John Devine: Ready to celebrate 20 years with a Stanley Cup

You can create a lot of memories over two decades.

Not all are worth remembering if you’re a

Sharks fan. No doubt, the

Sharks have created more

heartbreaking endings over 20 years since unveiling the famed

stick-biting

Shark logo in 1990.

A playoff season has never ended with a win. Yet, no Bay Area

franchise has enjoyed as much success over the last 13 years as the

Sharks.

And while I would trade it all for one Stanley Cup, being in

contention each season at least provides hope. Of course, it wasn’t

always like this.

San Jose was horrific in its inaugural year like most expansion

teams losing 58 games. I was there for the opener at the Cow Palace

in Daly City when the team’s first overall pick Pat Fallon made his

debut.

It was even worse during the

Sharks second year, losing an NHL

record 71 games, including 17 straight.

Perhaps all the

Sharks needed was to escape the

ghosts of the Cow Palace and move into their new digs in San Jose

for the 1993-94 season.

In their first season at The Tank, the

Sharks won a then franchise record

33 games and grabbed the No. 8 seed in the playoffs.

Adding to a magical season was the

Sharks seven-game playoff win over

top seed Detroit. When San Jose won Game 5 to take a 3-2 series

lead, no one wanted to leave The Tank.

Chants throughout the concourses and out into downtown San Jose

were “Stanley Cup, Stanley Cup.” Half the fans didn’t even know

what the Stanley Cup was. Didn’t matter.

San Jose was back in the playoffs the following year in a

strike-shortened season that cost them the all-star game.

Behind 18-year-old rookie Jeff Friesen and goalie Arturs Irbe,

San Jose upset Calgary in the first round before Detroit gained a

measure of revenge in the second round. In four years, the

franchise had two postseason series wins.

The next step wasn’t so easy.

A three-year playoff drought was softened somewhat when the

all-star game was played in San Jose in 1998, with sniper Owen

Nolan producing the hat trick.

Nolan pulled a Babe Ruth in the third period on a breakaway when

he pointed at the goalie before wristing one through the net on a

most memorable night.

Over the last 12 years, the

Sharks have gone to the playoffs 11

times, including the last six years.

A trip to the Western Conference finals in 2004 with a youthful

squad portended a bright future. But all the momentum was lost when

the NHL shut down the following season in a lockout.

A slow start out of the gates in 2006 prompted the biggest trade

in franchise history when San Jose acquired future league MVP Joe

Thornton, the team’s first true superstar.

San Jose had tried in the past to acquire stars, landing goalie

Ed Belfour and injured sniper Teemu Salannne. Neither hung around

long enough to know their way around San Jose.

The

Sharks haven’t missed the playoffs

since Thornton has arrived, pairing him today with Patrick Marleau

and Dany Heatley.

Despite the disappointments in the postseason the last five

years, such as blowing a 2-0 series lead and losing four straight

to Edmonton in 2007, or being stunned in the first round in 2009 by

No. 8 seed Anaheim, the franchise has continued to surround

Thornton with pieces.

Three of the teams that have eliminated the

Sharks in the playoffs have gone on

to the Stanley Cup. That gives you an indication of how close this

franchise has been. San Jose is one of five teams to have never

played for the Cup. It doesn’t need to be reminded.

Another sellout greeted the

Sharks on Saturday to celebrate

their 20th anniversary.

Of course, the regular season is a tease to the playoffs. We

know San Jose will be back in the postseason this year.

There are six divisional and one Presidents’ Trophy for the best

overall record banners hanging in the rafters.

The coveted Cup is the treasure. It’s the only prize that

matters this year.

Yes, the

Sharks are celebrating 20 years of

team history. But by the end of the season, the

Sharks hope to be making more

history and that includes closing the chapter on two decades by

hoisting the elusive Stanley Cup.

John Devine can be reached at jdevine@montereyherald.com and

646-4405.