The San Jose Sharks were on uncharted territory Sunday morning when they held their on-ice practice session at Sharks Ice at Fremont.
The Sharks hope that today’s practice will help to expand their hockey base and allow a few fans who typically can’t make it out to a Sharks practice or game to enjoy a little hockey.
“That’s part of our responsibility as an organization to grow the game out here in the Bay Area,” Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan said. “Today was a special day. There was a little electricity in the air that we normally don’t have at our practices and I think the players enjoyed it.
“When they came on the ice, people that were here were appreciative of the fact that we came, and as a result the players enjoyed the practice a little more than they might have otherwise. It was nice to see the fans come out.”
Fans decked out in Sharks gear packed the rink, aligning the boards from end to end,
anxiously waited to catch a glimpse of their favorite Sharks.
“The Sharks players were so relaxed and lackadaisical,” Sharks fan Meghan Skarzynski of
Santa Clara said. “It’s great they’re interacting with fans. Christian Ehrhoff was so sweet; he was dropping pucks over the glass to the kids.”
Young and old Sharks fans alike ooh and ahh as Team Teal began their optional practice.
“It’s great to see a lot fans outside of San Jose,” right wing Devin Setoguchi said. “A lot of people came and supported us. It was a great day, but it’s too bad not everyone on the team could be here. The guys had a lot of fun today; hopefully the fans weren’t too disappointed.”
If the fans were disappointed they certainly didn’t show it. Like in a real game, Sharks fans cheered and banged on the glass as players skated by.
“It felt a little like ‘Free Willy’ out there with fans banging on the glass,” defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic
said. “We enjoyed it and I hope the fans enjoyed it even though it was only half the team.”
Sharks players dressed out in full gear at Sharks Ice at San Jose before taking a bus up the bay to Fremont for the special off-site practice.
“It’s a little different getting dress and busing up here,” Setoguchi said. “Now I have to sit in my stinky equipment on the bus ride back home, but it reminds me of the good old days when my parents use to take me to practice.”
But not all the Sharks players share in this youth experience.
“I never had to do that. I had to get dressed in the car on the way to practice. That was a lot harder,” Vlasic said with a laugh.
Sharks fans appreciated Team Teal making the trek out to Fremont for their practice.
“We’ve never been to a Sharks practice before,” Sharks fan Kelli Approbato of San Ramon said. “This is our first one because it’s closer. This is great; we all get to hang out at the rink and take in a Sharks practice.”
To cap off the morning skate, McLellan had the players show off their shootout skills.
“We do shootouts drills every now and then,” the first-year head coach said. “We wanted to have some fun at the end. The skaters had fun; I’m not so sure the goaltender did, but Boucher was a good sport with it.”
Fans cheered loudly, as if in an actual game, when Sharks skaters scored and booed
teasingly at backup netminder Brian Boucher when he denied a shootout goal. But fans at Fremont, made it up to Boucher and were equally as exuberant when he made a spectacular sprawling save on his back.
Following practice, fans had the opportunity to skate with S.J. Sharkie and do a meet and greet with left winger Tomas Plihal and defenseman Derek Joslin during an autograph session.
The day also included a street hockey area and the famous Sharks Ice Cream Truck providing
free frozen desserts.
Sharks fans Andy and Kim Phillips and their young kids took in all the festivities at the open
“We read about it in the paper and decided to come out,” Andy Phillips said. “We’re SharkPaks holder and sit in the upper bowl so we can’t see the players up close like right now.”
Sharks Ice at Fremont has a thriving hockey and skating program. The Phillips plan on enrolling their young son in the hockey program at the Fremont facility.
“He loves hockey and the Sharks,” Kim Phillips said of her son. “He likes to pretend he’s Joe Thornton
and uses his plastic golf clubs to whack at balls in the kitchen pretending it’s the ice.”
Remodeled in the summer of 2004, Sharks Ice at Fremont, a 40,000 square-foot facility offers an NHL-sized ice rink, as well as a stocked pro shop, a full-service food court, a video arcade and meeting space for up to 200 guests.
Additionally, Stanley's Sports Bar, an entertainment and dining area overlooking the rink, opened in the winter of 2006.
Sharks Ice at Fremont is a favorite recreation and entertainment destination among Bay Area residents of all ages. It’s a perfect place to participate in a variety of winter sports at any time of year, including daily public skating, ice hockey, broomball, curling, speed skating, ice dancing and more.
“It was great to see a lot of people out here today,” Setoguchi said. “Hopefully they’ll continue to
watch and support us through the rest of the year.”
The Sharks will next host Vancouver on Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. PST at HP Pavilion at San
Jose. The game will be available on CSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com. Tickets can be found at www.ticketmaster.com or at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office.