I consider myself a diehard sports fan. I’ll watch just about anything sports-related, I don’t even need a rooting interest. Yes, I’ve watched those strong man competitions on ESPN. And, a few frames of bowling (shudder, not a TV sport). I’ve had a bucket list item for quite some time to watch a game at every MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL stadium in the country before I kick that bucket. You would think with as much travel as I do I would have made more progress. But, it’s been a while since I crossed a new stadium off my list.
When the opportunity presented itself to me last week, I jumped on it. A colleague and I were heading to San Jose for a conference. He brought up a baseball game, but the Giants weren’t in town and neither of us felt a strong desire to drive North for an Oakland Athletics game. Then, I remembered the San Jose Sharks were still in Stanley Cup playoffs.
For those that don’t follow sports, the Sharks were an expansion team around the time I was graduated high school. They came into existence back in 1991 as my passion for sports was heating up. I was a quasi-Rangers fan living in New York, but still hadn’t found my love for hockey. So, I bought some Sharks gear during their inaugural season and followed along a bit. A couple years after they came into existence they made the playoffs as a lowly 8th seed and went on to beat the #1 seed mighty Detroit Red Wings. In the next round of the playoffs they again went to 7 games, falling to Toronto and ending the Cinderella story. But, along the way, they created a fan. I was mesmerized by hockey, even though it looked horrible on TV back then. Even when I moved to DC and became a Caps season ticket holder, I found myself keeping one eye on the Sharks. A chance to visit the Shark Tank? You bet!
I was surprised we were able to find tickets on StubHub for roughly face value. We walked from our conference over to HP Pavilion, or as it’s affectionately referred to by the locals, the Shark Tank.
The first thing we realized when we walked into the building was how clean it was. Everything was spotless, cleaner than any stadium I’ve ever been in. The building was also well equipped for hockey. There were plenty of concessions and a good variety of local beers mixed in. We ended up choosing Armadillo Willy’s for some grub before the game, which is a stadium rendition of a local BBQ joint.
I tried the brisket and the ribs. The brisket was okay. I’m usually not a fan of sauce with my BBQ but this brisket needed something and the sauce did help. The ribs really did surprise me. They were much better than I thought, with a good smoky flavor and tender meat. There’s no question this BBQ wasn’t as good as Black’s in Lockhart, TX. But, it certainly beat any stadium/airport BBQ I’ve ever had. I’d rate the brisket a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10, but I’d probably give the ribs a 6 or 7.
After some food and beer, it was time to watch some hockey. The Shark Tank is a great place to do that. We were in the upper deck but still had a great view of the action.
I’ve seen plenty of simple images displayed on ice, but I was impressed with what I saw here. I guess that’s what comes from HP having their name on the building. During the pre-game build-up, they showed a 3 minute video on the ice. It ranged from simple text to some pretty detailed images. And, it was perfectly visible from our seats up high. I haven’t attended a ton of hockey games recently, so lots of teams could have this technology by now. But, they sure didn’t have it at the Avalanche game I was at a couple months ago.
The line to get into the Sharks store (had to pick up some souvenirs for the kids) was too long when we arrived so I popped out real quick during the first period. Hockey is one of those sports where there aren’t lengthy breaks in the action. So, leaving your seat in search of food or t-shirts is a sure fire way to miss a lot of action. Again, the Shark Tank was up to the task here. Larger video monitors than I’ve seen in any concourse were everywhere, meaning I didn’t miss a second of the game while I grabbed a t-shirt and a little stuffed shark.
In the beginning of the game, I thought the fans would be louder. After all, this was a playoff game. It took a while, and the Sharks played a bit sloppy. But, near the end of regulation, with the score tied at 1, the Kings got hit with two penalties. That left San Jose with a 5 on 3 advantage heading into OT. The crowd worked itself into a roar. And, while there was a brief moment of worry when they didn’t score with a 2-man advantage, the puck skated past the goalie into the back of the Kings net a few seconds later. Score! Sharks Win! The crowd definitely made their presence felt.
The home team won and was back in the series with the Kings, down 2 games to 1. As of this morning, they had forced a game 7. In the role of underdog again, they swept the Canucks in the first round and are now looking for a mild upset of the Kings in the conference semifinals. And, I’ve crossed another stadium off my list. As you can see below, still plenty to go to fill in all the blanks. I hope to have a ton of fun doing it. Are you a sports junkie? What’s your favorite place to watch a game?
Camden Yards (Baltimore Orioles)
PacBell Park (San Francisco Giants)
Safeco Field (Seattle Mariners)
Chase Field (Arizona Diamondbacks)
Shea Stadium (New York Mets)
Wrigley Field (Chicago Cubs)
Comerica Park (Detroit Tigers)
Coors Field (Colorado Rockies)
Nationals Park (Washington Nationals)
Rogers Centre (Toronto Blue Jays)
Fenway Park (Boston Red Sox)**The Red Sox will always be listed last any time I refer to baseball teams
Giants Stadium (Giants and Jets)
FedEx Field (Washington Redskins)
Qwest Field (Seattle Seahawks)
M&T Bank Stadium (Baltimore Ravens)
Soldier Field (Chicago Bears)
Candlestick Park (San Francisco 49ers)
Pepsi Center (Denver Nuggets)
Madison Square Garden (New York Knicks)
Brendan Byrne/Continental Airlines Arena (New Jersey Nets)
Verizon/MCI Center (Washington Wizards)
United Center (Chicago Bulls)
Pepsi Center (Colorado Avalanche)
Madison Square Garden (New York Rangers)
Verizon/MCI Center (Washington Capitals)
HP Pavilion (San Jose Sharks)