It’s more than a month to the start of the season.  And training camp is just under three weeks away.


It’s been such a loooooooooooooooong summer with the Sharks ousted from the playoffs in April.  That’s meant four (and counting) months of bombardment from pundits’ about the “playoff choker” Sharks one more time, and little news regarding new players added to the organization.

But just like the fans, the players are anticipating the upcoming season.  They are starting to pump their physical preparation for training camp and the season.

At captain’s skate, for instance.

What is that, you might ask?  An opportunity for the players (already) in town to get out on the ice, perhaps do some drills, shooting practice, or windsprints, plus some scrimmage (more like a spirited/fast game of shinny than a hard hitting game you’ll see in the regular season).  It’s an opportunity to get the eye/hand coordination readjusted, and work on the cardiovascular stamina required.  And have fun on the ice. (For a few local players, friends of players, or even teenaged sons of players, and some of the retired players, a chance to “play” with the NHLers. Some guys bring out their young kids before/after the scrimmage to enjoy some family time; amazing how some of the toughest guys have the biggest smiles for their kids.)  The Sharks also open up the skate and training facilities to former Shark players, and other NHLers who might be in the area as well.  So, while the majority of players on the ice will be wearing Shark white or teal jerseys, you might have a rainbow of other teams represented.

Not all Sharks players get their ice time in San Jose.  Some agents have camps in Montreal or Toronto.  But all will converge in San Jose before training camp.

(A note on the goalies, there are often 1-2 “pick up” goalies on the ice until the last week before camp to give the NHL goalies opportunities to take a breather, should they want it. These goalies participate in the local adult leagues, or may be alumni from San Jose State’s club hockey team. Helps them improve their game to face NHL shooters.)

Oh, and per CBA rules, no coach can be on the ice nor directing their on ice actions.  (So, if someone needs to blow a whistle or direction to do the drills, it’s coming from one of the players, or perhaps a helpful fan.)

Just one more harbinger of the upcoming season.

Drop the puck, already!

©2014 GJ Berg

The lights are half on.
The boards are empty,
The benches, empty,
The stands, empty,
The walkways clear.

Silence reigns.
Except for the small
Mechanical noises of
HVAC and
Contracting metal.

It is cold.
The metal bench
Leeching heat.
Open rink door
providing more.

Cold ice has a smell:
Vaguely pungent,
Sweaty overtones,
With a hint of testosterone.

Anticipation. Waits.
Scoreboard clock
Slowly counts
The minutes
Of the hour.

Anticipation. Delays.
Clock silent,
Slow increase,
Minute by

Anticipation. Duration.
Metal creaks.
Fog may rise
If humidity allows.
Minute increases.

Anticipation. Impatience.
Worry over
Minute passes.

Anticipation. Release.
Lights blaze full.
Zamboni roars,
Lap after Lap.
Ice glistens, wet.

Anticipation. Grows.
Ice dulls, to dry.
Practice pucks
Endanger goals
Wait on the ice.

Handle turns,
Players emerge.
Greetings ensue.
Sticks grasped,
Dropped at bench.

Skate blades cut,
Ice becomes snow.
Swosh, a shower.

Pucks demonstrate
Velocity, physics.
Thwack. Bang.
Thwack. Swish.
Thwack, thud.

Glove captures.
Blocker defends.
Stick thwarts.
Arm deflects.
But not all. Goal.

Greetings crescendo,
Last on the ice.
Scatological sarcasm
Down to business.

But for

Today perhaps
Begins with some
Familiar rhythms.

Next Scrimmage.
Jersey color
Defines team.
Linemates in season

The guy loved
To play with
Now opposite.
Small dose of
Hate to play off.

Shifts advance.
Pucks lead
End to

Flying changes.
Flying bodies.
Flying pucks.
Flying words.
Goal. Repeat.

Prevents goal.
But skill
Nets one.

Score advances.
Shift of defending end.
Play continues
Until max
Score reached.

Some declare
Others move
To work on
Individual skills.

Shooting precision
On the go.
Shooting from
The blue line.

Laid out
Just so.
Handle in, over,
Around, between.

Work on
From stop.
First few steps
Could determine winner.

Really ambitious?
Battle drills
In the corner
Against the biggest
Guy on the ice.

Numbers dwindle.
Time nearly done.
Zamboni ready.
Pucks gathered.
Sticks retrieved.

Cleans evidence of
Hard work and
Ice glistens.

One more day
Gone before camp.
One day closer
To season.
Lights half off.


What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s happening!

What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s a-happening.
What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s a-happening.
What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s a-happening.
What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s a-happening.

Why should you want to know?
Don’t you mind about the future?
Don’t you try to think ahead?
Save tomorrow for tomorrow;
Think about today instead.
— Jesus Christ Superstar (Tim Rice)

One of the hardest jobs in the newspaper industry may be the headline writer.  This person needs to summarize the associated article in a few words.

Sometimes they are funny, sometimes they make you think.

But often the sensationalism of the headlines belies what’s really happening.  In other words, sometimes it’s just so hard to get past the sensationalism to see the reality.

The headlines about the Sharks this summer have been about:

  • historic, epic, collapse
  • culture of failure (and playoff choking)
  • no change in head coach or general manager
  • how to define “rebuild”
  • co-workers vs teammates
  • trading away veteran D (Boyle, Stuart)
  • the dearth of players added to the organization (two free agents, one trade, entry draft players, three undrafted prospects — with the probability of one enforcer on the NHL roster); letting 18 players go from organization; resigning two UFAs (Brown, Hannan), five RFAs
  • while many of the other teams (in the state, division, conference, league) added free agents or made trades to improve to their organization
  • questions about goal tending with Niemi only having 87.7% save vs Stalock 93.2%
  • “tomorrow team”, pulling replacements from within the organization, especially with the often-derided quality of the Sharks prospects
  • the loss of Raffi Torres for perhaps half the season from complications from surgery last preseason (he’s played 16 regular season games with the Sharks since being acquired)
  • open season for a new captain at training camp
  • locker room problems
  • organizational panic

About the only positive headline was regarding the compliance buyout of Havlat which was almost universally applauded (and predicted).


So what does all this mean?  And does it really matter (to those inside the room, or is it mainly for placating the pundits outside the room)?

To answer the latter question first: it really doesn’t matter what those of us in the stands, press box or peanut gallery think.  It’s what the guys in the room and the Sharks “brass” think that matters.

The realities are:

  • Sharks lost Vlasic and the remaining defensive corps could not contain the Kings
  • The team stopped playing Sharks system
  • Sharks scoring dried up/Quick got hot
  • Exhaustion? Push to make playoffs, #2 division finish, compressed schedule due to Olympics (Mental and/or physical)
  • The Kings are a very good team

Is the fix to the problem merely “between the ears?” Or new personnel?

Or both?

With a summer of dealing with the fall out of the first round loss, that’s a lot of time to contemplate the pain from the loss, fix any resulting “issues,” and to set one’s resolve to not see that happen again.  (A new captain and alternates may help with that with new voices leading the team.)

Based one of Doug Wilson’s favorite books, it sounds like a new “bus driver”/captain is needed, and where folks sit “on the bus” needs to change, as well as some of who are on the bus.

Some of the less effective players are off the bus with the departure of Boyle and Havlat.  (That’s not to say they won’t be effective for their new teams, but they no longer fit with what the Sharks needed/wanted. Just like Clowe and Murray.)

If you think that Thornton or Marleau should be replaced on the ice by better players, pray tell, who?  They are some of the most offensively productive players in the league, even if they don’t get the headlines of Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin, and Stamkos. If the Sharks did choose to trade them away, and the guys waived their no-movement clauses, it is highly unlikely the Sharks would be able to acquire similarly effective players. And it’s unlikely the Sharks will be drafting from the first row any time soon for a replacement.

So now the team is providing opportunities for younger players, and the team has said there are no guaranteed roster spots. It will be merit and skills, not tenure nor salary/contract that will determine if a player is on the NHL roster at the start of the season (or in the AHL or traded/waived). And that competition will extend to roles or pairing/lines.

What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s a-happening.
What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s a-happening.
What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s a-happening.
What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s a-happening.

Why should you want to know?
Why are you obsessed with fighting
Times and fates you can’t defy?
If you knew the path we’re riding,
You’d understand it less than I.
— Jesus Christ Superstar (Tim Rice)

Isn’t that as it should be? Making it public that the NHL roster will be up for full competition just puts all the players on notice they cannot “sit on their laurels” or “assume” they have a place on the opening night roster.

I’m expecting this upcoming training camp to be one of the most physical ever.  No “half speed” scrimmages nor “don’t mean anything” preseason games.  It may be “playoff intensity” for those in camp, wanting to ensure they are on the opening night roster.

So what if John Scott, noted enforcer, is on the training camp roster.  That is no guarantee that he’ll be on the opening night roster, nor that he’ll be in the line up any night of the regular season.

What of this path the Sharks are on?  Are they pretenders or contenders for the Stanley Cup? Contenders in my book.

From a distance, I’m seeing that these public gesturings and sentiments are (attempting) to change the external expectations (of pundits and fans). (But based on the current headlines, I don’t think those expectations have been significantly changed.)

The Sharks may need to pop the balloon of expectations filled with hot air and descend to the depths of the standings to sink way beneath the surface to then explosively display it’s status as an apex predator and attack from that depth with deadly consequences for their prey.

Taking it to the streets

For the first time in forever….

The Sharks are taking it to the streets (or actually, outside).

The biggest news of the week is that the Sharks will be hosting the Kings for Coors Light Stadium Series(TM) at Levi’s Stadium on February 21, 2015.  (Arguably the worst kept secret since the schedule was announced.)

The other humorous news is the ALS Ice Bucket challenge has hit the Sharks (and former Sharks) with Finz (Worcester Mascot), Sharkie, Burns, Couture, Demers, Grosenick, Nieto, Sheppard, Zettler, Acolaste, and Stalock responding to the challenge (as of Saturday evening).

NBC/PHT had their focus on the Sharks this past week.

Where seldom is heard a discouraging word (TWTW)

… and the skies are not cloudy all day.

Real quiet this past week.  No announcement of the expected Sharks outdoor game, as some said would happen in July.  (But perhaps Ticketmaster spilled the beans?)

The only news of the week was that Ryan Mougenel has been hired as an assistant coach for the Worcester Sharks.

And congratulations to Justin Braun.  (He got married on Saturday, August 2.)