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30 Sharks: Catching Up with Sam Tageson

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Credit: Ryan Cowley

Sam Tageson always dreamed of suiting up for his lifelong team, the San Jose Sharks. This became a reality for the youngster in 2014.

You do not have to be a fan of the San Jose Sharks to appreciate this story. In fact, you could be a diehard fan of the club’s chief rival and despise the team. At the end of the day, though, the Sharks organization deserves a plethora of respect and admiration for what they did for this young fan.

Sam Tageson had grown up idolizing the San Jose Sharks.

Born in nearby Hayward, CA, Tageson fell in love with the Sharks and even began playing hockey at a young age, emulating some of his favorite players like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. The youngster, though, had a special spot in his heart for goaltender Evgeni Nabokov; Nabokov was a major reason why Tageson became a netminder himself.

The lifelong Sharks fan, however, also struggled with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a life-threatening heart condition. This made tuning into Sharks games all the more comforting for the youngster.

For this unique installment of my “30 Sharks” series for San Jose Hockey Now, I had the honor of speaking with Sam Tageson, who took me through his special day with his favorite team and how he’s doing these days.

Getting the News

In partnership with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the San Jose Sharks had done something incredible: Granting a wish that is the envy of, in the risk of sounding hyperbolic, every fan on the face of the earth.

Sam Tageson dreamed not only of spending the day with his beloved Sharks but actually suiting up and taking the ice with his boyhood team.

“When I found out that my wish was being granted, it was a couple of weeks or a month before it actually happened,” Tageson told me. “The way they did that was that the Sharks recorded a video and the people that were doing my wish, the wish granters, came to one of my hockey games and played the video for me to see. So, that’s how they announced that I was doing it.”

As a fan myself, I can’t even begin to comprehend how amazing — surreal, even — it would have been to be in Sam’s shoes. But Tageson is one of the few who can actually tell the story of what it’s like.

Living a Dream

The date was March 18, 2014.

Winners of six straight and 10 of their last 12 games, the Sharks were flying high entering their game against the Florida Panthers. But this evening’s contest went beyond a quest for a seventh consecutive victory. This evening also marked the debut, if you will, of one Sam Tageson.

It goes without saying that this was a day that the then 18-year-old would never forget, and that is exactly the case for Tageson, who took me through that day like it was yesterday.

“The whole day, being with the team was so fun,” Tageson fondly reflected. “A lot of the players were very friendly.”

The closer it got to game time, though, the more exhilarated Tageson felt.

As the sound of the 17,562 fans in the arena felt louder and louder, Tageson’s heart was racing as he walked down the hall of the SAP Center and approached the ice with his honorary teammates.

Tageson took me through the moment.

“The whole skating out of the Shark head thing, it’s very surreal in a way,” the lifelong Sharks fan recalled. “It’s like when you skate out of it, it’s very dark — and you don’t hear much until you take that first step on the ice.”

As exhilarating as being out on the ice was, the youngster was able to compose himself thanks to the easygoing nature of some of the Sharks players.

“They joked around with me, too,” Tageson said, laughing. “[Joe] Thornton and [Jason] Demers were on the bench with me at one point and Thornton told me to scoot over, making a joke, and then Demers was, like, [to Thornton], ‘He can take your spot tonight. He’s a lefty.’ They were joking with me and were very friendly.”

Tageson then got back on the ice and stood on the blueline in between two of his favorite defensemen.

“All you hear is the crowd,” Tageson enthusiastically reminisced. “Then, standing on the blueline between [Scott] Hannan and [Brent] Burns was something really special. Then, finally skating off the ice and looking up at my face on the jumbotron, like, everyone was just giving me a standing ovation.”

The Sharks fan concluded by noting exactly how he felt overall that evening.

“I’ve never felt that happy in my life,” Tageson beamed. “I was just overwhelmed with happiness.”

Sam Today

When speaking with the longtime Sharks fan, it was evident just how high-spirited he was feeling.

“I’m doing great,” Tageson glowed. “My heart condition and everything is going well. No problems there.”

As great as he’s been doing, though, the now 25-year-old does admit that he misses organized hockey. He is making the best of a less-than-ideal situation, though.

“Obviously, to play hockey, COVID makes it a little more difficult,” Tageson said. “There’s an outdoor rink I’ll go skate on or just go rollerblading with a friend of mine.

“Health-wise, I’m doing good. Just staying at home as much as I can, not trying to catch the virus at all.”

Tageson is also enjoying his educational path as he is currently studying Applied Business Management with a minor in Social Media Marketing.

In addition to hockey and good health, Tageson is spending his time giving back, helping children achieve what he did back in 2014.

“I’m now a wish granter for the Make-A-Wish Foundation,” a proud Tageson noted. “I’m granting wishes and giving back and enjoy doing that a lot. Just trying to give back for all the great things that I was able to experience with them and the Sharks, so that’s something I really enjoy doing right now.”

Also, as of just a few days ago, Tageson is back on the ice playing organized hockey. He even has a cool new mask to boot.

On March 18, 2014, Sam Tageson was given the opportunity of a lifetime. Seven years later, the longtime Sharks fan continues to excel as a role model, as a student, and, of course, as a human being.

Between COVID, politics, and societal movements, there have been plenty of examples of divisiveness between people in recent times. Sam Tageson’s story, however, is a breath of fresh air. Tageson’s journey, and his accomplishments, pose as a stark reminder that there is plenty of good in this world, and plenty of reasons to get along as human beings no matter where we stand politically or in hockey fandom.

If an argument is made that he was dealt a raw deal, then Sam Tageson isn’t, nor has he ever, been content to accept it. Instead, Tageson is making the most of his life and for that, the 25-year-old is to be applauded and celebrated.

His team may not be having the greatest season thus far but Tageson’s love for the San Jose Sharks has not wavered in the least, and will never.

As we look back on 30 years of the San Jose Sharks, we celebrate perhaps the franchise’s greatest fan in Sam Tageson.

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Kristian

Made me tear up back in 2014 and made me cry now. I love that you’ve featured a fan in the 30 Sharks series.

Sheng Peng

Thanks for reading! And credit to Ryan — this entire series is curated by him!

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