Owen Nolan's Top 5 Moments with the San Jose Sharks
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Last week, the most important hockey player in San Jose Sharks history announced his retirement.
Patrick Marleau is a more skilled and accomplished player who is almost certain to have a longer career. If one player personifies this franchise, it is Patty.
Doug Wilson was one of the first Sharks leaders and is now their general manager. He is a Hall of Famer in his former role (an honour that is no given for Nolan) and is on his way to assembling a team that makes eight straight playoffs and probably five straight division titles, though Sunday's performance did not help that goal.
But no one meant more than Nolan. He was the best player on a team that was fighting to be relevant in the NHL. Sure, it had already won a playoff series against the vaunted Detroit Red Wings (though less vaunted at that time), but they were never contenders or even pretenders before Nolan came along.
Nolan's last official NHL game was April 4, 2010. But being the fighter he was, he refused to give up on his career for 22 months after that. As recently as this September, he was in a Vancouver Canucks uniform trying to make the team against San Jose.
Finally, on February 7, he announced he would hang up the skates. This is a time for nostalgia, looking back at the greatest moments of his career with the franchise.
5. Gordie Howe Hat Trick No. 1
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Regular hat tricks are far more common feats than Gordie Howe hat tricks. Owen Nolan had 11 of the former over his career, but just two Howe tricks.
That is one reason to place them above conventional hat tricks on this list. They are also a better homage to a power forward who balanced skill and toughness.
After enlisting the help of the Bleacher Report support team (a time-consuming event because, unlike paid journalists, we devote time elsewhere for income), I was informed that Nolan's first accomplishment of the feat was December 2, 1995. His second came later that season.
4. Named Team Captain in 1998
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It is a great honour to be named captain of your team. Owen Nolan had that great responsibility bestowed on him in October of 1998 and held it until traded at the deadline in 2003.
In that capacity, he played in 349 games, scored 132 goals, 154 assists, was plus-17 and had 498 PIM.
3. Called Shot Hat Trick Goal in All-Star Game
Maybe a Gordie Howe hat trick is a more appropriate and noteworthy feat than a conventional one for a power forward like Owen Nolan. And maybe hat tricks are not that uncommon in the All-Star Game.
However, this one was special in a few ways:
1. It was at a time when teams did not routinely score 10 goals in this game.
2. It was in front of the home fans.
3. He called his shot (see above video).
So why is it not higher on the list? Because no matter the thrill, the All-Star Game was an exhibition. Nothing done means as much as anything accomplished in the playoffs.
2. Becoming the First 40-Goal Scorer in Sharks History
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In 1999-2000, Owen Nolan had a career year.
He scored 44 goals, had 40 assists, a minus-1 rating and 110 penalty minutes. That combination of penalty minutes and scoring made him the NHL leader in "intimidation quotient" according to The Hockey News. He also led the league with 18 power-play goals and added four short-handed markers and six game-winners.
But from an historical perspective, his great accomplishment was being the first Shark with 40 goals. While the Sharks were not even a decade old as an organization and would come to have many more 40-goal scorers, no one can take away Nolan's spot as its first.
1. Centre Ice Playoff Game-Winner
Nothing beats a game-winner in the playoffs. Owen Nolan had seven of them in his career—five in 40 playoff games for the Sharks and two against them in three wins for the Calgary Flames.
But one of them stands alone. In Game 7 against the St. Louis Blues in 2000, he launched a slapshot from centre ice in the final seconds of the period, beating Roman Turek. It stood up as the series-clinching goal as the eighth-seeded Sharks defeated the Presidents' Trophy winners on their own ice.