Sharks soak in the love from fans during NHL All-Star Weekend

SAN JOSE — As the rest of the Pacific Division skated off to the locker room following their 10-4 defeat to the Central Division in the first game of the 2019 NHL All-Star Game, Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and Joe Pavelski stayed on the ice to say thank you.

The three San Jose Sharks were enjoying their final moments of a memorable few days after their city played host to All-Star Weekend. The sold out SAP Center gave the love right back, as they had all weekend.

Sharks fans made their presence known during Friday’s All-Star Media Day at City National Civic Auditorium. As other NHL All-Stars were being interview at their individual pods in the center of the floor, Let’s Go Sharks! chants were heard. Then, when the three Sharks players were introduced for their turns with the media, the volume inside grew even louder.

“For this weekend to come to San Jose, it’s just a celebration of a lot of great players coming together for the game,” said Pavelski. “It’s fun playing [the All-Star Game] in the city you play for. Every time our names got announced or we stepped on the ice you could hear the little extra roars. That was pretty cool to be a part of.”

There wasn’t much for Sharks fans to cheer about during the game, however. Karlsson did score twice and Burns added another, but the Pacific’s night ended earlier than expected.

“The crowd was awesome,” said Burns. “Good energy.”

“Terrible outcome,” added a laughing Karlsson. “It’s been a while since I scored, so I was happy about that.”

It had been 22 years since San Jose hosted All-Star Weekend, and over that time there’s been a trend upward for the on-the-ice product and what’s happening in the community. The Sharks have only missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs three times since the 1997 All-Star game took place, which has helped grow the area into a very strong hockey market. 

Pavelski, one of longest-tenured Sharks, has personally seen the impact hockey in the area has made.

“Right when I came in [in 2006] the Shark Tank [has] been loud and awesome to play in and the fans have been great,” he said. “I haven’t seen that change over the course of years. I’ve got a kid playing youth hockey and there’s not that much available ice time for them. They only skate a couple times a week and there’s a lot of kids on the ice, so there’s a good youth movement going on here where kids are just loving to play the game and we could use more ice. They play roller hockey, everything here, so there’s a good passion for the game.”

Karlsson is the new guy to the Bay Area. After spending the first nine years of his NHL career in Ottawa, his trade to the Sharks in September bolstered the franchise’s hopes to win their first Cup, but also left a question about his future unanswered. The 28-year-old defenseman can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. He’s currently eligible to sign a seven-year extension with the Sharks, but once the Feb. 25 trade deadline passes he can ink for the max eight years. 

He wasn’t going to discuss his future this weekend, but in the four months he’s been in San Jose, he’s seen what kind of market it’s become and just how strong of an organization that he’s now a part of.

“I always knew the Shark Tank was a building that was tough to play in, it was always full and loud,” he said. “But I was surprised about the Bay Area in general, how many sports fans we have, and Sharks fans. That was something I didn’t know. I think that this weekend just reiterated that, so it’s been a pleasant surprise.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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