If the NHL campaign starts on January 13th, as has been widely reported, where are the San Jose Sharks going to hold training camp? And where are they going to play their season?
Let’s take one step at a time: Training camp may not be in Santa Clara County, where the city of San Jose is located.
Two weeks ago, Sharks president Jonathan Becher floated the idea of the San Jose Sharks practicing outside of San Jose.
“If the season is going to start in January and we can’t train here, we would have to train somewhere,” Becher said then. “So that is a back-up plan.”
Around the same time, as COVID-19 cases surged once again around the country, Santa Clara County banned all contact sports until at least December 21st. This forced, among other teams, the San Francisco 49ers out of Levi’s Stadium and into the state of Arizona for three weeks. This ban included the Sharks, who had been holding informal skates at Solar4America Ice at San Jose.
Even if the Santa Clara County ban is lifted on December 22nd — which isn’t likely, according to the Mercury News — that leaves the Sharks 22 days, counting the holidays, to get ready for the prospective start of the 2020-21 season. It’s tight but possible: A few days given to the seven teams that missed the playoffs, a short training camp, drop the puck.
But if the ban isn’t lifted?
While Santa Clara County hasn’t shown any sign of relaxing standards, the San Jose Sharks may find friendly ice elsewhere.
There’s precedent for other major sports teams in the Bay Area.
In the County of San Francisco, the NBA’s Golden State Warriors have been allowed to practice and will host games without spectators “based mostly on the team’s daily coronavirus testing protocol for players and other employees.”
In Alameda County, Cal football and men’s and women’s basketball have been allowed to carry on.
So what, does this mean the San Jose Sharks are taking the stairs back to Cow Palace?
Not likely. But Fremont, anybody?
Santa Clara County’s restrictions open the door for the Sharks to possibly practice at Solar4America Ice in Fremont, located in neighboring Alameda County. Besides proximity, there’s an NHL-sized rink on site and the facility is owned by Sharks Sports & Entertainment.
The Sharks have also practiced in Fremont before.
In January 2009, half of Todd McLellan’s squad skated there. It was a more festive occasion, part of the franchise’s outreach to fans outside of Santa Clara County.
It’s no party now.
One thing that happened in 2009 which won’t happen in 2020?
The Sharks who practiced in Fremont 11 years ago dressed in San Jose before taking a bus 20 minutes north. Getty Images has a couple priceless pictures from that day, including Mike Grier and Jonathan Cheechoo coming off the bus all suited up.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic quipped then: “I never had to do that. I had to get dressed in the car on the way to practice. That was a lot harder.”
It’s about to get a lot harder for Vlasic now.
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