Twenty years ago was the day that started the biggest single season turnaround in NHL History. Here's a quick overview of what and how it happened!
January 12, 1994
If anyone had asked a Sharks fan on that day if the Sharks were going to make the playoffs, let alone beat Detroit in a seven game series and take Toronto to a seven game series they would have:
- Literally spilt their stomach from laughing so hard
- Fallen off the rocking horse multiple times
- Bet the farm, and the neighbors farm, that it wouldn't happen
- Said if that happens there should be a parade in downtown San Jose
Correct answer is D.
Here is why anyone and everyone outside of the players and coaching staff thought D would never have been the answer.
- Sharks record on October 25, 1993, nine games into the 84 game regular season was 0-8-1.
- Sharks record on January 12, 1994, 43 games into the season was 12-21-10.
- In the previous 14 games prior to January 12, the Sharks went 1-8-5
- Including a 10-3 loss to Detroit at home on January 6
- And In the next game, on January 11, it was a 2-2 tie at home to Los Angeles in a game where the Kings outshot the Sharks 39 to 10. After the game, Head Coach Kevin Constantine, who seldom lit into the team after a game, went absolutely crazy, yelled and screamed and basically called the way we played an embarrassment.
So it's game day on January 12, 1994 as the Sharks play the Mighty Ducks in Anaheim. It’s year three of the San Jose Sharks and year one in downtown San Jose where the team played in an arena known as The Shark Tank.
Despite the odds against them, on the evening of January 12, 1994, the San Jose Sharks beat the Mighty Ducks at the “The Pond” by a score of 5-2.
This was the first win in a 9-3-1 run over the next 13 games as the teething Sharks started to get some bite to their game.
The last three games of the 13 were, in a scheduling quirk, all against the very good Chicago Blackhawks. Back then the NHL played 84 regular season games with every team playing 2 neutral site games. One of the neutral site games was in Sacramento against Chicago.
February 8, 1994 - @ Sacramento, Sharks W 4-3
February 11, 1994 – @ San Jose, Sharks W 4-3
February 13, 1994 - @ San Jose, Sharks W 1-0
The 1-0 win was a classic in many ways but especially because of how it ended. With less two minutes left in a scoreless game, Sharks defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh was doing his typical roaming in the offensive zone which drove the coaches crazy when Kevin Constantine yelled from the bench; “No Sandis, No Sandis, Great play Sandis” as he found a loose puck in the mid-slot and fired it past a sliding Ed Belfour to secure the Sharks 3rd consecutive win against a very good Blackhawks team.
Drew Remenda can tell the story better than anyone because he was an assistant coach and watched the video over and over again with the coaches … in disbelief!
Randy Hahn and Dan Rusanowsky have their versions and memories of that three game set against Chicago and the entire season as a whole, as does Wayne Thomas who was also an assistant at the time.
So on January 12, 1994 the Sharks were 12-21-10 after 43 games. The team would finish the final 41 games going 21-14-6 to finish in 8th place in the Western Conference with a record of 33-35-16.
So the Sharks went from:
0-8-1 on Oct 25, 2013, to
12-21-10 on Jan 12, 2014, to
33-35-16 on Apr 14, 1994
It was a unique experience, a unique team where there were no ego’s, everyone played for each other, respected each other and did what it took to win. The coaching staff was as prepared as any staff in the league as they put in more hours than anyone could imagine. It was, ‘a magical season’.
From 0-8-1 to making the playoffs, no way we could be Detroit, right?
So January 12, 1994 stands as the day that really started the biggest single season turnaround in NHL history. No one knew it was possible, well, except the players and coaches because you can’t accomplish that type of turnaround if you don’t believe! It takes “character and chemistry”, two characteristics that ’94 had an abundance of.
From there …
History Never Says Never!