On November 9, the Sharks honored former and current United States service members during its annual Military Appreciation Night.
Fans received a military-themed rally towel when they entered SAP Center, which was used during a celebratory moment where veterans and service members had the opportunity to be acknowledged by the entire arena of attendees.
Then during warm-ups, the Sharks full roster wore military jerseys and used camouflage stick tape to show their support. The national anthem was performed by Major Sonya Moore, while fans held a giant U.S. flag in the stands. In addition, representatives from the California National Guard presented the colors at ice level.
Prior to the start of the game, World War II veteran, Petty Officer Second Class Frank Ganz was escorted to center ice by defenseman Brent Burns and dropped the ceremonial puck.
When Gaz was 15 he dropped out of high school and altered his birth certificate to be of age to enlist. Frank served four years with the U.S. Navy on the USS Keokuk Minelayer built in 1914, and at the Panama Canal. He survived his first air raid at the age of 16.
After leaving the service, he met and fell in love with his shipmate's sister. They were married for 45 years until her passing and raised four children.
Even with a wonderful family and successful career, Frank always felt there was something missing in his life due to never graduating high school, so at the age of 83 he obtained his high school diploma through the Metropolitan Adult Education Program.
Frank, now 94 years old, is part of the remaining 2% population of living United States WWII veterans and lives just 10 minutes from the Tank.
The Sharks also took two separate moments to honor other special guests in attendance. First was Lieutenant Colonel Tom Pruett, a pilot with the 144th Fighter Wing of the California Air National Guard.
With 31 years of service to our country, that includes 16 deployments, he has been awarded 14 Air Medals during his career and has flown over 300 combat missions.
Senior Master Sergeant Sean Kirsch was also recognized. Sean is a para-rescueman with the 131st Rescue Squadron, California Air National Guard, and is stationed at Moffett Field. His 24 years of service includes eight overseas deployments and multiple hurricane, wildfire, and ocean parachute rescue missions. He has been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters, Aerial Achievement Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, and Distinguished Merit Decorations from the Ministers of Defense of both the Ukraine and Colombia.
Non-profit Vet Tix had a strong presence at the game hosting 400+ military members and their families. As the Sharks "Non-profit of the Night" they were also the beneficiary of the Sharks Group Sales department's specialty jersey auction featuring military threads the Sharks wore during warm-ups.
The auction raised $25,000, in addition to military Mystery Hats which were sold on the Concourse and raised another $14,000 for the non-profit. At the end of the game, guests of Vet Tix were able to participate in a post-game photo on the ice.
The Sharks Foundation executed a military inspired in-game auction with 100% of the net proceeds benefiting United Heroes League.Through the generous support of auction bidders, the Foundation was able to donate $9,400 to the non-profit whose mission is to keep kids active and healthy while their parents serve our country by providing free sports equipment, grants, and skill development camps to military families across the U.S. and Canada.
The Foundation's 50/50 Raffle presented by Black Oak Casino Resort beneficiary was Mission Volant, a non-profit that provides enablement solutions to combat wounded veterans through "Adventure Therapy," such as skydiving. The total jackpot for the evening was $21,290, resulting in a $10,645 donation to Mission Volant.
In addition to providing funding to the selected non-profits, the Foundation also extended a suite for veterans from the Gilroy Memorial Veterans Hall and hosted other military guests who were treated to a post-game meet-and-greet with the team and a tour of the Sharks locker room.
The Sharks were not the only team to acknowledge our service members, the San Jose Barracuda hosted its own Military Appreciation Night the following evening when they faced the San Diego Gulls. Both the Sharks and Barracuda organizations were proud to honor all those who have served or are currently serving our country on special evenings of recognition and gratitude.