Rangers fans, Red Wings fans, Stars fans, even Ducks fans should stop reading right now, in case you choke on your Corn Flakes. Because without a doubt, San Jose has the best fans I've seen in America.
Sure, they had plenty to cheer about, as the Sharks annihilated the Phoenix Coyotes 5-0, but there was not an empty seat anywhere. And this was a Monday game vs Phoenix, a team with no stars, plus the 49ers were playing on Monday Night Football. That's impressive. The HP Pavilion is better known as The Shark Tank, and from the moment the Sharks entered the ice from inside the giant shark's mouth, the building was buzzing with energy and I was surrounded by a fascinating cast of characters on and off the ice.
When I landed in Oakland, the sky was bright blue with nary a cloud in sight, and the 72 degree temperature made me feel like I was back home. The girl at the Thrifty Rent-A-Car counter tossed me the keys to the car in space #15 and lo and behold, it was a shiny bright red Mustang convertible, with the roof already down. I always pay for the cheapest rental car available, and often they have no economy cars left so they give me something better. This wasn't just better, it was best! I cruised down to San Jose, radio blasting The Beach Boys on KFRC. I arrived early and joined the wall-to-wall hockey crowd at The Britannia Arms before the game. Former Shark Owen Nolan owns the place, which features lots of games from the NHL Center Ice package on the flat screen TVs.
I've seen some devout fans across the league, like the Capitals fan who wore a beat up Rod Langway helmet and shin pads, the Habs fan who spray-painted himself silver and a middle-aged man who wore a pink dress and bra to the game in Detroit! Can anybody argue that the most entertaining fans sit in the upper deck? Tonight, we sat next to Jiminez, who dressed like a rap star straight outta Oakland, and led his posse in a series of loud cheers that were repetitive, unoriginal and mostly annoying, but you couldn't knock his enthusiasm! Jiminez is a man who's got his team's back, literally! Take a look, bling, bling, baby!
Despite what you may think, I'm not the only wandering soul fulfilling his dream by hitting the sports road. I went to the game with John Nordahl, who spent three months driving across America to visit every NBA arena back in the early 90's. Since then, his passion has shifted from basketball to hockey, and he owns over 200 game worn hockey jerseys. John is also from Orlando, and coincidentally we worked together at Universal Studios fifteen years ago. He wrote a book about his road trip called "Traveling, Three Months On The NBA Road", which you can now buy on amazon.com for a penny! For a nickel, he'd probably autograph it for you!
We also met Jess Knaster. If you're impressed with my trip, you'll be amazed by what Jess did last season. He attended all 93 of the Sharks regular season and playoff games! That boy did some serious road-tripping! Read about it here.
Will Devin Setoguchi become the Ichiro of Hockey? The Sharks rookie was outstanding tonight with two pretty goals. Evgeni Nabakov started his 17th straight game, and Joltin' Joe Thornton jammed in a couple more goals. Scott, the Sharks efficient PR guy, set up some interviews for me between periods and I got this first-hand view of the Coyotes looking none too happy as they marched out of the locker room to begin the third.
I'm a little worried about getting to Calgary tomorrow, as windstorms have whipped across Western Canada today, knocking out power. Hopefully, it will all have "blown over" by the time I arrive.