Just Tuesday night, Jody Shelley was a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets, a squad that is much improved from previous years and, while still on the outside looking in, could make their first playoff appearance this season. Now he is on the Sharks, a club that has been to at least the NHL’s second round for three consecutive seasons and has made the Stanley Cup Playoffs eight of the last nine opportunities.
“It’s amazing how good a group this is,” said Shelley. “I’m thrilled to be here. You hear how good the room is and you can see the chemistry. Sometimes when you think about a team that might want you . . . I was excited when they said it was San Jose.”
Shelley had been a healthy scratch in seven consecutive contests before the move, but he was still caught off guard when he got the call.
“I didn’t see it coming,” said Shelley. “It was strange until last night when I started meeting the guys. A few days before the trade, they told me to stay positive and I was a big part of the team.”
Having spent his entire career with Columbus, Shelley was very unfamiliar with the Sharks roster having not played with one current Sharks skater.
“I played against Davie and Semenov in the AHL,” said Shelley. “I know Joe (Thornton) is friends with Rick Nash and J.R. has legendary stories.”
Whether it was Columbus previously or now in San Jose, Shelley knows what he’s paid to do.
“My role is pretty cut and dry,” said Shelley. “The way the game has evolved, you have to be smart. You’ve got to be able to play the system. If I’m not at the level I’m supposed to be, then I’m just hurting the team.”
The enforcer role Shelley embraces is still probably the most misunderstood position in professional sports.
“If you don’t understand it, you think a guy is just looking for a fight,” said Shelley discussing how players are normally just looking out for a teammate. “You take a lot of pride in putting the other guys first. You do what you can to make guys on your team feel a little bigger. We get our glory in seeing the other guys’ success.”
On the ice, Shelley says there is a mental aspect to being an enforcer. One that would be difficult for most to try and adjust to.
“(Taking a punch) is just part of it,” said Shelley. “As soon as you’re worried about getting punched, you’re not going to fight.”
Ironically, Shelley hadn’t fought at all until he reached the major junior level of hockey.
“When I started in junior, I fell into the role. I had never fought before, not even (on the playground). My dad would have kicked my butt,” laughed Shelley.
Nothing has come easy for the six-foot-four, 230 pound on-ice police officer. Shelley went undrafted following his three-year junior career with Halifax and was forced to go the very unconditional route of playing in the Canadian college ranks.
“I finished juniors and tore my ACL,” said Shelley. “All the teams said go and get better. So I went and played Canadian college and had a blast. I was watching guys I played junior against and said if they can do it, I had to give it a try. Toward the end of the year I gave up my scholarship and was off to the AHL.”
The Sharks lineup is full of players not afraid to throw punches, but now the entire league knows there is a bona fide heavyweight they may have to deal with on any given night.
Next month, Shelley will face his old club twice. The initial contest will be Feb. 8 in San Jose with a return to Columbus set for Feb. 27.
For his first practice with his new team, Shelley skated in a grouping that included Devin Setoguchi, Joe Pavelski
and Jeremy Roenick.
Sharks All-Stars Evgeni Nabokov and Joe Thornton
were given the day off.
Tomas Plihal reflected on his first NHL goal in Calgary against former Vezina winner Miikka Kiprusoff. Plihal’s shot fell into the skates of Kiprusoff and the Calgary netminder kicked it in.
“He put it in,” said Plihal. “I didn’t see it go in. I thought Patty or Bernie put it in because they were going to the net. I’m just happy I scored my first and I just want to score more. It was lucky, but I’ll take it. At the end of the season, nobody asks you how you scored them, just how many.”
The Sharks will host Chicago Saturday afternoon in a 2 p.m. PST start that will be carried on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and www.sjsharks.com. Limited tickets are still available at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com.