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It was 20 years ago this fall
Sharks fans begin third decade following the team
10/30/11 - By Paul Krill -

The Sharks have reached their 20th anniversary - the team skated its first official game in October 1991. Can you believe it? Where does the time go? Yes, the Sharks did call last season their "20th anniversary season" even though they didn't start playing until late-1991. And there's this little matter of how to factor in the 2004-05 season lost to the lockout.

I'd say the fall of 2011 marks the actual 20th anniversary. For me, it's fun to reflect back on the games and players over the years, recognizing that I, and a bunch of you, too, have been following the team since that first year. When I bring my early Sharks history book, "Feeding Frenzy," to player autograph sessions, I realize that the players signing it these days had probably never seen the book before. (It was published in 1994.)

Some of the players who added their names to the book a few weeks ago were just six or seven years old at the time it came out. But I, a mere fan, know the book back to front. It's the fans - not the players, coaches, owners or even the logo or uniforms - that constitute the one constant for a sports franchise.

We longtime fans can remember traveling to the Cow Palace the first season and hearing the shouts in unison of "Link, Link, Link," for tough guy and fan favorite, Link Gaetz. He could have been a Bay Area legend if he were able to play longer. Then, in the second season, the Sharks won only 11 games out of 84, going 11-71-2. During these two years, I used to check out the construction of the downtown San Jose arena routinely. I remember buying my first-ever Sharks t-shirt at the long-since-defunct San Jose Retail Pavilion.

Then, it was on to the first year at our spanking new arena in 1993, where the Sharks stumbled out of the gate but got better and better as the year wore on. They made the playoffs for first time and defeated the heavily favored Red Wings in seven games in the first round. In subsequent years, we watched the Sharks make the playoffs again, slip for a couple of seasons and then gradually rise to the status of league powerhouse, albeit one that still has never made it to the Stanley Cup Finals.

So here we are with a new season, with the Sharks winning big on opening night, losing three and then getting on a roll on the road. For me, the regular season has become a long, long precursor to the playoffs, when the Sharks will once again try to get beyond the third round. It used to the second round that was the Sharks' Waterloo, so I guess we're making progress.

Sharks hockey is part of an annual ritual for fans now. We bring our children up as Sharks fans. And we get the impression players really like playing and living here. The team has brought notoriety and, well, lots of fun to the South Bay. (Maybe my A's will be next to move to town? We're still waiting on that one.) As we move into the third decade of Sharks hockey, let's salute the Sharks franchise for becoming as much a part of San Jose culture as Silicon Valley, shopping malls and Sarah Winchester's old mansion.


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