Dallas, Texas, USA.
April 29th, 2008.
At 4:30 pm Pacific time, the city of San Jose was still lit ablaze with the high California sun. Many people weren't even out of work yet, and the heat of the coming summer had seeped into everyone's clothes. But in downtown's Gordon Biersch Brewery, the people inside were focused on a game on ice occurring several states and time zones away. They came to see their Sharks play, and there I met up with fellow Bleacher Report writer, Vincent Bergado.
He offered a open seat, and a recommendation of the garlic fries. I took both up, and we soon occupied ourselves with our own pre-game analysis of the series. If that bar's marble and mahogany counter had been decorated with a broadcaster's logo, observers would have mistaken our talk for a banter between two TV analysts. Vince thought the big key was to rattle Dallas goalie Marty Turco early, with gritty play in front of the crease. I thought it was more important that the Sharks played the body relentlessly, and force turnovers.
Soon, the puck was dropped and the fifty people gathered around the bar's TVs watched with intense focus. They groaned and shouted with every big hit and scoring opportunity, as if they were amongst the arena's stands and they players could hear them.
The energy was intoxicating, and even I became a crazed Shark fan when Patrick Marleau went on a breakaway late in the 1st period. As he broke free from the mob of Dallas defensemen and kicked his legs into high gear, the bar's patrons screamed at him to go faster (as if he was merely a horse at the race track, and all the life savings had been placed on him). Marleau whipped a shot top corner for a goal, and the patrons raised their arms in applause and high fives. When a Devin Setoguchi shot on Turco almost trickled into the goal early in the 2nd period, the bar was shaken with anger and rabid cursing.
I had to leave for my class in the nearby university, so I said my goodbyes to Vincent. We clasped hands like brothers of a special society would, despite our differences (my main team is the rival Anaheim Ducks). For that night, we were all Sharks fanatics.
In the classroom, several of my classmates grudgingly endured not being able to see their team played. With my laptop, I gave them updates on the score. There was even talk of possibly finishing class as soon as possible, then running to a nearby pizza place to watch the end. The Dallas Stars had tied, and the game went into overtime. One classmate clenched her hair in frustration.
"Oh my," our professor said, with all hints of happiness wiped from her face. Even she worried over the fate of the Sharks, it seemed.
After a in-class activity was completed, I opened the web page again (NHL.com's Jacked In feature provided real-time updates). The score for overtime:
Sharks - 1 Stars - 2
The girl next to me gasped, and the room suddenly felt somber.
"You're kidding me!" another classmate shouted and banged on the table, "You've got to be kidding me!"
It was as if someone had died. In a sense, that was true: the Sharks' playoff hopes are now on life-support. Dallas now led the series 3-0, and they are now positioned to finish things off on Wednesday.
When class ended and I walked out into the bone-rattling cold of the night, I felt sadness for my adopted playoff team. At least it was a great experience while it lasted.
NEXT GAME: Wednesday, April 30 9 pm ET on Versus (joined in progress)