I’ll Melt With You
By: A.J. Hayes, Dec 13, 2007
Tags: Bay Area, Sports |
Sharks Setoguchi warms to San Jose
For a guy whose San Jose expertise was limited to the city’s vague geographical location prior to being drafted by the Sharks, rookie winger Devin Setoguchi has quickly become an advocate for the Silicon Valley lifestyle.
“I knew San Jose was somewhere in California. But beyond that … ,” said Setoguchi, 20. “But how can you not fall in love with a place where you can wake up any morning and walk outside in shorts and a T-shirt, while it’s freezing back home.”
“Back home” for Setoguchi is Taber, Alberta, a Canadian farming community where the potato rules and weather above two degrees, during the fall and winter, does not.
“Even when people here in San Jose say it’s cold and they’re all bundled up, I say, ‘You think this is cold? Ha!’” said Setoguchi, who wears No. 16 on his Sharks teal. “Plus, the Japanese food is great here. In Taber, there’s one restaurant, Osho’s; it’s great, but you can’t beat variety.”
While Setoguchi is enjoying the sashimi and basking in the California warmth during his off time, he’s making a name for himself on the ice.
The husky 6-foot, 205 pounder has become one of the league’s top rookies, scoring seven goals during his first dozen games. Just 20 years old, Setoguchi is one of the youngest players to ever start for the Sharks.
“Every kid in Canada dreams about playing at this level,” Setoguchi said. “I’m having a blast.”
Also having a blast is Setoguchi family. Parents Dale and Kathy recently visited for a week, watching Devin score his first NHL points.
“It’s shocking — surreal might be a better word,” said Dale, 49, a second-generation native Japanese Canadian potato farmer and hockey fanatic. “We knew Devin had a chance, but as a parent, you’re trained to be cautious and not get too carried away.”
Devin credits his parents with giving him the emotional and financial support to chase his hockey dreams. Dale — who played a season of semi-pro hockey in Japan and still competes in a senior league in Taber — tutored Devin on the finer points of ice work, while Kathy supplied the hot cocoa and marshmallows and helmed the family station wagon to games and practices.
Plus, his parents spared him from spending too much time working the farm.
“At first farm work was fun, until the accident,” Devin said. “After that, it was hockey for me.”
The “accident” happened when Devin was 10. Helping to move some heavy farming equipment, Devin’s right index finger got squished, and he lost the tip of the digit.
“It was pretty ugly — the finger was cut to the bone, and there was a lot of blood,” Dale said. “That was kind of a turnoff to farm work for him, and I really can’t blame him. But he wasn’t getting off easy; there really isn’t much physical labor for a kid to do on the farm any more, like when I was growing up. So much is automated.”
Devin’s great-grandparents immigrated to British Columbia from Japan in the early 20th century. His ancestors flourished in North America until Canada entered the World War II conflict. Like Japanese Americans, Japanese Canadians were cruelly uprooted from their homes and imprisoned in internment camps. Devin’s grandparents spent considerable time behind razor wire.
After the war, with their homes and businesses stripped, the families diligently started a new life in Alberta, learning the agriculture business from the ground up.
“They never talked about the camps and didn’t dwell on the negativity of it. They picked up and started again,” Dale said. “In the 1980s, Canada did offer an official apology and paid out reparations, but they could never get back that time they spent in isolation.”
While farming has been the Setoguchi family business for decades, Devin hopes it’ll be awhile before he has to start counting potato eyes before hockey goals.
“San Jose has developed this tradition of having the best fans in the NHL and doing everything it can to put a winning club on the ice,” the winger said in his friendly Alberta accent. “If I can keep shooting and using my skating speed, hopefully I’m here to stay for a long time.”
Squishy finger. :(