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Human target

(Originally published on Kukla’s Korner)

Sharks Ice, Wednesday morning.

I’m not sure how many times I’ve seen this particular player at Sharks Ice but I know I’ve seen him at least twice now. I’ll call him 45.  It is possible that the other players were helping him work on his balance, by knocking him down whenever they could.  Or maybe 45 agreed to act as a human target for these morning skates.  One spectator came over and asked who number 45 was.  Number 45, or his fate, made a distinct impression on the audience.

This could be a nice way for players to gradually work their way up to full contact.  Even if they don’t want to do too much of that yet, a little is probably good for those who feel ready.  You don’t want to go from 0 to 100 in the space of a short little training camp and a few practices.  I’m not sure how 45 fell into this role, but he fell many times in the course of the hour.

I can’t really be sure if they were helping him or he was helping them.  Motives can be hard to read.

imageUntil about 11 am, there were no goalies to be seen, though there were a lot of skaters out there.  12 of these were NHLers: Boyle, Thornton (Finally, I spotted a Captain at Captain’s Practice!), Marleau, Burns, Demers, MacIntyre, McLaren, Acolatse, Stuart, Nolan, Tikhonov and Cheechoo.  I’ve given up trying to sort out what they are doing with their jerseys.  Today Nolan had a logoless white one, but it still looked inside out. Stuart wore his Red Wings jersey right side out, Cheechoo his inside out Sens jersey and MacIntyre still with no visor.

The lack of a goalie made for some very energetic hockey.  Add to this the sub-routine of “hit 45” and we even got to see the new glass rock once.  That was cool, and even though they were knocking him down a lot I don’t think anyone hit 45 very hard.

When goalies did finally arrive there were three, all appearing within a few minutes of each other. I thought that was poor planning.  Nemo hit the ice second but went to do his own thing at the far end of the rink, while the game was condensed down to one end as the third goalie arrived.  So it worked out anyway.

Speaking of working things out, the Sharks’ parent company, Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment is no longer called that.  Now it is Sharks Sports & Entertainment.  I always wondered about the name SVSE.  That name seemed to downplay the Sharks as a subsidiary, which I’m sure they are in the business contract sense, but it didn’t sit well with me.

Perhaps other teams and properties owned by Sharks Sports & Entertainment will feel snubbed or neglected by the name change but who are we kidding?  It was always about the Sharks.  I think the term is “flagship” or something, the part of your corporation that really resonates with the public.

The name change signals a bump in the value of the NHL franchise as something the public recognizes.  When Gordon and George Gund III founded SVSE in 2000, maybe a Bay Area hockey team wasn’t something that would sound like a big deal, a concept that would appeal to a target audience.  I imagine that has changed.  Some research or other must have shown that now it was okay to go with The Big Team as the banner name,  instead of using the location of the corporate headquarters.

It seems like a small thing, but I really like this name change. I’m probably not in the target corporate audience but SVSE SSE covers more ground than Silicon Valley does, with investments flung far and wide, and the Sharks themselves logging so many air miles.

Driving home I went through San Francisco, hitting the inevitable fog as I approached South SF.  I’ve made many trips up that road, leaving a sunny day behind to plunge into the cool grey hills.  A kid who grew up in San Francisco, fog still reminds me of the start of the school year.  I always looked forward to school starting, but the weather got me down every time.  It’s like a midday dusk that fog, alerting you to change, warning you of the unknown.

Then just like that, I hit the Golden Gate Bridge and it was all sunshine again.  They say we don’t have seasons here.  We do, they just move too fast for the plants to keep up.  Even though the team’s parent company only took a moment and some paperwork to change it’s name, the move is like pulling the team out of a corporate haze and standing it up in bright sunlight.

Is it a sign?  Is it finally time for the San Jose Sharks to take the lead, step out of the fog?

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