On March 24 the Sharks Foundation hosted a "Shark for a Day" Fantasy Camp. The camp raises money for the Sharks Foundation and allows men and women to play out a life long dream of skating through the infamous Shark head as a member of the San Jose Sharks hockey club. Below, Randy Lashinski shares his story from this year's camp.
DREAM COME TRUE
|(From left to right) Curtis Brown, Ronnie Stern, Jeff Odgers, & Al Iafrate. |
What is better than a pick-up or league game of adult hockey? In my opinion, there are two things. The first is teaching a group of children how to play hockey. This I do every Sunday morning with my six-year-old son and enjoy it as much as playing the game myself. The second is skating on HP Pavilion ice with legends like Al Iafrate, Jeff Odgers, Curtis Brown, Mike Ricci, Ronnie Stern, Jamie Baker and Dave Maley. This I did on Saturday, March 24 as part of the Sharks Foundation’s annual “Shark for a Day” Fantasy Camp.
Arriving at the Shark Tank at 7:00 AM Saturday morning to begin my journey with the other participants was a bit intimidating. I had so many thoughts running through my head. My friend Kenny Martin and I signed up for this adventure in December not knowing what to expect, but we were getting more and more excited as we entered the building and signed in. There was no turning back now.
After we signed in, we proceeded to the locker rooms to dress for morning skate. Again, my head was spinning with thoughts. “Cool, look at the spacious locker room! Hey, they have snacks, fruit, water and chewing gum for us. Oh look, someone on the Sharks team has the same name as me and they left their sweater hanging up." Spacious, clean locker rooms, drinks, hockey tape… Everything a non-paid hockey player dreams of. And in technicolor too.
SKATING WITH THE PROS
|Click HERE or on the image to see a photo gallery from the event. |
While dressing for morning skate we met a few of our fellow “Teal Team” teammates. Our coach, Dave Maley, walked in, introduced himself and rattled off our positions and lines. “Martin and Lashinski, you will be skating with Thornton Marleau and Couture”… or was it Dude, Larson and Brown? Stepping onto the ice for morning skate, I felt like Rudy when he entered the tunnel at Notre Dame. I took a cautious lap around the rink, looking up at the stands in awe. Although the rink looked small in comparison to the size of the stands, it did not feel small as we skated a few warm up laps to get accustomed to ice that is as smooth as glass and hard as January outdoor ice in Minnesota. A few shots on net with the pucks and we were ready to go.
The coaches called us together and introduced us to the other legends on the ice. We proceeded into drills and shooting skills and were eventually sent down to shoot slap-shots with Al Iafrate. He can still rip the puck at 46-years-old! We finished with faceoff lessons from Jamie Baker, one-timers from Mike Ricci, and body positioning from Jeff Odgers. It was easily the best practice I had since the year 1981.
PERKS OF THE TRADE
Following practice we had breakfast with Randy Hahn, Doug Wilson, Dan Rusanowsky. What a spread of food this was! During breakfast Doug Wilson provided a bit of color on the Sharks organization and the team philosophy. I cannot imagine a better person to run the organization and provide leadership to the players. Win or lose he is class act.
Next was a viewing of the Sharks own morning practice. Whew, these guys are fast. I wonder if we looked that fast from the stands! It was great to see how much work goes into a day in the life of an NHL player. The players were working their tails off on very basic drills and shooting skills. Walking down to the players’ lounge I thought about all that had happened since I woke up at 5:30 AM this morning. Livin’ the dream… In the players’ lounge they had massage therapists for those of us who needed a knot or kink worked out. After taking advantage of this perk, a brief elevator ride took us to the press deck of the arena. We ventured out onto the cat walk over the ice as the Phoenix Coyotes began their practice. Looking straight down onto the ice provides a perspective I cannot describe in words. If fact, the only view we did not have was from under the ice…maybe next year.
SKATING THROUGH THE SHARK HEAD
|Click HERE or on the image to see a photo gallery from the event. |
Game time, baby! As we walked into the locker room we were now a team, a Teal team operating as one fluid group of highly trained athletes ready to take the ice. Coach explained a few tips and pointers on line-changes and shift duration and we were ready to go. But, we did not know that we were going to go through the Sharks head like the real players do entering the ice on game day. And, there were now fans in the stands! At least 50 of them! As the lights dimmed and the music started, we all skated out of the sharks head with the crowd roaring in excitement. This was one of the times I felt like an NHL player but more like a 10 year old kid living a dream. I just never realized this dream until that moment occurred.
My first shift was brief and fast. We needed to settle in and get a goal quickly and we did just that. Our defense was just too tough for these guys. As the game moved on, our coach provided words of encouragement and told us not to look at the clock. How cool is it to score and have the fog-horn blow for each goal! Brodie Brazil also skated and he scored on a great feed from behind the net, but was immediately flattened by Jeff Odgers. I am sure Brodie did not feel the hit as he celebrated during his fall to the ice. Nice goal Brodie!
Playing defense, you don’t often have a chance to carry the puck but I had one opportunity and I took it. Our forwards were changing out and I had no one to pass to so I took off up the ice. I came in to two defensemen and attempted to split them down the middle. As I made my way past the blue line, I was hooked a bit, but had successfully gotten past their d-line. Now I was one-on-one with the goalie. He dropped to the butterfly and I pulled the puck back on his left side and put one up where momma keeps the cookies. "GOAL!", I could hear Sharks broadcaster Randy Hahn scream in my head.
As the clock ticked down into the third period, I realized this is all a dream; a dream that was made possible by the Sharks Foundation allowing me and 33 other skaters the chance to play a game we all love. The staff from the Sharks Foundation and the ex-players were incredible to say the least. Anything we needed, they were always there to help or answer any questions we had. If you have ever dreamed of, or wondered what a day in an NHL player’s life was like, this is the ticket. My job is incredibly rewarding but this reward from my wife as a Christmas present was as good as any toy truck I received as a 5 year old boy. Sorry Mom, but this was fun! Thanks Honey for the great day!Click here
to see more information from the Sharks Foundation