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San José’s Diehard Hockey Fans Show their Sharks Spirit
Text: Allison Williams / Images: San Jose Sharks

For hockey fans worldwide, October means one thing: the start of the National Hockey League regular season.

No more preseason games. No more season-old highlights or memories. It’s a new sheet of ice under the skates of a team that may or may not look the same as it did a few months ago.

For many fans in San José, the new hockey season means that the San José Sharks take the ice for their 22nd season in pursuit of the coveted Stanley Cup. For the most part, the team resembles the one that was knocked out of the playoffs in late May by the Los Angeles Kings.

The core group remains mostly untouched aside from the addition of Tyler Kennedy from Pittsburgh and the absence of players TJ Galiardi and Thomas Greiss.

The recently renamed SAP Center, affectionately nicknamed “The Shark Tank” for its usual inhabitants, has been the home of the Sharks for the past 20 years. It holds a capacity of 17,562 people and according to ESPN’s attendance report, was at capacity for 100 percent of home games.

While small in comparison to the Montreal Canadiens’ Bell Center, which seats more than 21,000 people, the Shark Tank is considered throughout the league as one of the loudest arenas in the NHL. Small size or not, when Sharks fans show up, they’re loud and proud.

Patrick Marleau, left wing for the San José Sharks, was drafted second overall in the 1997 draft. He has spent the entirety of his NHL career with the Sharks. He said the one word he would use to describe Sharks’ fans is “loud.”

“It gives you that spark late in the game,” Marleau said of the crowd noise.

He said the fans are always loudest as the clock dwindles down and the noise level is something the team can use to its advantage.

The fans don’t just show up at home — Marleau said the team’s players usually see a large showing of Sharks’ fans when they play in Anaheim and Los Angeles as well. It’s something that they notice right when they step on the ice.

Tyler Seal, a sophomore public relations major, is originally from Colorado and said he started following the Sharks when he first decided to move to California. He said he noticed the passionate fan base and that he’s looking forward to seeing his first game this season, especially with the updated jersey design the team unveiled in the offseason.

The new teal and white jerseys no longer have the piping around the bottom hem or shoulders and resemble the black jersey. The changes were made to make the jersey lighter and easier for players to move in. “Their new jerseys are pretty sick,” Seal said.

Some fans develop their team loyalty through tradition. Stephanie Eshleman,  a senior hospitality management major, said she followed in her dad’s footsteps.

She said her dad has had season tickets since the team was first established in 1991. “I kind of grew up with it and I’ve been going to games since I was basically 4 years old,” Eshleman said.

Like many sports fans, she has some hockey season traditions that are centered on the Sharks.

She said she goes to the games and dinner with her dad and that she enjoys going to the meet-and-greets for season ticket holders to meet the players and get autographs.

Sharks fans, no matter how they became fans, are two things: loud and proud.

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