As part of my integration from Chicago-born transplant to California citizen, and to provide content for my half-interesting articles, I deemed it necessary to attend a San Jose Sharks game at the HP Pavilion (also know as the Shark Tank). Luckily, the Western Conference leading Chicago Blackhawks were scheduled to make a visit and why not kill two birds at once. So I loaded up my car (due to the surprising lack of direct public transportation options from the east bay) and headed to San Francisco’s biggest suburb, San Jose. While I could go into detail about the actual game itself (fellow writer Aaron does a much better job here), I would like to impart on you some observations I made during my visit to the Tank.
Once I had arrived near the stadium, parking was relatively easy to find and the prices were not outrageous, although I would have preferred public transportation to and from the facility. The arena itself is situated in a kind of commercial/industrial zoned area, lacking a neighborhood charm or gameday atmosphere. The exterior of the stadium is unique, and the bare concrete expanses on the interior are impressive. Access to the seating areas (the 200 level in my case) is very straight forward, and rather easy. The sight lines from our seats were excellent, despite being near the top of the stadium. Concessions and beer are plentiful, and although the prices were high, it was nice to see craft beer easily accessible. Once I had the concession situation under control, I found my seats for the game to begin.
The game began as all do, with the singing of the national anthem. Just before the singing commences, someone in the crowd yells the name of the opposing goalie and the rest of the crowd replies “You suck!”. Apparently, besides obscuring the first line of the anthem, this makes opposing goalies 35% more likely to give up goals in their 5-hole. Fans at the Tank had some confusion on whether to cheer or remain silent during the singing, but this is just the warm-up for the Shark’s introductions anyways. SJ Sharkie, the creatively named mascot, then rappels down from the ceiling and the show can begin. The lights dim, and a 15 ft (in my estimation) tall, hollow shark head is lowered from the rafters. Shark players then skate through a mouth blasting fog and glowing red eyes (both of which i don’t believe or biologically correct) to a Metallica soundtrack.
After the opening face-off fans began to chant “Let’s go Shar-arks!”, a chant normally reserved for the multi-syllabic team names in the NHL. After the Sharks scored their first goal, I wondered why I hadn’t heard a horn blaring before Rock and Roll Part 2, but then I noticed the employee with the air horn in the rafters. There were a surprising lack of replays giving the equally enormous and beautiful scoreboard, which became frustrating. I was shocked to realize that the ice crew during timeouts was composed of mainly men in track suits, and not the scantily clad ice girls popular at other venues. As the Sharks were awarded their first powerplay, the Jaws theme began playing and the whole crowd started doing some sort of gator chomp thing. Unfortunately it did not intimidate the Blackhawks enough to yield a powerplay goal last night. After the first two Sharks goals, the fans were quite riled up, but after the Hawks tied the game the crowd remained mostly apathetic until the end of regulation, save for the fan who yelled “Get up you pussy!” after one of the referees was impaled, point blank, by a slapshot in the back.
Overall the experience could be described as enjoyable. It is obvious that the team is struggling with a slight identity crisis, due to their relative short life in the NHL and playing in a city where lower level hockey does not enjoy much popularity. Fans were observed to be a mix of die-hards, transplants, and Silicon Valley residents. In general, it seems everyone enjoyed the game, and the atmosphere was friendly, if slightly dull. Sharks fans were courteous, even when wearing enemy colors. Despite some of their shortcomings, the Sharks enjoy an excellent stadium, a winning team, and a solid fanbase. I look forward to going for another swim in the future.