Features & Columns

Memory Bites

A trip to the Sharks-Senators game conjures up memories of hockey watching in the '70s
IN OTTAWA'S WAY: The Sharks defend against an Ottawa shot at last Thursday's game.

THE anti-man-about-town resurfaced at HP Pavilion just last week to experience the Sharks taking on the Ottawa Senators. He had not been to a game in many years.

The experience threw him into a space-time-shattering vortex where past, present and future expanded like a rubber band and then snapped back to reality. It brought back memories of when he first watched hockey as a kid, and, more recently, when he traveled to Ottawa a few times.

Originally, the author watched hockey as a little tike, back in the late '70s, when the pioneering San Jose company, Gill Cable, broadcast New York Rangers games on a regular basis. Just before ESPN emerged to cannibalize everything, Gill offered "The Sports Channel" on 13A, and Phil Esposito, Ron Duguay and Anders Hedberg were stars for the Rangers.

Exactly why the Rangers were featured, I still don't recall, but that was indeed the case. At that time, not all the players were required to wear helmets, and Duguay was the rock-star-looking character with long curly hair and no helmet. He stood out on the ice wherever he went. The future anti-man-about-town was inspired.

Those were also the days when basic TV service topped out at 12 channels, but Gill Cable offered 24 channels via a dual-cable line and a manual two-position A/B switch. That way, one didn't need to install a converter.

Even better, depending on which part of San Jose one lived in, the technician would have to crawl under your house, through the slime and spiders, in order to install the dual-cable line. That was even more inspiring.

I only knew the basic rules of the sport, but I did collect hockey cards for a few seasons. Sadly, by the time the Sharks arrived, my interests had changed; I was on to other exploits, so I wasn't among the heroes who slogged it up to the Cow Palace for those first two seasons.

Right or wrong, my interest in the sport did not resume until I began traveling to Canada around 2003. If one goes to that country on a regular basis, it is difficult not to come back a hockey fan. Not that every citizen worships the sport, but generally speaking, it's in their blood, their lingo, their sense of humor, everything.

In particular, two different trips to Ottawa brought me to a few museums. The Canadian Museum of Civilization, right on the other side of the river, in Gatineau, Quebec, staged an exhibition of the iconic Montreal forward, Maurice "the Rocket" Richard, as well as the violence and ethno-political battles his legacy supposedly intertwined with.

Another exhibit at the Canadian War Museum included an Anglophone wearing a Leafs jersey, a Francophone wearing a Habs jersey and an indigenous fan in Vancouver Canucks gear—all watching a humorous TV version of the battle that created Canada. From the places I went and the people I spent time with, I began to contemplate the country as a traveler, but through the lens of hockey. And vice-versa.

So, sitting there at the game last week, the anti-man-about-town conjured up a bouillabaisse of connections between San Jose and Ottawa. Hell, it was easy.

Sharks GM Doug Wilson is from Ottawa originally. He played junior hockey for the Ottawa 67's in the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA), as did two current Sharks—Jamie McGinn and Logan Couture—who were selected in the NHL Entry Drafts of 2006 and '07 respectively.

Current Ottawa forward Milan Michalek played several seasons with San Jose before they traded him to Ottawa in 2009.

Following the game last week, the Sharks headed out on a three-game Canadian road trip before the all-star break. Sharks coach Todd McLellan and Logan Couture will represent San Jose at the NHL All-Star Game, which is in Ottawa this Sunday.

Back during the dotcom boom, Ottawa was also known as Silicon Valley North. The suburban sprawl of nearby Kanata was the site of numerous high-tech firms and still remains the locale of Scotiabank Place, home ice of the Senators.

Even though the Sharks lost the game, everything conjured up thoughts of the past, present and future. Ron Duguay, slime-covered San Jose cable TV technicians and the glorious capital city of Ottawa. I thank you all for the inspiration. And futurewise, may the Sharks bring home the Stanley Cup soon.