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Bill Houlder Remembers Darryl Sutter: “It was almost like the winning streaks were worse.” 

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Bill Houlder

“The rink was so loud. I wanted to put my hands over my ears. I could not believe how loud it was.’

That’s how former San Jose Sharks defenseman Bill Houlder remembers Andrei Zyuzin’s Game Four overtime goal against the Dallas Stars in the 1998 playoffs.

That moment in San Jose Arena was also the loudest that Houlder, who was on the ice when Zyuzin scored, had ever experienced in his seven-team, 16-year NHL career.

As for Houlder’s own claims to fame in San Jose, he assisted on Patrick Marleau’s first career goal, was selected alternate captain, and was the team’s No. 1 defenseman for his two seasons in teal, both playoff appearances.

The current North Bay Battalion assistant coach spoke with us about San Jose Sharks prospect Brandon Coe yesterday — today, he recalls his short but eventful stop in the Bay Area.

Bill Houlder on Brandon Coe: “He needs to understand he can be a dominant player.”

Here are a few highlights from our chat with the gregarious Houlder — the full interview is below — on why Cooperalls were cool, wild Darryl Sutter stories, his personal San Jose post-season heart break, and thoughts on Joe Murphy.

Bill Houlder, on wearing Cooperalls in the ’80s:

We get to wear Cooperalls — it was like this was the big leagues. We’ve arrived.

The one negative about wearing the pants was — I felt oftentimes if we slid, we really slid. There was nothing that really stopped us. No socks, nothing that really gripped to the ice.

Looking back, it was not all that protective.

Houlder, on Tampa Bay GM Phil Esposito saying, when the San Jose Sharks signed him from the Lightning in the summer of 1997: “He should take the $5 million and run for the hills and put his mask away when he gets there.”

Did he say that? That’s funny. (laughs) He was right.

Houlder, on Darryl Sutter:

He was so intense.

I don’t know how good we were. Darryl got the most out of our teams.

It was almost like the winning streaks were worse.

The second we would miss a pass in practice, he would blow it down, and just hand it to us.

Houlder, on a Sutter story he can tell us:

We lost to — I believe it was Buffalo — in San Jose. Darryl came in and wrote, “7 AM, San Jose Arena.”

We were all like aww man.

Sure enough, we show up at 7 o’clock in the morning. He skated us for 60 minutes with no pucks.

We skated for 20 minutes. We got to have a water break. Because that was the first period. We skated for another 20. We got a water break. We skated for another 20.

This was after a night game.

So we’re in the dressing room, he comes in, and he writes, “11:50, Our practice arena.”

We’re like, what??

So we went then and had our regular practice. He went over there and grinded us again.

We played Carolina, I believe it was. I don’t know what the shots for us were — but they didn’t have a shot in the first period.

We ran over any guy that had the puck.

These things happen and you tend to rally against the coach.

Besides the Zyuzin goal, Houlder on his memories of the 1998 first-round loss to Dallas and the 1999 first-round loss to Colorado:

Dallas, I didn’t think [we could], but I thought we could beat Colorado. I still remember in Game Six, we got a power play. Darryl Sutter came down to Jeff Norton and I, and said, “You two, stop f***ing around and go out there and get us a goal.”

Jeff passed me the puck, I shot it, and it went off the inside post and out the other side. I still to this day think, man, what if that would’ve gone in?

An inch more to the inside and it goes off the post and in. What if that was the goal to put us in a Game Seven?

Houlder, on why Sutter was the right coach for the Sharks:

I really think he was the perfect coach for that team those two years.

He brought an instant presence that things were changing. You could either get on the bus or you could get run over by the bus. It’s one or the other.

That for sure trickled down to us.

I remember camp. It was like buckle in, boys, things are going to be changing.

Houlder, on his memories of the troubled Joe Murphy:

We would be sitting in the dressing room, taping our sticks. Two hours before the game. And he’d just get up, come over and sit by me and say, “Bill, we gotta have you going tonight. You gotta be better than so-and-so on the other team. If you could do that, we could win this game.”

He would talk me into it. Almost instantly have me more focused.

Erik and Sheng Peng from San Jose Hockey Now are joined by former San Jose Sharks defenseman Bill Houlder to talk about his days in teal. He talks about a rookie Patrick Marleau (10:00), Owen Nolan’s dominance (15:00), and being dealt by San Jose in 1999 (16:00). Bill also shares a good Joe Murphy story (21:00). Check out the podcast on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

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