With an awkward summer of hockey discourse in the rearview mirror, I wanted to try and do something fun. I thought it would be neat to exchange e-mails with a fellow hockey fan; the caveat being that they’re a fan of a team other than the Blackhawks. For this edition, we are lucky to talk to Battle of California Autocrat Stace Of Base. Stace is a miserable San Jose Sharks fan who, like me, hates almost everything thus making her delightful and awesome. Please be a smart, handsome person and follow her on Twitter.
SLAK: I remember staying up late as a kid to watch the Blackhawks play their west coast games because a) home games weren’t on TV so I took what I could get and b) staying up late is very cool. The memory that always sticks out for me is that the Sharks played in a place called the Cow Palace. “Where are the cows?” is a thing I’d ask myself. Anyway I’m showing my age here.
What were your first memories of the Sharks and becoming a Sharks fan?
STACE: Well, my hockey fandom started pretty dang late actually. I grew up in a family that basically followed every sport except for hockey. I went to a few Mighty Ducks games during their inaugural year but didn’t really care. Baseball was my first love but I lost interest when the Expos got moved. Anyway, my fandom started years ago when I was away at college.
One of my best friends from back home was a Kings fan and he basically forced everyone back home to like the Kings as well. This friend, although great, does this with every fucking thing and it’s annoying so I constantly go against what he does. A friend visited me at school, so we went to dinner and he was all jazzed about a Kings game that was on TV. The TV was afar so I squinted to see which team was playing the Kings and I said to him “fuck the Kings, I’m rooting for that other team, the SJS one, or whatever.” The Sharks destroyed the Kings and my pal goes, “you should learn everything about the Sharks and become a fan to piss off Daniel [our friend who forces everyone to like his shitty stuff]” and I said, “alright, I can do that.” I honestly thought that this was going to be a week long bit and it ended up being the longest, most drawn out joke ever.
Once I learned about them, watched every game and began following the players closely, I fell in love with the team and the sport. I was drawn in with an amazing regular season and when they got bounced in the playoffs, it wasn’t as upsetting because I didn’t know any better. “There’s always next year” is going to be tattooed on my lower back. They are basically the best/worst thing to ever happen to me.
SLAK: There’s always next year? I think my favorite baseball team has that copyrighted. Also, there’s never next year. Your Sharks fan origin story is the most perfect Battle of California thing I can think of. “I became a Sharks fan to piss off a Kings fan.”
So I take it you’re from southern California? Just how much has hockey taken over as a serious pastime when you’re out and about? Put another way: if you wore your Sharks stuff in and around LA, which I’m sure you do, do people give you sideways glares?
STACE: Yeah, I was born in LA, moved around a bit, ended up stuck in Orange County the past 20 years or so. Being a Sharks fan in Orange County is great. No one gives a shit. Going to the Honda Center is wonderful because no one gives you crap. I overheard a waiter at a restaurant one time say that he hates going to the Honda Center because there are so many opposing fans and he ends up getting a lot of shit at his home arena. It was amazing.
Hockey is growing in Los Angeles due to the recent success so I get more shit now than I used to in the past. If people who are serious hockey fans meet one another down here, we might give each other crap for our teams but mostly we are excited to talk hockey with one another. It’s pretty harmless. Whenever a Kings fan gives me grief about my team I usually say “at least I’m not a Ducks fan” and then everything is usually cool after that. I would do the same with Ducks fans but I try to stay away from them.
SLAK: You’d think after the Ducks became the first California team to win the cup that it would have started some kind of insane generation of Ducks fans. Instead every time the Blackhawks play there the stadium half red and half asleep. It’s one thing for the Ducks to have two of the best offensive players in the league on the same line but it’s another to be unwatchable to the point of anger. Every time the Hawks play the Ducks I find myself longing for the sweet embrace of a chemical fire.
I’d say the Kings-Ducks-Sharks trio is a lot like Hawks-Wings-Blues in that two of the teams have a real, honest to goodness rivalry and the Ducks/Blues are just yelling from the outside for anyone to pay attention to them. It doesn’t matter what they do. Even when they win they’re losers.
Now the Ducks don’t even have Teemu Selanne to keep the rest of the hockey world from seeing just how abhorrent their franchise really is. They changed their jerseys from the beloved Mighty Ducks movie franchise into something that resembles an usher outfit at a porno theater. Selanne’s book excerpts leaked and it turns out he thinks his coach (Bruce Boudreau) and captain (Ryan Getzlaf) were both idiots. That may very well be true but Teemu looks like a massive coward doesn’t he?
STACE: Teemu’s book makes me so incredibly happy. So many hockey fans (even people outside of the Ducks and Jets fan base) have always tried to portray him as the most amazing person to ever skate on ice. “Not only is he AMAZING (not really) at hockey but he is also a SUPER NICE guy,” they said. “He visits kids in hospitals!” They said. “He goes to fan events!” They said. “He signs autographs for like, a really long time!” They said.
But anyway, to get to your question, yeah, he’s a goddamn baby. I mostly blame the way that the hockey world has treated him his whole career. He was a star player on a shit team and since he was the only likable (up for debate) player on the team, he was treated like a god. Surprise, surprise, his numbers dropped because he is old and not good anymore, which causes minutes to drop. Because he stopped getting all the perks that he demands, he cries about it. There’s one thing to bitch to your coach or employer or whatever but to write a book talking about how mean people are is very sad. Act like you’ve been there.
One thing that was overseen is the fact that Teemu refused to play the second part of a back to back and also refused to make some road trips last season, yet he expects to get the same advantages that better players on the Ducks get. Pretty goddamn laughable. The best part of the quotes that were released was the fact that he considered signing with the KINGS last offseason! That would have been amazing. Ducks fans would have lost their minds and the Kings most likely wouldn’t have gotten Gaborik, alas probably no cup. Hey random question but does time travel exist yet? Asking for a friend…
SLAK: I was thinking earlier that the Kings should play Gaborik in like 35 games during the regular season since they could finish anywhere from the 1-8 seed and still end up winning the Cup again. But if Gaborik isn’t healthy for the playoffs I suppose they’ll just make another ridiculously smooth trade and replace him. Damn you Dean Lombardi.
No one’s giving the Sharks much a chance to overtake LA this year and I think it’s easy to understand why. They kind of had a confusing and terrible offseason. They basically said “our best players are actually giant losers and we need to make sure the bottom of our roster is as Calgary as possible.”
Even though they’ve been wrongfully blamed for everything and stripped of leadership duties, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are massively important to the Sharks. They are getting older though and it seems like one more year without any playoff success and Doug Wilson will try to trade or murder both of them before he gets fired.
How much time do you think Wilson’s regime has left?
STACE: It is pretty confusing that the only person who got fired after a historic playoff collapse was the color commentator guy. This team has focused so much on leadership during the offseason, but doesn’t leadership start with the coaching staff and management ultimately?
Anyway, I think that Wilson and the rest will most likely have jobs through the entirety of the upcoming season and that is thanks to the fact that four out of the seven pacific teams are pretty bad. I cannot see this team not making the playoffs, even with the idiotic addition of John Scott, they’re not terrible.
I also can’t see Niemi having as bad of a year as this last season yet I am very on the fence in regards to Alex Stalock keeping up his phenomenal play last season. Players could necessarily stop responding to the coaching staff and cause the team to tank (Torts and Vancouver, Murray and LA, Carlyle and Anaheim, etc) but considering how much blame is being put on the players rather than the staff, they would probably just trade everyone and clone 22 Logan Coutures.
So, long story short, Stanley Cup or bust. I think anything less than a trip to the Stanley Cup final will cause people to lose their jobs. Considering this team didn’t get better aside from dumping Colorado star, Brad Stuart, they’re going to have to do major work at the deadline or get ready to go to work in Alberta.
SLAK: The Pacific is so shitty once you get out of California. I’ve even seen some straining to include Vancouver in the playoffs which is pretty laughable to me. But they have Ryan Miller now and Ryan Miller teams always make the…never mind. My money’s on LA, Anaheim and San Jose fattening up on the rest of the division.
I think you’re still going to get exactly what you expect from Thornton and Marleau. Similar stuff from Couture. Tomas Hertl is very fun and exciting. The guy who I like a lot but sort of came out of his shoes, to mix metaphors, was Joe Pavelski. I mean he shot like 73% last year. That’s cool and all but you have to wonder if he can do it again.
What are some things that absolutely have to happen for the Sharks to get up above the Kings and Ducks in the Pacific?
STACE: WELL! I am not convinced that the Kings are going to take the division just because…that’s not their bag. They achieve just enough to make the playoffs and are a completely different team by March. Usually because they acquire a game changer from Columbus at the deadline (I’m looking at you, Scott Hartnell). Getting Gaborik was huge but him staying healthy is the question. Considering he got injured in a preseason game on Sunday against Anaheim, who knows what he will be like or how many times that will happen this season. Also throw in the flukiness of Jonathan Quick and the typical goal scoring drought they seem to go through, we’ll see. I think the Sharks could still finish ahead of them.
I will never buy the whole Anaheim thing. Considering that American hero John Gibson will most likely spend most of the season in AHL due to starters Andersen and LaBarbera….lol. They’ve always been fine offensively (even with their short stretch of power play woes last season) and yes adding Kesler was pretty big but they really needed to tweak the defense, which actually got worse with the addition of Clayton Stoner….lol. Their goalscoring will definitely help them but I’m sure they will have to win a lot of games by scoring at least 3 goals because let’s be real, pucks will be going in the net.
The Sharks are pretty consistent in the regular season. They tend to have a dry spell in February but then pick back up. Unless they do something stupid like get rid of Thornton and/or Marleau, I think they’ll be okay. It would be awesome if Doug Wilson could use his magic powers to get a couple picks for Hannan at the deadline. Maybe even pick up Leddy! *nudges you relentlessly* They ~could~ win the division with what they have. Ideally, it would be cool if Chicago wins the central division and LA gets a wildcard spot so they can beat the hell out of each other in case the Sharks happen to make it to the second round. I tend to dream big.
(Sharks still probably wouldn’t make it out of the second round but whatever.)
SLAK: I think you’re right about the Kings. They’re going to sleepwalk through the season and score like 1.7 goals a game while Gaborik sits in a hyperbaric chamber at the Neverland Ranch. Then everyone’s going to say well Chicago is so deep and San Jose can’t be stopped on the power play and the Ducks are winning for some reason and the Blues are being loaded into a paddy wagon to be straitjacketed off to Shutter Island. And then the Kings will just be unbeatable in the spring and somehow get the underdog label while steamrolling everyone.
We’re at the point of the preseason where everyone just wants the damn thing to end. Guys are starting to get hurt and roster moves still have to be made to get under the cap. It’s just a pain in the ass for everyone involved. They play games in Saskatoon for pete’s sake. That’s a Mario Kart track isn’t it?
It seems like as much as things have changed everything is relatively the same. The only hope of avoiding a horribly stressful first round is to win the division. I think it’s just going to continue to shake out where Kings/Sharks and Hawks/Blues is an annual inevitability.
Which raises the question: why the hell do we do this to ourselves?
STACE: The Blues, man. Watch out for the Blues. Best team in the league besides Dallas. Nothing can compare to those two dynamos. Why do our teams even try?
Yeah I followed half of a preseason game and just can’t bring myself to care. Saskatoon is my least favorite land at Disneyland. I usually care a little bit about preseason because I go to Vegas for the LA-Colorado preseason game but I can’t go this year so what’s the point? Preseason is just the beginning of months and months of false hope (#NeverForget when Douglas Murray got a hat trick in a preseason game).
Considering you’re a Cubs fan and I’m a Sharks fan, I’m pretty sure that we are sports masochists. At this point, life would be weird without pain induced by sports. Also, being a fan of drinking, talking shit and making fun of Anaheim (they seriously think their team is for real and it is so fucking funny) also numbs the pain. To be completely honest though, if you look at the big picture, I am pretty happy with my team for usually about 6 months of the year–glass half full, baby! It could be worse…I could be an Edmonton fan and be completely fucking miserable for 362 days a year (363 days during a leap year).
SLAK: It’s always a fun element when I complain about anything Blackhawks related because people love to ask me how many Cups I’ve won. It’s like people want the blogosphere to be “Boy things are great nothing to see here.” What kind of a blog would that be? A Bad One, in my opinion.
So one last plug for your site Battle of California which I think is a Minnesota Wild blog. You guys are basically the outsiders of the serious SB Nation blogs like Fear the Fin and Jewels From The Crown. I assume the Ducks don’t even have a blog. Who cares.
What kind of stuff do you have planned for the season? I’m hoping for all the Patrick Marleau fan fiction I can handle. Just a warning: it’s a lot.
STACE: I’ll have to get back to you on whether or not there is an Anaheim SB Nation blog. I’ve never been able to get confirmation.
Following and writing about the Sharks will be crazy this season because of how bad things ended up last season. I will have endless amounts of material due to idiots saying idiotic things and management doing idiotic things and players doing idiotic things, you know the usual. There will be plenty of Patrick Marleau stories but I think secretly all of my fabrications about him are mostly true –he’s a really fucking weird guy. We surprisingly (not really surprising) don’t have any major plans for the season aside from relentlessly making fun of the Minnesota Wild. I look forward to letting the hate flow through my fingers when the Sharks play the Blues, Bruins, Leafs, Ducks, Kings, etc. I’m a big fan of reading raunchy hockey fan fiction so I’ll throw in some reviews here and there but our one 86 year old female reader did not seem to like the first review I did. I assume she died of old age or osteoporosis so I don’t really care.
I’m doing stuff for another blog as well as trying to keep The Canafornians alive with some gum and popsicle sticks. This year will be crazy busy so hopefully I’ll be rewarded with another regular season champions banner!