While many professional athletes take to the golf course once their season comes to an end, some of the San Jose Sharks players and staff chose a different route - Bocce Ball.
The 11th Annual Madden — Mariucci “Battle of the Bay” Charity Bocce Tournament took place Wednesday at Campo de Bocce in Livermore with strong representation from the Sharks. Team ‘Shark Tales’ was made up of players Jonathan Cheechoo and Brad Lukowich, development coach Mike Ricci, head athletic trainer Ray Tuffs, radio play-by-play broadcaster Dan Rusanowsky and TV play-by-play broadcaster Randy Hahn.
The sport of bocce is a predominantly Italian sport, and that is precisely why Lukowich believed Shark Tales had an advantage.
“I got a reason why we’re going to win, Mike Ricci is on our team,” said Lukowich. “He’s Italian, it’s an Italian game, and we’re going to win.”
Ricci acknowledged that it’s assumed his heritage gives him an advantage, yet he relied on a different strategy to victory.
“I’m supposed to be the ringer but I haven’t played in a long time, just because I’m Italian I’m supposed to be good at this,” said Ricci. “We’re going to have to cheat, I’m trying to think of ways to cheat right now.”
Shark Tales was one of 32 teams — each made up of local athletes, celebrities, dignitaries and business leaders — that participated in the tournament. Its format consisted of a group stage with the winners advancing to an eight-team playoff.
Unfortunately for Ricci, the team was unable to find a successful cheating tactic. However, their natural athletic talent got them by.
After losing the initial game, Shark Tales took the next two. Their 2-1 record was good enough to advance into the playoffs.
Once there, they fell to a team that Rusanowsky described as, “very experienced,” by a final score of 10-0.
Although their shot at half the tournament’s proceeds for the Sharks Foundation were brought to an end, Cheechoo pointed out why they were there in the first place.
“You always want to give back,” he said. “We’ve been blessed to play the sport that we love while making a lot of money to do it, so anytime you can give back to help the community it’s a good thing.”
Nearly 700 people attended the event that raised more than $250,000, which in turn is donated to charities through the Bay Area. Over the past decade more than $3 million dollars have been raised.
In addition to the Sharks, the Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers and FC Gold Pride all had teams that included current players. The Golden State Warriors, Oakland Athletics, San Francisco Giants and San Jose Earthquakes also entered teams.
The winning team was ‘Bocce This’ from Windy Hill Productions.
The tournament began in 1999 when Steve Mariucci was the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers and wanted to create a unique celebrity/ charity event that would give back to the Bay Area community. The tournament has since grown in reputation and popularity throughout the years and has been picked up the name “Battle of the Bay.”