A first-round pick in 2001, Marcel Goc delivered on his potential as a versatile two-way player.
Perhaps more than other organizations, Dean Lombardi and his scouting staff looked to Europe for players to help turn the San Jose Sharks into a perennial Stanley Cup contender in the late ’90s and early ’00s. One country the Sharks brass took a special interest in was Germany, a country that, while not a hockey powerhouse, was beginning to establish itself as a hotbed for future talent. Lombardi and company wound up building a winner in San Jose with three Germans: Marco Sturm, defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, and versatile two-way center Marcel Goc.
Drafted 20th overall by the Sharks in 2004, Goc wouldn’t start playing in North America until 2003, playing for the Sharks’ then-AHL affiliate, the Cleveland Barons. But, he wouldn’t have to wait long to make his NHL debut as Goc suited up for the Sharks during the 2004 playoffs, scoring a goal and an assist in five postseason outings.
In this installment of my “30 Sharks” series for San Jose Hockey Now, I speak with Marcel Goc, who reflects on his career in San Jose, including how he found out about his promotion to the big club and the connections he made along the way.
Getting the Call
The date was April 15, 2004. Marcel Goc received the call every kid playing hockey dreams of.
The San Jose Sharks, coming off a 104-point regular season, found themselves on the verge of advancing past the St. Louis Blues in the first round. But up 3-1, they needed a little help.
Enter Marcel Goc, who took me through what happened and how he felt when he got the news that he was bound for the West Coast.
“I got the call to go from Cleveland,” the former Shark recalled. “[Barons head coach] Roy Sommer called me. We had a game that night and he said, ‘Hey Marcel, you’re playing tonight. Come to the rink, you’re going to pack your stuff and you’re going to San Jose.’ Then, I was like, ‘Whoa! Sweet!’
“The next thing I knew, I was sitting on the plane to San Jose.”
It’s not every day that a player makes his NHL debut in the playoffs. This was the case for Goc, though, who took me through the hours leading up to his NHL debut.
“Well, like everyone else who plays their first game, it was pretty cool,” beamed the former centerman. But, unlike his usual pre-game routine, that whole day was different for the German. Heck, the excitement for his debut interfered, but that was quite all right for the youngster.
“It was a really good experience for me,” Goc continued. “They told me, ‘Goccer, you’re in tonight,’ and, I mean, I have a pre-game routine where I nap for a little bit, but that day, I didn’t. It was pretty cool and for everyone who grows up as a little kid playing hockey and dreaming of playing [in the NHL] and then you play your first game, it was a special moment. It’s something that I will never forget.”
Goc’s NHL debut, by the way, was a successful one. He registered an assist in Game 5 and helped the Sharks advance past the Blues into the second round.
San Jose’s First Conference Final
In the 2004 playoffs, Marcel Goc scored just one goal, but it was a big one.
Giving the San Jose Sharks a 2-0 lead in Game 6 of the second round, Goc’s tally stood as the game- and series-winner, propelling the team to their first-ever appearance in the Western Final.
The German forward reflected on the goal against the Avalanche.
“After my first shift in Colorado, it took me 10 minutes to recover,” an amused Goc recalled. “I was so gassed. I believe I chased Milan Hejduk around in the neutral zone. He didn’t get tired but I was gassed. But I’ll never forget the goal. I was able to get my stick and put in the net.
“Curtis Brown had a rush in the O-zone. He took a shot, I hit the puck and it snuck through. I was pretty pumped that it was the game-winner. I was lucky but it was a nice moment for myself and it also ended up being the series-clinching goal. So, that’s kind of cool. [The Sharks] gave me the puck and I still have it at home, so it’s always a nice memory to have.”
Believe it or not, that game was just the second of Goc’s very young NHL career.
“It was like hockey on a new level,” Goc said of transitioning to the NHL and right into playoff hockey. “It was kind of cool because we had this medal or something of a nice imitation of a Stanley Cup and it was, like, 16 holes in it (for each win it takes to win the Cup) and we put the puck in one of those holes. The game-winner, I got to sign [the puck], so that was kind of cool for me. It’s too bad we didn’t go all the way but that’s how it went and I’m so glad I was on that team.”
The Road Through Mini-Camp
While he certainly had a good test in the 2004 playoffs, Goc would have to wait over a year for his first mini-camp with the San Jose Sharks.
Under normal circumstances, players in Goc’s situation would only need to wait a few months for this. Unfortunately, due to the NHL lockout and subsequent cancellation of the 2004-05 campaign, the rookie was forced to be patient.
During this time, Goc returned to Cleveland, scoring 16 goals and 34 assists in 76 games for the Barons. He then returned to San Jose where his long wait for training camp had finally reached its conclusion.
“At the start of my career, the whole coaching staff, as is the case with any team, they try and help you, try to give you everything you need to improve your game and crack the lineup,” Goc explained. “So, I was able to go through the [Sharks] mini-camps. Those were not easy but they were a great learning experience for me coming from Europe, but in the end, what I noticed is that it doesn’t really matter where you play, players are all the same breed: We all want to play hockey and the road [through mini-camp] was good for us.”
Succeeding with Guidance
In his first full season with the San Jose Sharks, Goc played 81 games, scoring eight goals and 14 assists but making his mark both defensively and in the faceoff circle.
For the former first-rounder, though, it was the guidance of his teammates that helped him through his first full NHL season.
“Patty Marleau — Patty was, not just a special player, but he was a really good guy,” Goc reflected. “He was there from day one with Marco Sturm, who helped me as a young German player who I could speak to in my native language. He obviously already had a pretty nice career in San Jose and he knew everybody there in the town. So, that made it easier, transitioning to living there and playing hockey there.”
While the connections he made in San Jose helped him in the short term, the friendships Goc has made from his days with the Sharks are what stand out the most.
“Mike Grier and Curtis Brown were my linemates there for a bit,” Goc noted. “I’m coaching now [in Mannheim, Germany]. I retired last year and I’m in contact a little bit with Mike Grier — we text and back and forth a few times — so it’s kind of nice when you’re in touch after all these years. I mean, it’s not like we speak on the phone every day but you text a guy like Mike Grier and he still remembers me.
“And Patty is still playing and that speaks for him as an athlete. I always looked up to him and the way he worked and played and just how he was as a person, I just think he was a great guy.”
In four full seasons with the Sharks, Marcel Goc played 265 regular season games for the club, scoring 20 goals and 34 assists while winning 56.4% of his faceoffs. He even dished out 128 hits over that stretch, using his 6-foot, 200-pound frame to his advantage. Goc would also add three goals and five assists in 37 playoff games in teal.
He was a jack of all trades, if you will, for the San Jose Sharks, an integral figure in the squad’s consistent success. After stops in Nashville, Florida, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis, Goc would return to his native Germany in 2015, suiting up for the Mannheim Eagles for five seasons before retiring in 2020.
Goc did not have to go very far for his next step, remaining with the Eagles as an assistant coach. In something of a full circle, one of his current players is former Sharks forward Andrew Desjardins. San Jose prospect and fellow German Lean Bergmann also played under Goc before the 2020-21 AHL season.
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