BRITTANY HERSH | STAFF WRITER
A hush falls over the crowd as a man with a large mustache, button down shirt and jeans gets ready to sing the National Anthem in an uncharacteristically operatic tone when from behind me I hear a distinct, familiar voice scream out:
“Hey Anaheim!” to which the entire arena responds, “You Suck!”
This is the type of culture I come from—hockey culture that is. On a typical Saturday night during hockey season, the San Jose Sharks play to a sellout crowd at the HP Pavilion.
Currently, it is playoff season and true to custom, men of all ages in the Bay Area are growing out their playoff beards in solidarity with the Sharks. In Los Angeles the Kings have made it to the playoffs as the sixth seat but looking around no one would know it.
This illustration is an example of the difference between Northern and Southern Californian hockey culture, an awareness I have cultivated over the time I have been going to college in Southern California.
Before understanding the inner workings of fan reactions, the stadium atmosphere must first be examined. In Anaheim, the Honda Center had reddish-brown marble floors with gold colored hand rails. The HP Pavilion has white marble floors with standard hand rails. The glamorous, over the top feel at the Honda Center does not feel like people are attending a sporting event.
At the Honda center scantily clad women sell Budweiser beer while at the Shark Tank fully clothed women and men sell Gordon Biersch beer behind a stand. While advertisers are doing their job selling to a mainly male audience, men are going to buy beer at sporting events anyways and women just get plain offended.
When it comes time to sweep up the excess ice around the goalie net between plays, women in black spandex come out, while in San Jose this job is done by older men in windbreaker outfits.
As a woman, these blatant displays of marketing to men are offensive and as a result, make me annoyed so that I am distracted from the game itself. The atmosphere at the Honda Center focuses on status and marketing rather than the hockey, which sets the stage for fan reactions.
Sharks fans are by far some of the rowdiest fans in hockey. The crowd is full of standard characters like the “You Suck” and “Move your feet” guys. Whether you are an avid follower or on a date with that special guy or girl, the spirit is contagious. Almost every person is showing off some form of Sharks swagger and the line at the store has a ten minute wait between periods.
Tension hangs in the air when the other team has a power play in the last few minutes of the game and a loud shout of approval and sigh of relieve resounds in unison when Nabby has an amazing save or the Sharks clear the puck from their zone.
The second a goal is scored a rousing cheer and high fives consume the crowd as the entire stadium is on their feet screaming “Hey!” to Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll Part 2.” When the Sharks get a power play the crowd moves their arms up and down to the Jaws theme song with their fingers acting as the teeth.
After goalie Evgeni “Nabby” Nabokov makes an unbelievable save “Nabby” is chanted throughout the arena. Even the fans get rewarded because when the Sharks get “four in the net, pizza you get.” Roundtable pizza gives free personal pan pizzas to every fan with a ticket for up to a week. My entire family and I scour the floor and trash after the game for thrown out tickets, sadly, a trend which has recently caught on.
Around the Bay Area posters of Thornton and Nabokov are sold out in every sports store and license plates with the Sharks logo can be seen on many cars. Local businesses throughout the Bay Area have signs that read “This is Sharks Territory” in their windows. It is that small town support feeling in an area a hundred times bigger. People respect the Sharks and know who they are whether they watch hockey or not. Sharks fans are diehard and intense, something which cannot be said about Duck fans who come late and leave early.
There are no characters, no gigantic sighs of relief, no theme songs, no free food and no chanting. The atmosphere is so docile that it seems like no one is paying attention and the people watching are more worried about getting beer on their hundred dollar outfit than missing a memorable moment. Sharks fans go to the tank for a purpose—to watch hockey, while Duck fans go to the pond for something to do.
In finishing I would like to let everyone who is reading this know that the Ducks did not make it to the playoffs this year and that the Kings only made the sixth seat while the Sharks are the best in the west with the number one seat. GO SHARKS!