And I have more spammage. So much Sharks love. *sniffles*
Just child's play
San Jose GM brings fun atmosphere to the rink
By STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA
SAN JOSE -- One of the framed jerseys that hang in Doug Wilson's office looks as if it shrunk in the wash many years ago.
The Ottawa 67s sweater wouldn't fit any junior player, never mind the skinniest teenage hockey enthusiast.
Its significance, though, is massive in the eyes of the San Jose Sharks GM who used to wear that cream colored jersey with green trim.
"That's my peewee jersey," said Wilson. "That's when I was 12 years of age."
How the old jersey came to adorn his wall was a bit of an accident but the message Wilson tries to instil in his players with his decor made it appropriate and it has remained up there ever since.
"When I look back, it was put up and I looked at it and said, 'You know, that makes sense,' " Wilson said. "Because I want our guys playing like they're 12."
Hockey is a game. Games are supposed to be fun. When was hockey ever more fun than when you were a kid pretending to be your idol, whether it was Gordie Howe, Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux? Teams and players that have fun also have success. Wilson learned that from his idol, Bobby Orr.
"I had the privilege of playing with Bobby the last year that he played," he said. "He was my idol growing up -- I think he was the greatest player that ever played."
The two were both members of the Chicago Blackhawks as the former Boston Bruins great wrapped up his NHL career with six games in 1978-79.
In Wilson's office, beside his 67s keepsake, hangs another framed sweater, one Orr wore as a member of the OHA's Oshawa Generals in the mid-1960s. This one is autographed and the two mementoes make a fine pair.
The message Sharks players can take away when they leave Wilson's office is the same one Orr passed onto Wilson when he was just 21 and starting out his professional career.
"Bobby loved the game," said Wilson. "He truly loved hockey."
That's the attitude the GM looks for in his players and is one reason the Sharks are still battling for the Pacific Division title with two more games to play in this regular season.
"You want people that are hockey rats. You can't get them off the ice, they want to come to the rink with a smile on their face.
"That's what I looked up to and that's how we view the game," said Wilson, who acquired the perfect role model when he made a blockbuster deal for Joe Thornton last season.
"Joe Thornton is a big kid. We couldn't keep him off the ice. He's got a broken foot, broken finger, he's got strep throat, he comes in with that big grin and says, 'OK, what's up for today?' We couldn't get him to not practise."
Others may be feeling ill, tired or unmotivated but can't help being lifted when their leader plays through it all.
"There's this big goof out there saying, 'Hey, let's play hockey,' " said Wilson.
"(Jonathan Cheechoo) is the same way, Joe Pavelski's the same way, Scotty Hannan's that way. I'd be hard-pressed to say one of our guys that isn't. It's contagious.
"I'm proud of our group that way. That's how we've tried to build this group of players."
With a 12-year-old's enthusiasm of and a hockey sense honed by experience, the perennially competitive Sharks again have a chance at a championship.
"This is their opportunity to accomplish their childhood dream," said Wilson. "Win a Stanley Cup."