This being the day after the fantasy camp, I’m still completely exhausted as I’m writing this down, but wanted to get my thoughts down while they’re still fresh.
Yesterday on April 1, 2006, Leif and I participated in the Sharks-for-a-day fantasy camp where you literally get to experience what it’s like to be a San Jose Shark for a day. The day started at 7:15am, and we didn’t get home until about 10:30pm, so it was extremely long.
6:30am on Saturday morning, we get up, get ready, eat a little breakfast (Applejacks for me!), and head on over to the HP Pavilion where the day was going to take place. 9 Sharks alumni were supposed to participate: Jamie Baker, Doug Bodger, David Maley, Bernie Nicholls, Jeff Norton, Jeff Odgers, Ron Stern, and Gary Suter. 7:15 we arrive, and stand around with the other camp participants waiting for them to let us in. Immediately someone was greeting people, and I recognized him to be Lamont Hollywood from 107.7 The Bone. I knew he was supposed to be there, as his name had been added the day before.
Back when I moved out here in 1995, I was scanning the dial looking for a fun morning radio show to listen to. I happened upon 92.3 KSJO, and the Lamont and Tonelli show. I don’t think I stopped laughing the entire way on my morning commute, so from then on I listened to them every morning. Sometimes their stuff got a little vicious (like Dirty Friday), but even when I didn’t listen to them later on after I met Leif, I still remembered what it sounded like. They I found out they moved to 107.7, and I still listen occasionally. I had heard clips of their morning show on my drive home on Friday night, and the clip they played was Lamont laughing about how he was participating in this fantasy camp the next day and how out of shape he was and stuff. I went over and talked to him and told him how much I liked the show and stuff. He was extremely charismatic, very personable, and genuinely seemed glad I liked the show. As we were standing there, one other woman walked up, so it turned out just to be me and her. As the day went on, it became clear I was definitely more outgoing than she was, as I “made the rounds” of the alumni and such.
Finally they let us in, and after checking in they told us how to get to the dressing room. Leif and I were on the home team so we headed to the home team dressing room. The locker room was pretty big, considering normally when we play hockey we’re used to changing on little benches, and we don’t have our own lockers. We each had our own place, with a nametag above it so we knew where to sit. Each spot had a black practice jersey hanging up, black socks, a duffel bag with our name on it (just written), shower shoes, water bottle, a helmet, and a pair of gloves. It was pretty overwhelming I must say. I glanced in the duffel bag, and saw a zip-up sweatshirt, a nice short sleeve shirt, a pair of shorts, and a couple other goodies.
All of us in the room started talking a bit nervously (or maybe that was just me :) while we were changing. A couple of the people had done the fantasy camp 2 years ago (there wasn’t one last year because of the NHL lockout), and were looking forward to doing it again. The Sharks alumni who were going to be on our team filtered in eventually: Jeff Norton, Doug Bodger, Gary Suter, and Dave Maley. Leif’s locker was in the corner, and I was to his left, and around the corner to his right ended up being Jeff Norton. Jeff was easily the most outgoing of the bunch, cracking jokes and laughing.
Once we were all changed, it was close to 8am, and time for our practice to begin. The 2 Sharks assistant coaches, Tim Hunter and Rob Zettler were going to take us through an hour of drills and practice. When I first skated out on the ice, I just kind of stopped and looked around. We were in the Shark Tank, on the ice, in a totally empty arena. It was kind of surreal honestly, but cool just the same. The first thing I noticed after that was that the rink was extremely big – much bigger than we’re used to playing on. We skated around for a bit, warming up, until one of the coaches came on the ice and blew the whistle for us to gather around.
The practice was pretty grueling, not just because we were so out of shape. :) First we had to take a puck, and dribble it around the rink. When they blew the whistle, we had to skate faster, when they blew it again we could slow down. After that drill, it was more of the same, except the second time they blew the whistle we had to turn with the puck towards the boards and skate the other way. I was pretty tired after that drill. Then we did some stretching exercises, and they asked one of the alumni to lead that. Then passing drills where we picked a partner (Leif, obviously for me), and had to do different types of passing. Then we did a real passing drill where we split into 2 lines, and had to pass to the person on the other side of the boards who then took the puck up and tried to score on the goalie. I actually did real well on that one, except for 1 of my passes which was too short. Everything else was good though. :) At some point 2 of the alumni were put in the other zone who we could pass to as we skated towards the goal, and they’d pass it back. I had no trouble with that. Passing to people has actually been one of my strong suits honestly. I’d much rather pass it to set someone up than take it up myself. After that one we played a little 3-3 scrimmage until they blew the whistle to switch up the lines, probably like after a minute or so.
There was a guy with a Fox Sports Net camera filming some of this on the side too.
While all this was going on, a few of the Sharks, who had arrived for their morning practice, had come out to watch what was going on. We saw coach Ron Wilson, Scott Hannan, Christian Ehrhoff, and Scott Parker poke their heads out.
At 9 we were done, and had an hour to shower and change before we were going to go back out to the ice and watch the Sharks morning skate. I have to say, there’s nothing like a shower after hockey when you’re hot and sweaty. Everyone was ready to go close to 9:30, and since no one was on the ice yet, we took this opportunity to chat, eat some of the food that had been left for us (bread, peanut butter, nutella, danishes, Nutrigrain bars), and chug some juice and water from the fridge that we all noticed in the room. There also was a TV in the dressing room as well tuned to some Saturday morning crap which was just on in the background. Also one of the event organizers came into the room and announced that we could get a free massage if we wanted one downstairs, so a bunch of people filed out for that. Lamont showed up in our dressing room at some point with a bunch of Lamont and Tonelli CDs. I had him autograph my Sharks jersey and my CD. We walked out into the rink to watch the Sharks practice and they were already on the ice at 9:55 when we went out there. I told Leif to bring his camera out, even though the instructions said you really shouldn’t take pictures of the practice. I figured we’d do the “ask forgiveness not permission” thing, which ended up working. He didn’t have the big lens for his camera, having given it to Bryan Call since Bryan was going to come to the scrimmage game and take pictures, but ended up getting some decent pictures. While Marleau was leading the Sharks in stretching warmup, Ron Wilson was taking a bunch of shots from the blue line. He’s definitely still got it. All the coaches were messing around with the puck which was fun to watch. The Sharks went off the ice close to 10:30, but 3 of them (Jim Fahey, Doug Murray, Nabokov) stayed on with the assistant coaches, and did a bunch of extra practice. Leif and I were under the assumption that that meant Nabokov was going to start that night, but we found out later that they were all healthy scratches and since they weren’t playing they get some extra practice to stay in shape.
Towards the end of that, I saw the camera guy setting up somewhere behind us, and some coordinator was standing with him. I thought he might be Jeff, the guy I’ve been talking to over email so much about the event, and one of the guys who was setting it up, so I wanted to go and thank him for making it fun so far. I walked up to him, and it turned out he was Sean, the producer of Shark Byte. I started talking to him a little bit, and mentioned something about me and my husband having a lot of fun so far. He asked me if my husband was there then, and I said, “yeah, he’s sitting over there”, and pointed out Leif to him. He then asked if he could interview us for Shark Byte because he thought it was cool that there was a husband and wife team doing the event. Apparently there was also a family of 4, the dad and the 3 kids who were all early 30’s, and he had interviewed them as well. I knew Leif wasn’t going to be happy, but it was Shark Byte, so I wasn’t going to give him a choice. I called him over, told him what was going on, he looked skeptical, but I told him I wasn’t giving him an option in this, and I’d talk more than him if he wanted. Sean took us over to the little video area they had set up just behind where we were sitting, and the camera guy gave us little mikes and stuff to put on, all the while Sean was talking to us, I guess trying to relax us since I told him I’d never been interviewed like that on camera before, then he asked if we were ready, and started going. The power of TV. He told us just to keep talking and we could repeat ourselves if we wanted and they’d edit it later. I think I sounded pretty stupid since I tried to be funny at one point (my sense of humor) but probably fell completely flat, so I’m hoping they cut that part out. He asked us things like how we met, and how long we’d been married, and stuff about hockey, and what we wanted to get out of the day. I talked most of the time, but Leif answered a bunch of stuff as well. Sean said he was going to give me the video footage even if they don’t use it, so that’ll be cool, but I’m hoping they use a little of it at least.
The Coyotes started practicing after this, and we all thought Wayne Gretzky was going to come out and skate like Ron Wilson did, but he didn’t. I went back to the locker room at that point to go to the bathroom, and noticed they had put out our game jerseys. Wow......authentic Sharks jerseys....the black ones...with our names on them! I just stood there for a minute and looked at all of them, and stupid me was so in awe that I completely forgot to take a picture. Oh well. On my way back out, I passed Doug Wilson, the Sharks GM, who said hi to me, then we watched Coyotes practice.
At 11:40, we were ushered to The Grill for a buffet lunch of chicken, pasta, salad, and rolls. On the way there we passed Doug Wilson again who was saying hi to everyone, and I stopped and said to him, “Mr. Wilson, I just wanted to tell you that was a fantastic trade, the Thornton one.” He smiled and said “thank you, but make sure to call me Doug.” Leif and I sat with 2 other random people we didn’t know and had just met, and the 4 of us were enjoying a leisurely lunch, when Jamie Baker sat down at our table and we started talking to him. One of the guys asked him exactly what Brendon Witt had said to Scott Parker in Nashville/Sharks game to make Scott Parker try to climb over the boards and kill him, but Jamie said he didn’t know since he was too far away to hear. I asked him my dying-to-know announcer question – do they practice how they say “SCORRRRRE” so it comes out with the right excitement and intonation? He laughed and said that he never said it, that only Dan Rusinowsky does, and that Dan was in the room sitting at another table. He pointed him out to me, I made a mental note of that so I could talk to him later on.
At some point we were ushered out into the hall to take a picture with Doug who had to act like we were just drafted, so the picture was with him and whomever holding a Sharks jersey, shaking hands, and smiling into the camera. When it was my turn he remembered me from before, and I said hi and told him my name since I hadn’t before. We went back to lunch and were sitting there talking, and Doug came up to our table, said something to Jamie, and then asked us if he could sit down and have lunch with us. Of course we said he could, so he got a plate of food and came back, and saw me and said “Hi Michelle”. What was actually funny about that, is that throughout the day, most people remembered my name just because I was one of the only girls, but hey, I didn’t mind, I just thought it was cool that for one day Doug Wilson knew who I was. I must say, he was taking a big chance with having lunch with us because he had to have known we were going to start asking him question after question, which we did, and he took it all in stride, and answered us. We did get an answer to the Brendon Witt question, and it turned out it wasn’t Witt who said anything, but some other guy further down on the bench (who made some crack about Parker’s family or something like that (the camera was filming Wilson at that point, so he chose his language carefully)), but Witt was the closest to Parker. We talked to him about goalies, like how we all liked Schaefer, and he said there were goalies up and coming that the Sharks have that were even better than him. Drew Remenda from the TV broadcasts showed up to say something to Jamie so I got a picture with him. I decided to go talk to Dan before he left because it looked like he was going to leave soon. I introduced myself to him, and told him how much I enjoyed the broadcasts since for so many of the away games I’m still at work when the game starts so I listen to the streaming audio. He was extremely nice, and actually talked almost more than I did. :) I asked him the same radio announcer question that I had asked Jamie, and he said it’s definitely something acquired over time and he’s had a lot of time to practice it and get it so it sounds right. I also asked him about doing research before the game and how much time they put into it since when they’re doing the play-by-play they don’t have a lot of time to look at an actual cheat sheet and figure out who actually has the puck. He showed me a large packet of paper and said that they get something like that before every game, and basically will spend all day going through it, figuring out what tidbits of information they can and want to use, since there’s no way they can figure that out during the game, and they do their best to learn the players at that point.
I took a picture of Dave Maley with Leif’s camera, and talked with him a little, and he asked if I could take a picture of all the alumni since Doug was there too, and his camera is just a little bitty one. I pulled Leif into this since he’s the camera expert, Dave got all the alums together, and we snapped a picture which I told him I’d put up on my Flickr account and email him on Sunday. Lunch soon ended, and it was time to get ready for the big game...