Sharks fans assembled by the hundreds for the first of two public autograph sessions of the year on Jan. 25 at Logitech Ice at San Jose.
Nine players from the Sharks roster - Jonathan Cheechoo, Niko Dimitrakos, Nils Ekman, Jim Fahey, Marcel Goc, Alyn McCauley, Mark Smith, Vesa Toskala and Joe Thornton
—were on hand to greet fans and sign autographs.
While the sold-out autograph session didn’t begin until 7 p.m., some die-hard Sharks fans were already lined up by 3:30 p.m., hoping to be the first ones to get autographs. By the time the players started signing, the line had already went through the lobby of Logitech Ice and out the frontdoor. But, according to most of the fans in attendance, it wasn’t as bad as it looked.
“When I saw the line of people, I thought it would take a long time before we got to the players,” Sharks fan Cathy West — who won her ticket thanks to the Mystery Puck fundraiser — said. “But it only took about 25 minutes.”
To help fans pass the time, S.J. Sharkie mingled with the crowd, signing autographs and shooting streamers in the air, delighting fans young and old in a way that only Sharkie could.
Each fan in attendance was allowed two autographs per player and many fans took advantage by bringing boxes and bags full of items. Most fans brought the usual memorabilia — jerseys, pucks and trading cards—but one young fan had something else in mind.
“I got to see my favorite player (Joe Thornton
) and he signed my cell phone,” the young Sharks fan said.
The fans came away with more than just a few autographs. They also took home an experience they’ll remember for years to come.
“It was the first autograph session I’ve ever been to and it was great,” West said. ”The players were really nice and a lot of fun. I got to tease Cheechoo about his smile and asked ‘Smitty’ about his hair. It was really special to be able to go.”
“Meeting the players and talking to them was great,” fan Stephen Sparks said. “We arrived before the doors opened and even though we stood in line for over an hour, it only felt like 10 minutes. It was the most enjoyable Sharks experience I’ve had.”
Almost as important as the fans having a good time, the public autograph session raised $18,000 for The Sharks Foundation. These funds will be donated to the local beneficiaries which will be selected during the 2005-06 season.