What do you do if the hockey bug has bit you so hard, 41 home games isn't enough?
Meet Paul and Shereen. Known by their hashtag #TealCoupleTravels on social media, they are a die-hard Sharks fan duo who recently completed their bucket list of visiting all 30 road cities in the NHL, cheering on the Sharks all the way.
"After a few years of being season ticket holders and not missing a single game, we always felt 41 games just weren't enough to cheer on the team," said Paul in an interview with sjsharks.com. "We decided to take a quick road trip to watch the Sharks take on both our SoCal rivals late in the 2012-2013 season and, despite going 0-2 on the trip, it sparked an idea. The following season the Sharks happened to be playing in Montreal and Ottawa on Shereen's birthday weekend, so we jumped on the opportunity to travel to Canada in October for hockey. We swept that trip and instantly started plotting our future endeavor.
"The rest is history."
Over the next five years, Paul and Shereen slowly ticked off each of the NHL's road cities, starting in Los Angeles in 2013 and finally finishing their very impressive bucket list on February 2, 2018 in Columbus. Their overall record - "the second most frequently asked question," according to Paul - was just over .500 at 15-13-2, but they enjoyed the experience no matter the outcome.
Photos from each of their stops, in chronological order.
Neither of the two were born Sharks fans, but that doesn't make a difference. Paul's first exposure to hockey was through his Czech parents, who mostly watched international tournaments when he was growing up. His first Sharks game was in 1997 against the Kings, a game that featured an Owen Nolan two-punch knock-out that he still vividly remembers two decades later. Shereen was introduced to the Sharks by Paul; her first Sharks game was in 2009 and featured a hat trick by Dany Heatley.
When asked about their favorite arenas to visit - besides SAP Center, of course - the pair listed five arenas for various reasons: the brand new T-Mobile Arena, the historic and atmospheric Joe Louis Arena (visited in its final season), the hockey hub of Air Canada Centre, Amalie Arena complete with Tesla coil, and Nationwide Arena and it's beautiful surrounding area.
However, the city Paul and Shereen most enjoyed was Pittsburgh, and for a pretty good reason.
"We took a red-eye out to a must-win Stanley Cup Final Game 5," Paul recounted. "It was one of the most represented cities we've been to with yellow and black everywhere. The fans chirping left and right as we ventured through the city, decked in teal. It will always be one of my most prized hockey memories. Nothing beats watching your team skate in another team's barn and win a Stanley Cup Final game."
Outside of historic playoff games, one of the more notable incidents happened at the very end of their endeavor in Columbus.
In their final game on the bucket list, they even managed to snag a stick - well, part of one. They were sitting next to the visitor's tunnel at Nationwide Arena, and saw one of the equipment managers head down the tunnel with a broken stick. Shereen asked if she was able to have it, and after taping up the end, he obliged. It was a great souvenir to wrap up a great feat.
Is there any advice to those looking to take on their own bucket list trip?
"Research. Research. Research," said Paul. "We would look at every possible airline. We would go on the subreddit for the team we were traveling to, to get an idea of what bars, restaurants, and hotels to stay at. Just go into it with an open mind.
"Initially some of the home fans would resent you being there with stares and cold shoulders, but many would warm up once they knew we were traveling from San Jose to cheer on our team. As the travels went on, we began being recognized by fellow Sharks fans, even some rival fans, so it was a lot of fun!"
Though their bucket list is now complete, that doesn't mean the duo will stop traveling anytime soon. "Watching this team play is entangled in our lives, and for the same reason it all began, 41 games a season is just not enough," Paul says. "Plus we have to see the new arenas in Edmonton and Detroit."
But the best part? "Ultimately our love for the Sharks and the game showed us parts of our country and Canada that we would have otherwise never seen. Thank you Sharks!"