We pay homage to David Maley, who served the San Jose Sharks as a player, broadcaster, and community ambassador.
While he may not have been relied upon to score a ton of goals, Maley brought a wealth of experience.
Having won a Stanley Cup with Montreal in 1986, Maley learned a lot from Hall of Famers (and future Sharks assistant) Larry Robinson and Bob Gainey. He then moved onto New Jersey where, in 1988, he helped the hapless Devils make the playoffs for the first time ever. By the time the Sharks came calling, Maley’s experience was beneficial for the young, upstart team.
In this installment of my “30 Sharks” series for San Jose Hockey Now, I speak with David Maley, who shares his experiences in the Bay Area, having the rare distinction of playing in both the Cow Palace and San Jose Arena, and playing for both George Kingston and Kevin Constantine. Maley also shares a story about meeting Michael Jordan after one of Mike’s most legendary games.
Trading Oilers Blue for Sharks Teal
After parts of two seasons with the Oilers, Maley’s time in northern Alberta was nearing its conclusion. Fortunately for the former Wisconsin Badger, the San Jose Sharks were interested and picked him up almost as soon as the Oilers placed him on waivers.
“You know, it’s funny. It makes me look back at that time. I was basically picked up on waivers in the middle of the year from Edmonton and that was a little bit of a shock,” Maley admitted.
“I was super happy because my sister, Sheila, lived in the Bay Area because she was married to Riki, who had played for the Niners, and I had visited them over the summers, so I knew the Bay Area,” remembered Maley. “So, I was excited and ready to go there and I knew I’d probably play a little bit more just because of the fact that the Sharks weren’t that good.”
While he was certainly excited to be joining the Sharks, the native of Beaver Dam, WI was joining the club at the beginning of a dubious distinction.
“I think my first game was the start of that record-tying losing streak,” Maley said of the Sharks’ 17-game losing streak following his debut. “So, I had never been on a team — maybe in Jersey we lost three games in a row, maybe four at the most, but I don’t think so. But, in the NHL, if you lose three or four games in a row, it’s panic mode.”
While this was a start as inauspicious as they come for any player, David Maley didn’t fret. Instead, he and his teammates embraced the situation, using the unpleasant circumstances to grow as a team.
“I think if there’s just one lesson that I learned from my experience [with the Sharks], it was to keep going out with the team and to do a lot of team bonding,” the former left winger reflected. “We did a lot of that and it forced us to be closer. I think that’s more of the experience I lent to the team back then other than just working as hard and playing as hard as we could. We weren’t a very talented team, we knew that, but what we talked about in the locker room a lot was that we weren’t going to be outworked, and I think that team was like that.”
Despite the plethora of losses, a change in perspective was what the doctor ordered for Maley and company.
“We lost a lot of those games by a goal, a couple of goals here and there,” noted the former Wisconsin Badger. “That’s the one thing I really admire about that team: Even though we lost a lot from the middle of the year to the end of the year, we really fought tooth and nail every single minute of every single game because we had to.”
Learning from the Best
Drafted 33rd overall by the Montreal Canadiens in 1982, David Maley was honored to be chosen by the winningest team in hockey history. Yet, while he only played 51 regular-season games for the club, Maley has always remembered the guidance and advice he received from two of the team’s legends — and later Hall-of-Famers — that he carried with him throughout the remainder of his career, including with the San Jose Sharks.
“From Larry Robinson, what I learned from him, seeing him every day, is just his passion and love for the game,” Maley reflected. “Every practice, he was laughing and joking. I even remember a time early in the season, I was in and out of the lineup and I was pissed off, skating around and he could tell that I wasn’t happy, and he came up to me and said, ‘Malesy, if you’re not having fun, you may as well go hit the door and get out of here. Don’t let [the coaches] take away your love for the game.’ So, that’s one lesson I learned from him: how much fun he had in the game, even at his age then (35).
“Bob Gainey, what I learned from him was his work ethic. He was actually the first guy on the ice most every practice. In really tight games in between periods, and the locker room would be so quiet, you could hear a pin drop, he would just say a couple of things — one-liners or a couple of sentences — that were all about calming down, catching our breath, ‘We’re going to win this game.’ Just a lot of maturity to the message.”
From Kingston to Constantine
For the San Jose Sharks, they had very little success under inaugural coach George Kingston. That success trajectory, if you will, went in the complete opposite direction when the Sharks brought in Kevin Constantine as the club’s second coach.
Maley, while he liked both personally, saw a major difference when Constantine was hired.
“George Kingston, I liked the guy, I liked him as a person and as a man, but I really don’t think he was cut out to be a coach in the NHL. That’s just me.” opined the nine-year NHL veteran. “But, when Kevin Constantine came in, he was the most organized coach that I ever had at any level. I think what was great for him was that [Sharks management] gave him carte blanche, to let him run the team and training camp the way he wanted to run it.”
Of course, the turnaround in San Jose wasn’t solely Constantine’s work. He had some help.
“They got the late Gaetan Duchesne, Bob Errey, [Sergei] Makarov, [Igor] Larionov,” Maley continued, regarding the club’s key roster additions for the 1993-94 campaign. “The team changed so much from the year before with these veterans that they brought in, and on top of Kevin Constantine’s real regimental system — he wanted everyone to play a certain way, playing defensively a certain way — and he really put in a structure that everyone bought into. So, I think there was a huge difference from the coaching staff the year before to Kevin Constantine. Huge. It was like a 180-degree turn and I really think [1993-94] was the most pivotal season for them, too, from making the playoffs and doing what they did.”
Of course, the turnaround in San Jose reminded Maley of an earlier time.
“It reminds me a little bit of the year when New Jersey did the same thing (1987-88) having never been to the playoffs before and go as far as we did [to the Wales Conference Final],” he added. “It reminded me a lot of that.”
While he may not have been able to enjoy Canadiens-level success in San Jose, David Maley is nonetheless very fond of his time there.
“I have a lot of fond memories playing there and I’ll tell you the reason why,” he beamed. “The main reason why is because the fans that showed up night after night, especially on that losing streak, we had a couple of games where they stayed and stood up and cheered us. We were obviously bummed out because we lost again, but there was just so much heart and soul in the fanbase. So, to me, yeah, it was kind of funky having to walk a long way and walk upstairs to where the locker rooms were — and more like practice facility-type locker rooms — but the biggest and most fond memory I have is just the crowd and how passionate they were.”
Turning Negative Into Positive
The silver lining in any infamous streak is how it feels when it ends. To many, putting the kibosh on what feels like an endless struggle can be, and is, frankly, akin to winning a championship. According to David Maley, this was just the case for the San Jose Sharks when they snapped their 17-game losing streak in early 1993.
To suggest that there was an overabundance of joy for Maley and company would only be scratching the surface.
“We reacted like we won the Cup,” Maley remembered. “It was just the release of winning that game, and I remember — of course, this was before cell phones — walking down underneath [Winnipeg Arena] ways away from the locker room, got on a payphone and made a collect call to my dad, and I couldn’t even get the words out, I was so choked up, like, ‘W-w-we won!’ It was emotional. It really, truly was.”
Meeting His Airness
While it may not have directly involved the San Jose Sharks, Maley didn’t finish without telling this writer of the time he met the great Michael Jordan.
“We were in Washington and I was on the bus, and I knew the Bulls were in town,” Maley recalled. “So, I asked [then-Sharks captain] Doug Wilson if he could get tickets to the game, So, me, Doug, and Patty Falloon went to the game and the short story was that there was a guard who lit up [Michael] Jordan the night before in Chicago. He had, like, 34 points and the guy — the PR guy for Chicago — said to us, ‘Michael’s going to be on fire. Just watch him.’
“Anyway, long story short, Michael had, I think, 40 points in the first half. It was an unbelievable game. We sat right behind the bench and I think late in the third quarter, they took him out of the game and, as he comes out of the game, he’s walking down sweating like crazy, and he sees Doug Wilson — and me and Patty Falloon are in awe — and he yells, ‘Hey, Willie! What’s going on?’ He leans over to give [Wilson] a high-five and says, ‘Talk to you after the game,’ and me and Patty Falloon were like two little kids.
“So, we sat and waited for about an hour after the game and the PR guy said that we could go in the locker room — same locker room we were going to be in the next night — and I thought there’d be a bunch of guys there but it was just Michael. Just him. And after he says, ‘What’s up, Willie,’ the first thing he says is, ‘Man, you guys aren’t doing too good.’ I was, like, ‘Michael Jordan knows what we’re doing?’
“So, we just sat there, talked for a bit. I mean, me and Patty didn’t say much aside from hello because Doug introduced us. So, afterwards, me and Patty were high-fiving and saying that we’re never going to wash our hands again and hoping that after the next game, we might get some luck.”
Yes — Doug Wilson, Pat Falloon, and David Maley, of the-then 10-60-2 Sharks, had a front row seat for the legendary LaBradford Smith game:
A professional hockey player, Maley’s experience with Air Jordan made him feel like a jubilant kid — and the Wisconsin alum wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“But yeah, those were probably my most memorable moments,” Maley concluded. “I’ve had a lot more memorable moments as a fan, doing radio and TV for the Sharks over the years, but as a player, those were the two that really stood out.”
As a player, his San Jose Sharks career lasted just 62 games, but David Maley’s time with the organization ran far beyond his playing career. In addition to being a broadcaster for the club, Maley is also one of the central figures in running the Sharks Alumni Foundation, giving back to the organization and the community that treated him with such kindness and respect.
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