Thursday is a game day for the San Jose Sharks, but for most of the players, there can be other sports involved as well during the day. No one is leaving their day job, but wandering the lower regions of HP Pavilion prior to a Sharks game, fans would see a football, soccer ball, tennis ball and possibly a racquetball being used. Don’t worry, it’s all in the name of preparing for that night’s action.
The sport depends on the individual. The vast majority take part in the game of two-touch with the soccer ball, where in essence, you’re out if you let or cause the ball hit the ground. This is a very common pregame warmup for most National Hockey League teams.
On the Sharks, the participating players with the soccer ball varies, but can include Torrey Mitchell
, Joe Pavelski
, Brad Staubitz, Joe Thornton
, Ryane Clowe
, Devin Setoguchi, Jed Ortmeyer, Jamie McGinn and Kent Huskins. Then there are the two ringers.
“(Thomas) Greiss and Wally (Niclas Wallin) are up there,” said Setoguchi of the soccer pecking order.
Both have a built in advantage as they played a lot growing up.
“That’s what I played,” said Wallin. “I started played soccer when was six. I started playing hockey at 13. That’s still my sport. I would put a coat on and go play outside in winter.”
Wallin drew a few comparisons between the pregame soccer “matches” in Carolina and San Jose.
“I would say this group is bigger,” Wallin said. “Here, we play before the meetings and after. There, we would do the meetings and then play.”
The Sharks soccer players are mostly Canadians and can brag about the hockey gold medal, but in one area, Greiss says this team has nothing on his Olympic team.
“You should see the soccer our (German) Olympic team was playing,” Greiss said. “It was sick.”
TOSSING THE (AMERICAN) FOOTBALL
While some Sharks play with the ball known as a football by Europeans, Dany Heatley started a new tradition by playing a game of catch with the “American” football. In the beginning, Heatley’s routine involved Media Relations staffers Tom Holy and Ryan Stenn, but he has slowly brought in his teammates. Heatley has his passing partners rated, with Stenn coming out slightly ahead on the curve.
“We gave Holy a shot, he’s more of a road quarterback (Holy usually travels with the team) or a No. 2 starter,” Heatley said.
Setoguchi has become a participant, but he’s clearly more on the receiving end.
“Seto is a straight receiver,” Heatley said.
Setoguchi didn’t play much football growing up and doesn’t deny his quarterback rating.
“I might be the worst passing quarterback,” Setoguchi said. “I can’t throw the ball 10 feet to Heater without it hitting the ground.”
The duo has teamed up for a game with Jay Leach serving as the defender.
“Lately Jay has been playing and we’re getting into the end zone,” Heatley said.
“We’re three-for-three,” said Setoguchi of recent “touchdown” plays.
Leach won’t give up, though.
“Right now, my skills are depleted,” Leach said with a smile. “I was hot early with two picks. Now they’re using the poles (for screens) and they’re in my head. I’ll have to look at more video.”
Being from Nebraska, it would seem a natural for Ortmeyer to join the football game, but he said “it doesn’t loosen me up.”
And then there’s Scott Nichol, who can usually be found with his stick and a tennis ball, banging it back and forth against the wall.
“I just picked it up from Pavelski, who was doing it with a racquetball,” Nichol said. “Why not warm up the brain and the hand-eye coordination? I do it for 10 minutes and it sharpens me up and takes away the stress. It’s just like after school when you’re a kid.”
Maybe there will be a side benefit to all the extra practice.
“Hopefully down the road in overtime, there will be a puck bouncing and I’ll be able to pick it out of the air,” Nichol said.
Speaking of Nichol, the ex-Predator will return to the lineup tonight after being injured last Thursday against Motnreal. Nichol, who missed just one game, gave props to certain individuals.
“Wicked trainers,” said Nichol of Head Athletic Trainer Ray Tufts and Assistant Athletic Trainer Wes Howard. “They’re the unsung heroes. The fans cheer us because we have the numbers on our back, but they do a great job. I’m not 100 percent, but I’m good to go. Every day gets better and better.”
Besides missing the games, Nichol said there’s another reason he’s glad to be back.
“No one wants to be hurt,” Nichol said. “You’re the first one here and you’re here last.”
Thanks to being able to skate with the team for part of his absence, Nichol should be close to game shape.
“I was able to keep my conditioning,” said Nichol.
Nichol noted he may temper his “hit everything in sight” style, but he still won’t pass up an opportunity to land a big shot.
“Now maybe I can contain a little more and read the play better,” Nichol said. “Steer them where I want to steer them.”
WHAT’S PAST IS JUST THAT
Nichol has played three games against Nashville this season. So one thing is clear.
“I’m a Shark and not a Predator any more,” he said.
ST. PATRICK’S JERSEYS
The Sharks Foundation will be auctioning off signed St. Patrick’s Day-themed practice jerseys at the Sharks Foundation table near Section 124.
Check out sjsharks.com to get tickets this year. Click here
The Sharks will play hosts to Nashville at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com. CSN California, 98.5 KFOX and www.sjsharks.com will carry the game.