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30 Sharks: Scott Hannan Was a World-Class Defender



Scott Hannan San Jose Sharks
Credit: Ryan Cowley

In 16 NHL seasons, Scott Hannan spent 11 of those with the San Jose Sharks, growing the team and the community exponentially.

Dean Lombardi had a plan for the flailing San Jose Sharks when he took over in the mid-90s: Draft right and put the right veterans around his young players.

Selected 23rd overall by Lombardi in the 1997 Draft, Scott Hannan was tabbed to be one of those youngsters who would be a linchpin for the new Sharks.

In this installment of my “30 Sharks” series for San Jose Hockey Now, I speak with Scott Hannan. The former defenseman shares his experiences with the franchise from helping the Sharks return to prominence, returning as a veteran late in his career, and his relationship with the San Jose community today.

Dean’s Plan

Establishing a solid major-junior career with the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets, Scott Hannan was touted as one of the best blueliners entering the 1997 Draft.

In a year that saw his future teammates, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, be selected first and second overall, respectively, Hannan entered the draft with high hopes, ultimately being chosen by a team who, while not nearly a playoff team, was slowly improving.

After two more seasons in Kelowna and some time in the AHL, Hannan joined the Sharks on a full-time basis in 2000-01.

By then, the San Jose Sharks were a much different team, having improved in points for six straight seasons.

The Richmond, B.C., native wasted little time earning his keep with the club, and the direction he received from Lombardi and head coach Darryl Sutter helped a great deal.

“I think what the biggest expectations as an organization from Dean, and also from Darryl Sutter, was to be a good professional,” Hannan noted. “I think Darryl, as a coach, implemented that on your approach to practices, games, your training off the ice.”

What also helped Hannan’s transition into the professional ranks were the Sharks’ veteran players.

“As far as Dean, he brought in a lot of veteran players — Bryan Marchment, Gary Suter, Owen Nolan, Stephane Matteau, the list goes on and on — who were good pros who won at the NHL level and were great leaders,” the former blueliner added. “I think back to the culture, it was the expectations and trying to put [those] on yourself in trying to be a better player every year. It wasn’t as far as what he said or, ‘Here’s what I need you to do,’ it was putting you in a situation, in an environment, that allowed you to succeed.”

A World-Class Defender

In 626 total regular-season games with the San Jose Sharks, Hannan scored 30 goals and 116 assists for 146 points. Those may not be eye-opening numbers from an offensive standpoint, but it is imperative to note that the bulk of the former Kelowna Rocket’s contributions came on the defensive side of things — an area that helped the club excel.

“I was always a defensive defenseman, so I always had the ability to play a top-four role and be able to eat up minutes, play strong on the penalty kill and play against other teams’ top lines,” Hannan explained. “That was especially under the old rules and that was so important. I think I excelled in that situation and I grew into that role every year, which helped us establish, along with guys like Brad Stuart, Patrick Marleau, obviously, who was a huge up-and-coming player at the time, strong leadership for the team.

“I mean, [the Sharks] had their teams in the past that were definitely on the right trajectory but that confidence [with our group] put us over that hump towards that echelon of our six-year run.”

While Hannan and company suffered a setback in 2002-03 — a year that resulted in Lombardi and Sutter getting sacked — the Sharks rebounded in 2003-04 with a vengeance. En route to a 104-point campaign, Hannan was an indispensable member of a Sharks squad that made its first-ever Western Conference Final appearance.

One recognition for his efforts? Hannan was selected to Team Canada’s 2004 World Cup of Hockey roster. It was a veritable All-Star, no, Hall of Fame group — Mario Lemieux, Joe Sakic, Martin Brodeur, Jarome Iginla, and Martin St. Louis were among the headliners — and Hannan’s defensive prowess was finally given its proper due.

He played in five of six games en route to helping Canada win the championship.

Playoff Heartache

In the summer of 2007, Scott Hannan became a free agent and signed with the Colorado Avalanche. The defensive stalwart would also make stops in Washington, Calgary, and Nashville before returning to San Jose during the Trade Deadline in the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign.

While he was certainly happy to be back with the Sharks, Hannan was part of one of the franchise’s most infamous memories when, in 2014, the Sharks took a commanding 3-0 series lead in the 2014 playoffs, only to lose to a resilient Los Angeles Kings team, who won four-straight games en route to winning their second Stanley Cup in three years.

It is a memory that, while unpleasant, is one that Hannan gives credit where it’s due.

“Obviously, that’s not something, as a player, you ever want to be a part of,” he admitted. “Give [the Kings] credit. They were a really solid team. I look back and think that series could have played out differently. They were all close-fought games. We obviously didn’t play the way we needed to but again, give L.A. credit. They were a good team: Jonathan Quick, Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty, it goes down the line. Obviously, we had a great team and we thought we did, too, but we weren’t able to pull it off.”

While he was certainly justified to believe that his team could have — should have, even — won their series against the Kings in 2014, the former defenseman echoed the same sentiment for the state rivals’ playoff clash in 2013.

“The year before, L.A. beat us in the second round,” Hannan recalled. “We played them in seven games and I thought that series, we possibly had a better team but they had an unbelievable team and Jonathan Quick stood on his head. So, sometimes, that’s the way hockey goes. Sometimes, it’s the heartaches that sit with you the most over your career.”

As is the nature of sports at any level, there can be multiple examples for a specific player or team when thinking of crushing losses. Hannan and the Sharks were no exception to this.

“I can go back and think back to when we lost to Calgary in the Western Conference Final in ‘04, and Edmonton in the second round in ‘05-06,” Hannan reflected. “Those were years that I believe, when we played, that we could have won a Stanley Cup. How hard it is to win that first [Stanley Cup] is what they all say and unfortunately, we weren’t able to pull [the 2014 series] off, so sometimes those heartaches stick with you the longest.”

The 2015 Stadium Series Game

While the sting of the 2014 playoff loss was still relatively fresh, Hannan and the San Jose Sharks enjoyed celebrating some new history.

On February 21, 2015, the Sharks hosted the first NHL outdoor game in Northern California, facing off against the Los Angeles Kings at brand-new Levi’s Stadium in nearby Santa Clara.

While it wasn’t his first outdoor game, Hannan nonetheless has great memories of the Sharks-Kings clash.

“For me as a player, I was lucky enough to play [an outdoor game] with Washington against Pittsburgh (in 2011), so I had the benefit of playing in a game like that,” the former blueliner noted. “The difference and the special experience that you have in that, with hockey sometimes, you play so many games — and I’m not saying one game just seems like another, but it was cool to have one game built around one event. I had a family at that time where my boys were able to come out on the ice and skate around and it was just such a different experience than any other hockey game, except maybe growing up on a pond back home. So, I think as a fan, it was a cool experience, cool to play in front of that many people, and it’s just a surreal experience to get to play.”

For the former Shark, it was the difference between playing in an arena and playing outdoors that really stood out that evening in Santa Clara.

“When you play in arenas, the crowd noise, everything is so different, whereas when you’re in the outdoor game, you hear the cut of the skate on the ice, your guys yelling, you can hear guys talking,” Hannan elaborated. “All that noise can get lost above you while arenas tend to focus on the ice. So, it’s kind of a cool, surreal feeling that almost feels like you’re playing in front of nobody but then you look up and see thousands of people cheering. So, it’s really kind of cool.”

Nothing But Fond Memories

Of his 16 seasons in the NHL, Scott Hannan played 11 of those with the San Jose Sharks.

Yet, while the franchise already holds a special place to his heart being that he was drafted by them, Hannan’s career in San Jose went far beyond what happened on the ice.

“San Jose has been a special place for me,” the Sharks legend beamed. “It’s where I met my wife, I live here now, my kids have grown up and it’s the place that I’ve lived the longest.”

His fond memories of the city, the community, and the team may not be limited to what happened on the ice, but those on-ice memories nonetheless are a big reason why the long-time defenseman calls San Jose home.

“When I go back [to my playing career] and the ties I have with the Sharks, they were able to bring me back towards the end of my career, I was able to retire there and I played my 1,000th game as a Shark,” Hannan reflected. “These are all special things and coming back, I think it was just something that I’m proud of as far as giving back to the community that gave me so much, and when you can help young individuals, it’s wonderful.”

One of the ways Hannan gives back is through the Sharks Alumni Foundation, which he is a proud member of.

“We have a grant program with the Alumni Foundation where we give grants to underprivileged kids in sports in any way we can help, and we don’t specify that towards hockey,” he explained. “We’ve helped out baseball teams when the fires ravaged Santa Rosa. A couple of years back, we played in an alumni game and we were able to give back to the community, to the baseball teams with the kids who lost everything, teams who needed jerseys, cleats, baseball bats. To give back to something as far as sports that gave me so much in my life — and I’m not even saying just as a professional hockey player — it gave me so much in life as far as growing up and seeing what it’s done for my boys.

“To give the opportunity to every young girl or boy growing up, to be able to play and enjoy a sport in their youth, I think is so special and so needed that it puts a smile on my face every time I’m able to go there and see the smiles on their faces or to read some of the testimonials these kids give, sometimes for the smallest things, but it means so much to them.”

Whether as a competitor, as a leader, or as a humanitarian, Scott Hannan’s legacy with the San Jose Sharks and its community is one that runs very deep and one that will resonate for many years.

He may have been drafted by the club for his on-ice talents, but that only scratches the surface in regards to what Hannan stands for as a person.

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