The San Jose Sharks 4-2 victory against the Anaheim Ducks on Jan. 27 wasn't the only thing that was celebrated at SAP Center at San Jose.
The Sharks, in conjunction with Gurdwara Temple of San Jose, invited more than 200 members of its Sikh congregation to participate in the fourth annual Sikh Heritage Night, in which hockey fans and temple-goers partook in various themed activities throughout the evening.
To kick off the night, leaders of the San Jose Gurdwara Temple and other important Sikh representatives were highlighted during a pre-game ice-level introduction in the Shark Head tunnel.
Prior to the game, several families brought their kids down to the ice to act as "benchwarmers" during the team warm-ups. Each received souvenir hockey pucks from different Sharks players.
Jaswinder Nijjar, a volunteer for the San Jose Gurdwara Temple, remembers just how special that moment was for everyone involved.
"To see the look on the kids' faces when they were being handed the pucks, and then talking to the parents about that experience afterward was so wonderful," Nijjar said. "It made them so happy."
The main attraction of the night was the turban-tying station on the concourse, where Sharks fans had the opportunity to learn about Sikh customs. Now in its fourth year, more and more fans recognized the event from previous seasons and were inclined to get their own turban tied. It also provided fans an opportunity to see what it takes to be of Sikh faith and ask the Sikh members any questions they had.
Mohamed Fofana, account sales manager for the Sharks, spearheaded Sikh Heritage Night back in 2016 to open up the doors of hockey to people of different backgrounds and faiths, and for Sharks fans to recognize different lifestyles in their surrounding community.
"It's something I look forward to every year," Fofana said. "This year, after I got my turban tied, people were smiling at me all night and having a great time. They were so happy that our fans were willing to share their experiences and what they go through to live within their faith and be themselves."
The Bay Area is host to one of the most prolific Sikh communities in the country. In fact, San Jose houses the largest Sikh temple in all of North America. For Fofana, it was important to incorporate Sikh Heritage Night into the game-night experience for Sharks fans.
"This is an opportunity for our fans to learn more about the Sikh culture and build a relationship," Fofana said. "A lot of Sikhs are already Sharks fans, so we hope they share the experience they had with other members of their community."
To close out the festivities, the entire group gathered for a post-game photo on the ice to commemorate another successful Sikh Heritage Night.
On March 5, in conjunction with INDTV, the Sharks will host Indian Heritage Night. For more information, please visit http://sjsharks.com/indian.
Other upcoming Heritage Nights include:
Feb. 10: Vietnamese Heritage Night
Feb. 17: Irish Heritage Night
Feb. 27: Polynesian Heritage Night
March 3: Muslim Community Night
March 8: Filipino Heritage Night
March 19: Jewish Heritage Night
March 29: Portuguese Heritage Night
Hockey truly is for everyone.