A veteran with a Stanley Cup to his name, Vincent Damphousse was integral in the upward success of a young San Jose Sharks team.
In the late-90’s, Dean Lombardi made sure to surround his young San Jose Sharks team with veterans who had Stanley Cup victories under their belts: Mike Ricci (‘96) and Mike Vernon (‘89 and ‘97) both fit the bill as did former captain, Vincent Damphousse.
After being drafted 6th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1986, Damphousse quickly established himself as a bona fide scoring talent, moving onto the Oilers for a season before joining his hometown Montreal Canadiens in the summer of 1992. The following spring, Damphousse would help an unexpected Habs team win the Stanley Cup.
Remaining with the Canadiens until early 1999, the Montreal native — a nine-time 20-goal-scorer — was traded to the Sharks, joining a rapidly improving team.
From La Belle Provence to the Bay
In 1999, Vincent Damphousse was nearing the end of his contract with the Canadiens and knew that his days in Montreal were numbered.
While the thought of leaving his hometown team was a dreaded reality, Damphousse was ready for the next chapter in his playing career.
“I was becoming a free agent at the end of the year in Montreal and we couldn’t agree on a contract, so, I knew they were trying to trade me,” the former San Jose Sharks forward remembered. “They told me that, so I knew I was on the trading block. I prepared myself to leave but at the same time, I was disappointed to leave that way because it was my hometown and I wanted to stay. Originally, I wanted to stay in Montreal because that was my goal: To be able to reach an agreement with the Canadiens and finish my career in Montreal, but that didn’t happen.”
While he was disappointed that to leave Montreal, Damphousse was just as eager, and excited, for his new home.
“When I got traded to San Jose, what I noticed is that they really wanted me right away and were super happy to get me,” the Montreal native noted. “So, turned the page right away. I had success in San Jose in ‘99 when I finished the season — I think there were 11 or 12 games left in the year, plus playoffs — and then after the season, they said that I was their priority No. 1 to sign back to San Jose.”
Given how appreciated he was with his new team, the former Canadien was quick to sign an extension with the Sharks, never hitting the open market.
“I was becoming a free agent, but I decided to stay because I really liked my time in San Jose,” Damphousse beamed. “I liked the fans, the organization, where the team was headed and I never regretted that decision. I stayed another five years in San Jose and they were awesome years I wouldn’t trade for anything.”
While his goal production slightly declined upon joining the Sharks, Vincent Damphousse’s veteran leadership became one of the club’s most invaluable assets. Still, the former centerman remained a scoring threat, especially when sharing a line with Owen Nolan and Jeff Friesen. Damphousse was Nolan’s center during the burly winger’s breakout 44-goal campaign in 1999-00.
“It was great,” Damphousse said. “As soon as I got there, they put me with the best wingers. I was playing with Owen Nolan, I was playing with Jeff Friesen — two really good players — and we clicked. I played all my years in San Jose with Owen, he scored a lot of goals and I was able to get a lot of assists on his goals. So, it was really good that the team had confidence in me in giving me the best wingers to perform with to play on my line.
“Darryl Sutter was the coach and he had confidence in my abilities and it kind of gave a second wind to my career.”
What was probably the most difficult question for Damphousse was to answer was naming his favorite moment with the San Jose Sharks — but only because there were simply too many to chose from.
The veteran did his best, though.
“Oh, my best memory with the Sharks,” Damphousse began with a chuckle. “I would say– there are two memories that come to mind.
“One, my first full year in San Jose, we beat St. Louis, who was the No. 1-seeded team in the West, and we were eighth and we beat them in seven games.”
Entering the 2000 playoffs, the Sharks squeaked into the playoffs, beating out the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Unfortunately, they were in tough against the Presidents’ Trophy-winning St. Louis Blues (51-19-1), finishing 27 points behind their first-round opponents.
The Sharks, however, brought their best game against the Blues and, partially thanks to Damphousse and his five assists, ousted the Presidents’ Trophy winners in seven games.
“And in my last year, 2004, I was 36 years old at the time, my regular season was so-so but we really had success in the playoffs and I had a good playoff and barely missed the Finals. We lost in six games to Calgary and I remember thinking that we could win the Cup to bring to San Jose, which is my only regret: We weren’t able to win the Stanley Cup when I was there. We had a lot of success but unfortunately, that last year, we couldn’t beat Calgary and they eventually lost in seven games to Tampa Bay.”
Their Western Final run in 2004 was, at the time, the Sharks’ most successful run in playoff history.
With his rich experience, Vincent Damphousse was just what the San Jose Sharks needed for their rise in the West in the late ’90s.
In 385 regular-season games with the Sharks, Damphousse scored 92 goals and 289 points. He would also add 15 goals and 38 points in 53 playoff games with the club.
As we look back on 30 years of the San Jose Sharks, we recognize and celebrate the vast contributions of Vincent Damphousse.
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