Today won't be easy. Tomorrow will not be easy either. For as loud as I am in support of the Vancouver Canucks, I WANT to be loud for the San Jose Sharks. I've made my bed, and I'm willingly sleeping in it. I just wish things would have come about differently. A first round matchup would have been completely preferrable to a Conference Finals showdown. I know that a Stanley Cup Finals appearance by one of my two teams was guaranteed this way, but I can't shake the feeling that drastic changes are ahead.
Sunday in San Jose was a strange experience. Downtown San Jose was devoid of Sharks fans less than 90 minutes after Vancouver won game 4. There were Canucks fans everywhere. After all the noise and pride and boastful proclamations with repeated instructions for us to "Go Back to Canada" after Game 3 on Friday night, downtown San Jose reverted to its usual ghost town self. "Go Canucks Go" echoed up and down Santa Clara Street and along San Pedro Square. Every single bar was overflowing with Blue, White, and Green. There were occasional smatterings of Teal and Black, and much to their credit they were making whatever noise they could when confronted, but it was handily drowned out. As a long-time California resident it amazes me that a team with such a strong fan base, which I vehemently defend at every opportunity, could not fill Arena completely with Sharks fans in both home games this series.
What gives, San Jose? Were you priced out of your own building? Were you expecting to lose to the Canucks, so you decided not to bother showing up?
It did not help that the price discrepancy between the Season Ticket Holder (STH) and the Box Office price was huge. Seats that were selling on Ticketmaster for 450 dollars (before fees) were worth $169 to STHs. The front office made the temptation way too big for STHs to sell their tickets on the open market. The profit margin was too big to turn down. An arena that is normally 95% Sharks fans became an arena that was 66% Sharks fans. O Canada was sung loudly and proudly during warmups and at the "regular" anthem time. Who do you blame for a San Jose HOME game turning out like that?
As much as I would love to blame the owners, I have no recourse but to blame the fans themselves. This series has shown that San Jose is a deceptively fragile market. The owners have put a winning product out there. This team struggled early this season and then came together to end the year as one of the hottest in the NHL. They took care of LA, and handled Detroit better than Vancouver handled Chicago. San Jose lost the first two on the road this series before they picked up their first ever conference finals home win in game 3. By then it was too late. The fans had
already given up on the team. As many as 5,000 fans made the trip from Vancouver via bus, plane, train or car and silenced San Jose fans more than a 4-game sweep would have. Not only did a majority of Canucks fans pay over face value for tickets, they paid for gas/travel, lodging, food, and alcohol. Whatever money they spent on tickets was quite handily doubled with the additional expenses. San Jose fans only had to worry about getting to the game from home, and they didn't. For all the fire and brimstone the fans showed after game 7 against Detroit and game 3 against the Canucks, they went out like shamed cowards after game 4. When the Canucks win this series, I will be happy, but I will also be distressed that the potential death knell of this era of the San Jose Sharks came to an end at the hands of my adopted Vancouver Canucks.
The fans of this team have blamed everyone for the Sharks poor and underperforming ways. It turns out that the team was just following the fans' lead.