I never thought I’d see a lion walking arm in fin with a shark, but those kinds of things are the norm at the NHL Mascot Showdown. Why else would I be watching a rousing game of musical chairs in the first place?
The San Jose Sharks played host to this year’s NHL All-Star Game. As season ticket holders, Chuck and I got early dibs on tickets. Going to an All-Star Game seemed like a natural evolution in my love for the Sharks. I’d been to a Stanley Cup game and loads of playoff games, fan events and just about any other Sharks-related gathering, so why not add this hockey spectacle to my résumé?
Typically, professional sports all-star games are pretty bland. The game doesn’t count for anything, so the players don’t try as hard because no one wants to get injured in the middle of the season. I get it.
I wasn’t quite sure what I’d get out of going to the All-Star Game other than to say I’d gone. I wasn’t interested in seeing the “best” players from the other teams. I bleed teal and have done so for 10 years. It’s my Shark or no one. When I heard my favorite player Brent Burns was selected to play at the All-Star event, I finally started to get excited about going.
But it wasn’t until I learned about the NHL Mascot Showdown that I became eager to absorb all things All-Star. All 29 costumed characters were scheduled to descend on San Jose at the end of January to engage in battles such as dodgeball, a dance off, and a real hockey game on ice at SAP Center. I’m sure the game between the human hockey players would be fine, but I was more interested in the mascots.
Chuck bought me a large plush S.J. Sharkie after we went to our first Sharks game 10 years ago. I knew nothing about the team — or the sport, for that matter — when I first started watching hockey with Chuck, so I decided Sharkie would be main man — or fish, in this case. I adore his antics and I’m always excited when I see him at games. Sharkie never fails to make me smile.
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The first time I saw Sharkie outside of a hockey arena I literally ran across a football field for a chance at a hug. I was at a Relay For Life fundraiser. I was at my team’s booth when I saw Sharkie across the field. I’m not sure what got into me, but I took off running. And I’m rarely inclined to run. I typically only run if I’m being chased. Suddenly, I was the predator rushing toward my prey.
When I caught up to Sharkie, I stood in front of him with my arms wide open. He embraced me immediately and promptly bit me on head, which I would soon learn is a sign of affection. The bite was accompanied by kissing sounds, and I was head over heels with happiness. Thankfully, my friend saw me running and chased after me with a camera, and I have a photo of this meeting.
When it comes to mascots, I am willing to put aside my difference for the other teams. At the NHL Mascot Showdown, I cheered as each mascot was introduced. The crowd booed Bailey, the lion mascot representing the L.A. Kings (#BeatLA), but I clapped anyway. Isn’t this the one weekend where we can just be friends?
When Sharkie took Bailey by the arm to take the first laps during musical chairs, I was proud of my mascot’s sportsmanship. Call me crazy, but I don’t mind living in a world where a shark and lion can be best friends.
And in divisive times like these, it was refreshing to see a polar bear high-five an orca, a moose hug a coyote, and a Gritty, well, just be Gritty. If anything, this weekend gave me a deeper love for hockey as a sport, but nothing will tear me away from my Sharks.