Although teams are not playing regular-season games on this day, Sept. 6 is one of the most significant dates in San Jose Sharks history. It not only was the day that their name was decided, but it was the inaugural practice for the fresh team and brought San Jose arguably their most important trade at that time.
Naming the Franchise
Following over 5,000 fan submissions for potential team names, the new San Francisco Bay Area NHL team finally landed on the ‘Sharks’. This name was officially coined by the team on Sept. 6, 1990. Though some of the fan submissions were obvious refusals, such as Rubber Puckies, Screaming Squids and Salty Dogs, the team still had a tough time deciding between other titles. The top choices included the Blades, Grizzlies and Sharks. If one was to think that choosing a team name was easy, the process this new team went through would prove them wrong.
Originally, ‘Sharks’ was the runner up and ‘Blades’ won the most votes. However, the owners of the team did not want the new group negatively associated with weapons (no offense, Buffalo Sabres!) and decided that the runner-up title would have to suffice. In retrospect, San Jose Blades certainly does not have the same ring to it. Vice President of Marketing and Broadcast, Matt Levine, said at the time, “Sharks are relentless, determined, swift, agile, bright and fearless,” which is everything the team aspired to (from ‘Los Altos resident recalls his role in shaping NHL’s San Jose Sharks,’ Los Altos Town Crier, 03/07/2012). This team name led to the Sharks acquiring the best logo, and jerseys in the entire league. No, this is not biased.
When their inaugural season took off, though they had limited fans, everyone wanted Sharks apparel. Whether this has to do with the beautiful teal colouring or the logo, no one can be quite sure. As well, the name brought to the franchise unique home entrances for every game. Albeit a tad cheesy, without coining the ‘Sharks’ on that fateful day in 1990, no one would have the pleasure of watching them seemingly emerge from a shark mouth every home game.
The first practice of the Sharks took place on Sept. 6, 1991. The 22nd NHL team to join the league was not composed in a traditional fashion. Half of the team was stocked through the traditional expansion draft and the other half came from the Minnesota North Stars. Under the terms of Minnesota’s agreement, they were allotted 14 players and two goalies to protect from trade.
This meant that the Sharks were awarded the bottom tier players from this team. However, the first practice put all the trade talk behind them, as they began to work together as a new team. Unfortunately, their initial practice kicked off the team’s “year of chaos.” The first time the team stepped onto ice together, there was little familiarity between the players and the coaches were at a loss.
After winning their second-ever home game, the Sharks proceeded to lose their next 13. To some players, their inaugural season did not even feel real and they were reported saying, “We knew we weren’t going to win anyway so why not just have some fun.” It is evident that the first practice set the tone and mindset for the rest of their season, as they finished it off with a total of 58 losses. But brighter days were ahead.
Acquiring Doug Wilson
The trade for the Sharks’ first-ever captain was finalized on Sept. 6, 1991. Doug Wilson had spent the entirety of his 14-year career with the Chicago Blackhawks. He departed from the club as their highest-scoring defenseman in goals and assists, and had won the Norris Trophy for top defender in the 1981-82 season. Though Wilson had a no-trade clause in his contract, he approved this deal following three turbulent seasons.
Though he was popular in Chicago, it was made evident he would not be returning in the 1991-92 season, and the Sharks acted quickly on this opportunity. Wilson was traded for a young prospect and a future draft choice and finalized his new deal the same day of his first practice, with his new team that he was about to lead. Though the results on the ice of Wilson’s two-year captaincy were grim, he had to be given the benefit of the doubt.
Related: San Jose Sharks – A Brief History
He was not only asked to captain a team of low-tier players, but one that wasn’t a real team at all yet. The highlight of his captaincy was the experience that he gave the younger players. Due to his decline in ability and persistent injuries, Wilson retired following the 1992-93 season. The lessons that the young Sharks learned from Wilson brought them to the playoffs the next year, and if it were not for the trade made on Sept. 6, 1991, and the connection to the team, it is unlikely Wilson would have ended up being the Sharks current general manager.
Sept. 6 is a day that will always be a large part of the Sharks history. With a finalized team name, inaugural practice, and the acquiring of their first captain (and current GM), it is a day that every Sharks fan should know.
Sydney Hillis is currently studying Professional Communications at Ryerson University in Toronto (and no Grandpa Frank, that doesn’t mean just learning how to talk). An avid San Jose Sharks fan (through all the trials and tribulations) Sydney is a Sharks journalist for The Hockey Writers. Despite never having visited San Jose, the love is sincere.