The ’12 Days of Christmas’ is a classic holiday song first published in its current form in 1908. In a nod to the classic carol, join The Hockey Writers as we count down the 12 Days of Hockeymas. Each day, we will provide you with a piece of hockey history as we eagerly await the start of the 2020-21 NHL season.
Owen Nolan is an iconic Sharks player who donned jersey No. 11. Therefore for the 11th day of Hockeymas, we will dive deep into his background and history with the Sharks.
Nolan was born in 1972 in Ireland and moved to Ontario, Canada when he was very young. At 16 he joined the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and played for the Cornwall Royals. In his 1989-90 season, Nolan collected 51 goals and 59 assists in 58 games. This was outstanding for a 17-year old in the OHL. Due to his stellar record, he was drafted No. 1 overall from one of the finest first-round classes in history in 1990. Nolan was thrust into the NHL quickly and played for the Quebec Nordiques at only 18 years old, due to the lack of talent and skill that the team had.
His rookie year was disappointing, to say the least. He obtained only 13 points in the 58 games that he played and the hype surrounding him was lost. Nolan stayed with his draft team until after the 1994-95 season. Following a brief stint with the Colorado Avalanche, Nolan was traded to the San Jose Sharks for the majority of the 1995-96 season.
During Nolan’s 18-year NHL career, he played for the Nordiques, Avalanche, Sharks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Phoenix Coyotes, Calgary Flames and the Minnesota Wild. However, he garnered eight seasons with the Sharks as opposed to one or two seasons with other teams. Most notably, and the closest to his heart, were the Sharks.
History with the Sharks
The Sharks’ general manager at the time, Dean Lombardi, knew the team was lacking in goals, pressure in the offensive zone and driving the net and he knew Nolan would help fix these issues. His statement about him reigned true, “Nolan was the first pick in the draft, and he’s justified that selection. How many guys can you find who get 40 goals and over 100 penalty minutes?”
Related: Revisiting the Nolan-Ozolinsh Trade
Nolan was a true power forward for the Sharks. He was a dominant force on the puck who was able to keep possession for over 20 seconds at a time. Nolan forced other players to take shorter shifts and was a big and strong guy who was willing to take fights when his team needed it.
During his 1999-2000 season, he was not only named captain of the Sharks but registered his best career year. He finished the season with 84 points, and tied second in the NHL with 44 goals. Some would say Nolan was the first ‘great’ Sharks captain. Prior to Nolan’s reign, no one had been the team captain for more than two seasons, with him leading the team for almost five. Most notably, the Sharks made the playoffs in each of his four full seasons as captain.
Though they never got past the second round of playoffs with Nolan as the captain, the right-winger did lead them through to the second round with a career-defining series in 2000. In this series, the eighth-ranked Sharks battled the No. 1 team, the St. Louis Blues, during the first round of the playoffs. The Sharks not only pushed the series to a Game 7 but thanks to Nolan’s six goals in the series, including a game-winner in the final contest, he helped to propel the Sharks into the new millennium.
Nolan has gone down in history as an extremely important player for the Sharks. In addition to his on-ice contribution, Nolan helped to groom Patrick Marleau, another big-name Shark player and the only other captain to serve at least four seasons for the franchise. Though he left the team after his 2002-03 season, Nolan came back to retire in San Jose, exemplifying the importance of both the team and the city. Overall, Nolan, partnered with his jersey No. 11, is credited for turning the Sharks from a decent expansion team into an NHL powerhouse.