San Jose's NHL franchise was formed in a shady deal when the NHL allowed owners George and Gordon Gund to notionally end a decades-old Minnesota North Stars/Cleveland Barons team merger and sell the North Stars in return for an expansion franchise in the Bay Area. The Gunds were allowed to make off with Stars players and draft picks as part of the deal.
The Sharks name was picked by fan vote, a return to the Blades name being deemed inappropriate (or perhaps not conducive to team mascot plushies). According to the team web site, the "neighboring Pacific Ocean is home to seven different varieties of sharks including the Great White, Leopard, Mako, Seven-gill, Blue, Soupfin and Spiny Dog. A specific area of the Pacific in the Bay Area is called the "red triangle," because of its shark population."
The team entered the league in 1991-92, playing their first 2 seasons in the Cow Palace at Daly City near in San Francisco before upgrading to a new arena in San Jose proper. Their fancy-coloured teal uniforms set the staid world of NHL team jerseys on its ear.
The Sharks have an interesting Stanley Cup playoff history. In their early years, they seemed to sneak into the NHL: Western Conference playoffs in the eighth and final spot, and then knock off the #1 team. The Detroit Red Wings (93/94), Calgary Flames (94/95) and St. Louis Blues (99/2000), among others, felt the Sharks' bite in the first round.
Dimunutive goalie Arturs Irbe was an early star for the Sharks, especially in stealing the series from the Red Wings in 93/94. Irbe and the Sharks took the Toronto Maple Leafs to 7 games in the Western Conference semifinals that year, only to lose game 6 in overtime (3 to 2) and then game 7.
In 2000/2001, the emergence of young goaltender Evgeni Nabokov set the Sharks on a path to increased respectibility. Nabokov won the Calder Memorial Trophy as top rookie and gave the Sharks their first winning regular season (35-30-10-7), but they failed to follow up in the playoffs. The following season saw the Sharks post a very strong regular season, taking the Pacific division regular-season championship. They started a solid run in the playoffs, only to be stopped in 7 games by the strong play of opposing Colorado Avalanche 'tender Patrick Roy.
2002/2003 was a down year, with a losing season and no playoffs, and considerable turnover of management and players alike. The Gund brothers sold the team, the coach was fired mid-season, players held out on their contracts, and a plague of toads was visited on the arena. Well, maybe not the last, but Sharks fans might not have blinked had it occured.
In 2003/2004 the Sharks returned to prominence with a strong regular season and their second Pacific division championship. In the playoffs they bested former nemeses the Blues and the Avalanche to reach the Western Conference finals. There they met the Calgary Flames and their hot goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, himself a recent Shark who had been traded to Calgary early in the season. The series went 7 games but the Flames prevailed to deny the Sharks their first finals appearance.
After the 2004 NHL player lockout, the Sharks started poorly in 2005/2006 and seemed to be headed for a mediocre season. On November 30, 2005 the NHL was shocked by a mammoth trade with the Boston Bruins. Bruins GM Mike O'Connell, apparently in the mistaken belief that Christmas had come early, sent former first overall draft pick Joe Thornton to the Sharks for a package of Sharks players. Paired immediately with promising young Jonathan Cheechoo, Thornton proceeded to tear up the Western Conference, finishing with 125 points to beat out the New York Rangers' Jaromir Jagr for the Art Ross trophy, while linemate Cheechoo took the Rocket Richard Trophy. Back in Boston, Santa O'Connell got ... the sack. The Sharks finished 5th in the Western Conference and drew the vulnerable Nashville Predators, who were missing #1 goalie Thomas Vokoun, as their first-round opponent. After losing the opening game of the seven-game opening-round series 4-3, the Sharks took the next four games to win the series, led by Sharks captain Patrick Marleau. Marleau scored 7 goals in the final 4 games, including a game 4 hat trick, and goalie Vesa Toskala outplayed Preds backup Chris Mason. In round 2 they drew the Edmonton Oilers. With Chris Pronger matched against Joe Thornton each limited the other's chances. The Sharks took games 1 and 2 at home, but the Oil rebounded to take the next 4 games and close out the Sharks' season.
Team colors: Deep Pacific Teal, Shimmering Gray, Burnt Orange and Black.
Their mascot is S.J. Sharkie. They play at the HP Pavilion Arena, formerly the Compaq Center, a.k.a. the "Shark Tank". Due to the HP sponsorship, seats are inexpensive but fans must buy a pricey ink cartridge at every stoppage in play.
The Sharks promote awareness of the sport through an excellent street hockey and roller hockey program.
AHL affiliate: The Worcester Sharks, formerly the AHL Cleveland Barons. The Cleveland Barons connection was appropriate. The Bay area's first NHL franchise, the California Golden Seals, had briefly moved to become the NHL Cleveland Barons before merging with the Minnesota North Stars under ... George and Gordon Gund! The circle is now complete.