Dallas Stars: Comparing Traditional And Nontraditional Hockey Markets

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SAN JOSE, CA – MARCH 12: Marc-Edouard Vlasic
SAN JOSE, CA – MARCH 12: Marc-Edouard Vlasic /

A Trip To The Shark Tank: March 12, 2017

Most sophomores in college typically want to spend their spring break in one place: the beach. 5-7 days spent purely partying sounds like a pretty great escape from dreaded schoolwork and stress, right?

Well, I guess I wasn’t like most college sophomores. While I did plan a trip to a “beach,” per say, over my sophomore spring break, it wasn’t to party. It was to see the Dallas Stars take on the San Jose Sharks in northern California.

A friend and I planned a trip a few months in advance and made our way over to California on the first day of spring break. We spent the first 24 hours navigating around the surprisingly quiet city of San Jose as well as its much louder neighbor, San Francisco.

San Jose Sharks
San Jose Sharks /

San Jose Sharks

Let me start by saying this: the city of San Jose FULLY embraces their hockey team. Being as it is the only major professional team they have in the city, it’s hard not to rally around them. But boy do they.

As we walked around the city in Victory Green, there was an evident sea of teal walking the streets as well as visible through the windows of restaurants and bars. The Sharks were actually playing the first game of a doubleheader, so many of their fans were busy at the SAP Center or just around it in a nearby hotspot to watch the game.

But from license plate covers to car flags to flat bill hats, the Sharks were a predominant logo. That carried on into the night, even after their loss to the Nashville Predators.

Once we got to the game, there were a few factors that stuck out about San Jose hockey.

For one, their arena is all sorts of neat. When you walk in the main entrance, it looks incredibly small. But, after ascending an initial staircase, it turns into a massive loop. There are only two decks, but it still holds near 18,000 people. And their roof is low, which helps trap and repel sound much better, giving the arena a louder and more intense feel.

The passion was incredibly evident with their fans both outside and inside the arena. They had chants, designated shark-chomping hand motions for power plays, and an overall enthusiasm that really radiated to an opposing fan. They also yelled, “BOO” when the word “Star” came up in the national anthem (a tradition I’m sure they have learned over the years due to Stars fans yelling of the word).

But perhaps one of San Jose’s best qualities is the caliber of its fans. Maybe it was the nontraditional-to-nontraditional connection, but they were for the most part very hospitable. We decided to walk from our hotel to the arena, and that meant that we were eventually engulfed in a large sea of Sharks fans.

It may seem like a horrible time considering we were in enemy territory, but the fans were both nice and knowledgeable. They wanted to know if we were actually from Dallas, if we had enjoyed our time in San Jose, and what exactly it was that had happened to the Stars that caused them to fall off so drastically. Remember, this was March 2017, just as the nightmare 2016-17 season was coming to a close.

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They had questions about Jamie Benn, their former goaltender Antti Niemi, and “that new guy” Remi Elie (who scored his first NHL goal that night). They were also very passionate when it came to the in-arena cheering and chanting.

On the way out, there was one San Jose fan that came up to us and yelled, “STARS SUCK.” But this was more than likely due to a little too much partying. We didn’t have much room to talk, either, considering the Stars had just dropped a 5-1 decision to the Sharks.

But besides that, the experience was truly one of a kind. In a strange way, it kind of felt like the American Airlines Center.

Sure, hockey may not seem like the best sport to stick out in a hotbed like California. But Sharks fans know nothing of the sorts. They embrace their team (which has been quite good in recent years) and bring every ounce of energy they have in supporting the franchise.

Nontraditional may seem like a demotion and a phrase that keeps a team out of the “elite” traditional club, but they treat it like a promotion in San Jose. After all, it’s fun being different.

I loved the atmosphere in the streets of San Jose as well as in the SAP Center. And even though it involved yet another lackluster effort from the Stars, it was entertaining to see a new walk of hockey life. Those Sharks fans sure know how to make their hockey games entertaining.

Score one for the nontraditional folks.