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Sharks sign Northern California native free agent

The Sharks made history as they signed Bay Area native Sena Acolatse to an entry-level contract. Acolatse was raised in Hayward, Calif. and picked up the game of hockey before moving to Edmonton. The signing is the first Bay Area signing for the Sharks.

Signing Acolatse is in no way a PR stunt — the guy can play. Playing for the Prince George Cougars this season, he’s been one of the best undrafted defensemen in the WHL. He won player of the week honors by dropping 11 points in a single week in October. Bottom line is the offensive-minded defenseman was signed by the Sharks because he’s a good prospect. Period.

It’s a great story when a prospect is afforded the opportunity to sign with his childhood team. To be sure, Acolatse was all about the Sharks when he was growing up.

“I can 100 percent say the San Jose Sharks were the reason I started hockey. I remember Mike Ricci was on the team and Jeff Friesen and Owen Nolan. Mike Vernon was in net. Marco Sturm was there, too. I’d have to say my favorite player was Ricci at the time.”

From a big-picture point of view, this is just another milestone in the growth of hockey in the United States. Recently, hockey has been growing at an incredible pace in the non-traditional sunbelt markets. Specifically, California has show a boom of young prospects as of late. There were two southern California natives drafted in the first round of last year’s draft in Beau Bennett (PIT) and Emerson Etem (ANA). Nashville Predators rookie defenseman Jonathan Blum was born and raised in Southern California before moving to the Vancouver Giants in the WHL.

Now, Northern California is getting into the act.

Here are the 10 oldest players to play a game this season

Jaromir Jagr
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This isn’t breaking news or anything. We just thought you’d like to know that three of the NHL’s 10 oldest players (who’ve played at least one game this season) are members of the Florida Panthers.

Oh, and the Panthers’ starting goalie? He’s the oldest starter in the league. (Scroll down.)

Here’s the list of skaters, topped by 43-year-old Jaromir Jagr:


Yet another veteran Panther, 36-year-old defenseman Brian Campbell, ranks 17th on the list.

Granted, the above list does not include 39-year-old Patrik Elias (who’s hurt) or 39-year-old Eric Boulton (who just re-signed with the Isles). As soon as those two play, Thornton will get pushed out of the top 10.

Now here’s the list of goalies who’ve started at least one game this season, topped by 36-year-old Roberto Luongo:


For the record, Luongo isn’t the oldest goalie under contract. That would be Minnesota’s Niklas Backstrom, who’s 37.

Related: Can Florida’s old guys hang on while the young guys get better?

Hamburglar (groin) returns, Sens demote O’Connor

Andrew Hammond
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Matt O'Connor‘s time in the Canadian capital was brief, but still noteworthy.

O’Connor, the losing netminder in Sunday’s “Battle of the Backups” against Montreal — Habs No. 2 Mike Condon got the win — has been sent down to AHL Binghamton to pave the way for Andrew Hammond‘s return from a groin injury, per the Sun.

The Hamburglar has been out since the preseason, but his return is earlier than expected.

He was originally supposed to miss the first two weeks, yet now sounds as though he’ll play one of Ottawa’s two games on an upcoming road trip through Columbus and Pittsburgh.

It’s going to be interesting to see if Hammond can replicate the success he had last season, when he came out of nowhere to go 20-1-2 with a 1.79 GAA and .941 save percentage, and finish seventh in Vezina voting.