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Sommer Shares Hilarious Sharks Stories in AHL Hall of Fame Induction Speech

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Credit: Hockey Shots/Dean Tait

Roy Sommer loves to spin a good yarn.

The Cowboy told his share of stories on Monday in his Hall of Fame induction speech, many that I’m sure San Jose Sharks fans have never heard.

Sharks Greats on Sommer’s Induction to AHL Hall of Fame

How did legendary goaltending coach Warren Strelow impact a young Joe Pavelski? Why did Sommer and Nick Fotiu end up in jail after a game? Did lawyers have to intercede on one of Sommer’s famous team camping trips?

Also, after his speech, Sommer addressed the San Jose Sharks letting him go in 2022.

Here’s the best of Sommer’s Hall of Fame speech and post-ceremony media availability.

Oakland native Sommer, on what it means to be inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame in San Jose:

It’s pretty cool. Growing up right down the road and driving by this place. All those years, my grandparents lived in Ben Lomond, and going through San Jose. When I used to drive through here, it was all cherry blossoms and orchards, and now look at this place. It’s grown a lot, hockey’s grown a lot.

Sommer, on the bolo tie that he wore to his Hall of Fame induction:

It’s, I don’t know, 160 years old? It’s got a lot of my blood in it, and it’s seen a lot of hockey games, and that’s kind of a big part of it. That’s why it worked. Like I said, hockey is kind of a traditional game, people like shirts and ties, and probably not hats and bolos, but you know, it’s kind of me.

Sommer, on the philosophy of Dean Lombardi, who hired him to be the San Jose Sharks’ AHL head coach in 1998:

He goes, “If I see one tape, and those guys are rimming the puck, you’ll hear from me.” He goes, “I want them to make plays, I want them to make mistakes down there, so when we get them up here, they won’t make mistakes.” That always kind of stood [out] with me.

Sommer, on Doug Wilson, who he worked for from 2003 to 2022:

I was in Worcester, and I got a call. I wasn’t having a great year, and whenever you talk to Doug on the phone, you get off and you go like “Hey man, I feel really good”. He was kind of like a guru guide or something.

I got up and talking to him on the phone and I’m kind of going “This is it, you’re gonna get fired,” and he goes, “Roy, we want to offer you three more years.” I told Melissa to get the wine out. I said I would have fired me the year that we’re having right now.

Sommer, on Nick Fotiu, who was his assistant coach with San Jose Sharks’ AHL affiliates for four years:

Nick Fotiu, who is a legend in New York. This is another one of those [Lombardi] experiment things.

I was coaching in the [ECHL in Oct. 1992] and Nick was coaching in Nashville, and we were beating him up pretty good. He thought I was yelling at his players, and I wasn’t yelling at his players. He said a few things, and I kind of looked at him—he intimidated me. After the game, I saw him down the hallway, he’s kind of leaning against the wall.

So I walked by him, and he kind of poked me in the chest, saying, “Don’t yell at my players.” The next thing you know, we’re fighting in the hallway, and both teams came out in their underwear and everything, they surrounded us. It was like a schoolyard fight. The cops came in, and they maced us, threw us in a paddy wagon, and then they took us to jail.

I got the job in Kentucky [AHL job] and [the Sharks were] like, “He’s going to be your assistant coach.”

Sommer, on legendary San Jose Sharks goaltending coach Warren Strelow’s impact on Joe Pavelski:

We had a guy by the name of Joe Pavelski. Got sent from camp to me.

He would go out early when Warren [Strelow] was shooting on the goaltenders, and Warren would be in his wheelchair, and Pavelski would be on one knee. Warren would be doing this thing with the goalies, telling Pavelski where to put the puck on different angles and change your angle when you’re coming down, looking away, and doing all this stuff.

Pavelski would just kind of look at him, and it was just kind of a thing later on—the guy’s a pretty good hockey player right now, and he knows how to put the puck in the net. I think a lot of it had to do with Warren in those early years, but he was inquisitive.

Sommer, on his legendary camping trips:

I always tried to make our teams close.

We went on camping trips. Always did that at the start of the year, and I used to find out a lot about what kind of players I was getting, and who my leaders were. We had some good camping trips, and some ones where the next year I wanted to do it, and Doug called up and he goes “Roy, the lawyers aren’t gonna let you do that one again.”

Sommer, on leaving the San Jose Sharks organization in 2022:

It was kind of a change coming in San Jose. They thought they needed a change—which, hey, what am I going to say? You’re with the same organization 24 years, and what are you gonna say, “You’re letting me go??”

My contract was up, and there was some movement going on. They just thought that it would be better for the organization to get a new guy and move on, which is good. You need new blood in there.

Then the [San Diego Gulls] thing came up, I still had some coaching left in me. I thought I was going to go down to San Diego and hopefully win a [Calder Cup] down there to be honest with you, because that’s one thing I haven’t done in the American Hockey League. I thought that was going to be my year, didn’t happen—that’s sports.

Sommer, on John McCarthy, who took the reins as San Jose Barracuda head coach:

He played 10 years for me.

When I talked about routines, he was the guy who came in, did his thing. He made those around him better. You can use them at center, right wing, left wing, he played on the power play, moved down a line to the third or fourth line if he had to, played up on the top line if he had to.

Really inquisitive about coaching, and when the job came up, they made the right decision in hiring him. I always liked him, and I always respected him. I asked him about stuff, like “What do you think we should do on the power play here?” or “What do you think here?” and he always had an answer, and it was usually the right one.

Sommer, on his favorite memory in the San Jose Sharks organization:

I think the biggest thing is you have the Dan Boyles, and the Cheechoos, and Desjardins—guys that weren’t maybe first-round draft picks—that ended up having pretty damn good careers. Being late picks and free agents, and yet making their living in the National Hockey League. I think that’s what resonates with me the most.

Sommer, on son Marley Sommer:

He’s my best friend. He was in the pictures. Doesn’t say much but he has a big presence. I wanted to thank all the players that I’ve had throughout the years that have taken him in and made him part of their lives.

I probably had a million miles on a bus, and he’s been on 700,000 of them. I want to thank the Sharks organization. When he was here, he used to fly with the team and let him be part of the things.

Special thanks to Maddie Dutra for her help transcribing.

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