An unsung hero, the contributions of Todd Elik helped the San Jose Sharks complete one of the most impressive turnarounds in NHL history.
In their first two years of existence, the San Jose Sharks didn’t have many players who had experience playing for another California-based team. The Los Angeles Kings were, at that juncture, the state’s only other NHL franchise and, except for Peter Ahola and Hubie McDonough, no other former King had suited up for the Sharks up in those first two seasons.
Early into the club’s third season (1993-94), a third former King came to San Jose but unlike the aforementioned, who played a combined 50 games for the Sharks, this former King had more of an impact on northern California’s team.
A reliable two-way player with a physical edge, Todd Elik had success with the Kings and Minnesota North Stars before making a brief stop with the Oilers. Early in the 1993-94 campaign, Elik was claimed off waivers by the Sharks, a move that would help pay dividends for the struggling franchise.
In a continuation of my “30 Sharks” series for San Jose Hockey Now, we take a look at Todd Elik, who shares his experiences in San Jose, beginning with that 1993-94 season that resulted in the club’s first-ever playoff appearance.
After successful stints in Los Angeles and Minnesota, Todd Elik struggled to find an identity in Edmonton where he only played 18 games. But, when the Sharks came calling, it was a fresh new start for not only Elik but for his new team.
After two lackluster seasons in the hockey-unfriendly confines of the Cow Palace, the Sharks moved into their new arena in downtown San Jose. As for Elik, he made the best of his first season in San Jose, reaching career highs in goals (25), assists (41), and points (66). Needless to say, the 1993-94 season is one that Elik still holds dear to his heart.
“It was quite an amazing season,” the Brampton, ON, native beamed. “I was picked up on waivers by San Jose and it was their first season [at the San Jose Arena] in San Jose after two years at the Cow Palace. Hockey-wise, everything just seemed to click. Me getting there and then it seemed like everything just got settled down and we had a lot of success.
“When I arrived there, it seemed like everything was put in place. We had the Russian line [of Igor Larionov and Sergei Makarov], then us, then the third and fourth line.”
Something else that was new with the Sharks in 1993-94 was who was behind their bench.
A few months earlier, George Kingston, the club’s inaugural head coach, was relieved of his duties. Replacing the veteran coach was 35-year-old Kevin Constantine, who had spent the previous two seasons coaching the Sharks’ farm club in Kansas City.
Constantine brought an immediate change to the Sharks’ playing style and with it, immediately credibility to a team that was less-than-competitive, to put it mildly.
“We were a very hard-working team, a very disciplined team — Kevin really preached that — and we just seemed to gel at the right time and we did really well,” Elik remembered. “We were very proud of that. We could have gone a little further but it was a great season.”
Overall, Elik played 97 games for the Sharks throughout two seasons. During that stretch, the 6-foot-2, 195-pounder scored 32 goals and 83 points, but also added an impressive five goals and 10 points in 14 playoff games for the club. Unfortunately for Elik, he was traded to St. Louis for Kevin Miller just before the 1995 playoffs.
“I wasn’t surprised,” Elik said of being traded to the Blues. “Kevin Constantine didn’t like me. The team was already in a transition, trading a lot of the players from the previous season. To me, we were one or two good players away from doing some damage. [General Manager] Dean Lombardi liked me and he gave me a great chance [in San Jose].”
As for why Constantine wasn’t a fan of Elik’s, the former center couldn’t pinpoint a specific reason.
“Not sure really,” Elik said. “He went sour on me. Hard for me to believe.”
Elik’s contributions were nonetheless appreciated that spring as the Sharks returned to the playoffs and even pulled off their second first-round upset in as many years.
Overall, Elik is thankful for his time in San Jose and has plenty to reflect on.
“The first was getting into the playoffs and achieving that,” the former center noted. “Beating Detroit in seven games and taking Toronto to seven — it would’ve been nice to win that — and just getting a really fair chance to play. I was maybe their second-line center at the time. They believed in me and they gave me a lot of opportunities to succeed and I took advantage of that. So, I was very appreciative of that.”
While the club’s playoff defeat to the Maple Leafs was a tough pill to swallow — losing Games Six and Seven in Toronto — Elik and the Sharks found consolation when they returned home.
Upon their return, the Sharks discovered that the city of San Jose and their team’s fans were going to hold a parade to thank their team for a wonderful season.
“The parade was great, the fans and the city were great,” Elik beamed. “It was a special time.”
As mentioned, Todd Elik joined Peter Ahola and Hubie McDonough as the only players at the time to play for both the Kings and the Sharks.
When asked to give his opinion of the state of hockey in San Jose, the former NHLer summed it up nicely.
“Whoever put a team in San Jose did their homework,” Elik emphasized. “It’s a great city, they have a great rink, great fans, and they’ve had success.”
As for the comparison between the two California franchises he suited up for…
“Although L.A. has had a bit more winning two Cups, they’re both really good hockey markets,” added Elik.
His time in San Jose may have been relatively brief but for Todd Elik, it was a matter of quality over quantity, and the former center certainly had no trouble making the best of his Sharks tenure.
Todd Elik would go on to play a few more seasons in the NHL before taking his game to Europe in 1997.
Going on to play 13 more seasons across the Atlantic, Elik would play in Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia, and would even take part in the prestigious Spengler Cup on three occasions before retiring in 2010.
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