said Cheechoo. “It is a pretty neat feeling. You respect that the fans voted you into the All-Star Game. I’m just going to enjoy it and go have some fun.”
Cheechoo knows he may have to come up with a few hard to come by tickets.
“About seven (family members) were down for Christmas and 10 went to the NHL Awards Ceremony and that wasn’t even to watch hockey,” said Cheechoo.
The All-Star Game may not have the physical presence of a regulation game, but it is fun for the players.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Thornton. “My family goes down and it’s like a big game of shinny with the skills competition.”
Thornton enjoys the time with his teammates without the pressure of intense division battles in front of them.
“I appreciate being with my teammate,” said Thornton. “This year it will be Cheech and probably Patty.”
Thornton is referring to the Sharks captain who finished fourth among Western Confernce forward voting. Marleau would not mind the trip to Dallas as he is enjoying what could easily be come his best goal scoring year. Marleau was an All-Star in 2004 in Minnesota and appreciates the votes from fans that put him among the leaders.
“It just shows how good our fans are and that we have Sharks fans all over - and there’s a lot of family,” laughed Marleau. “I definitely would want to go and be part of it. I think both Joe and Cheech deserve it.”
Cheechoo and Thornton now join a list of Sharks All-Stars that includes: Marleau, Teemu Selanne, Owen Nolan, Vincent Damphousse, Marcus Ragnarsson, Evgeni Nabokov, Marco Sturm, Tony Granato, Sandis Ozolinsh, Arturs Irbe, Kelly Kisio and current Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson. Pat Falloon was selected to play in 1993, but was unable to attend due to injury.
READY FOR WEDNESDAY The Sharks could be a full strength for Wednesday’s contest with Edmonton. Josh Gorges missed Monday’s practice after being rammed head first into the boards against Columbus. He suffered a cut to his head, but is ready to play.
“I feel fine,” said Gorges. “I passed all the tests and there were no signs of a concussion.”
Gorges didn’t feel there were any bad intentions on the play.
“I watched it yesterday and don’t think he (Sergei Fedorov) meant to hit me like that,” said Gorges. “It’s hockey and stuff happens.”
What Gorges does recall of the hit was feeling a bit wobbly while trying to get up.
“I remember hearing the goalie yelling to stay on the ice,” said Gorges. “I don’t like to stay on the ice, but it probably would have been better to stay down.”
Christian Ehrhoff missed Tuesday’s practice, but should be ready to go, along with a few other players, such as Milan Michalek, who didn’t play on Saturday.
“We’ll have to decide on Milan tomorrow,” said Wilson of his Czech winger. “Christian had a virus so we told him to stay away. He should be fine tomorrow. Mark Bell is going to play and that means we’ll probably play six defensemen.”
Scott Parker, who suffered a lower body injury in his last contest on Dec. 31 in Dallas, may be out a bit longer.
“It will be a couple of weeks, probably not until after the All-Star break,” said Wilson.
AHL ALL-STAR Worcester forward Mathieu Darche has been named to the Canadian AHL All-Star team to be played on Monday, January 29 at the RICOH Coliseum in Toronto, Ontario. Darche will be making the first All-Star appearance of his career.
The Montreal native is tied for fourth place in the AHL goal scoring race with 24 tallies 43 points. Of Darche’s 24 goals, 13 of them come on the power play which ranks him third in the league in that category.
“I am pleased for Mathieu to receive this honor,” said Wayne Thomas. “He has showed significant production on the ice and has exemplified leadership both on and off the ice and is deserving of this honor.”
The 6’1”, 210-pound winger was signed as a free agent by the San Jose Sharks on July 10, 2006 and assigned to Worcester (AHL) during training camp.