Name: ABoyAndHisTeam (Joe Hospodor)
Hometown: San Jose, CA
School/Current City: Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles, CA)
Favorite Hockey Team: San Jose Sharks
Least Favorite Hockey Team: Anaheim Ducks
Favorite Shark: Mike Ricci
Favorite Movie: Harold and Maude
Favorite Band: The White Stripes
Least Favorite Band: Nickelback
So, it looks like we’re going to be friends for awhile. My name is Joe Hospodor, but you can call me ABoyAndHisTeam.
Why did I choose that pen name? There’s a lot of meaning behind those words. The relationship between a child and a sports organization is fierce and loyal. As a kid, you don’t care about numbers, statistics, standings, percentages, or management. You only care about one thing: the team. You bathe in its history, and soak up its essence until it sinks under your skin. You follow your heroes like you would your friends into battle. You watch a game unfold, and wish you could be out there helping them. You boast and cheer as your team rises, then scream in agony when they fall. Growing up with a sports team in my life shaped me into the person I am today, for better or for worse. I was born in 1990, meaning the Sharks and I are practically the same age. I didn’t grow up on Sharks hockey, I grew up with Sharks hockey. When they won, I felt immortal. When they lost, I felt ashamed.The enraged, unyielding, semi-biased comradery that shapes hockey fans is something more than fandom- it’s family. A family that I’m proud to say I grew up with, and I still remain a part of today.
It wasn’t easy being a hockey fan in Northern California in the late 90s/early 00s. Lucky for me, my parents both grew up on the east coast. My dad was raised on the Philadelphia Flyers, while my mom grew up an avid Pittsburgh Penguins fan.
To no one’s surprise, they divorced in 2008.
Growing up, there was only one sport in our house, and that sport was named hockey. As a baby, my mom would take my brother and I to Sharks games at the Cow Palace (making sure to give us ear plugs). When the Sharks moved to the Tank in 1993, my parents and their friends pooled together and got season tickets, meaning we got to go to about ten games a year as a family. There was nothing like coming home from school, rushing like a madman to get my homework done, then throwing on my Sharks t-shirt and heading to the Tank with my mom and dad.
My first (and best) memory at the Tank came when I was five years old, watching Owen Nolan bury a goal against the Blues. Hearing the horn sound for the first time changed me. I had been to football and baseball games, but watching an entire building literally quake and thunder after scoring like that moved me. Something inside of me woke up. It was at that moment I realized this was more than a sport- it was a family. As I got older and started following other teams, I realized that’s all hockey is- thirty families fighting and bickering over a silver Cup. To an outsider, it all seems petty and pointless. But to us, it’s everything. After all, there’s only one Cup.
Of course, my fandom was received with tepid and muted response from my classmates. While I also followed baseball, most of the kids in my grade were basketball fanatics. And as a kid, no sport could have been worse for me than basketball. I was pretty big for my age around eleven. Not fat, just big. Meaning that keeping up with my classmates during games was a hassle. God forbid if I ever had to take a shot. I only played when I had to, which was during P.E. Basketball week was the worst for me. Kids would harass me, and call me out for not playing right (aside from an unusually lucky hook shot I took from half court once that went straight in).
But then hockey week would come. While my husky frame may have held me back in basketball and track, I turned into a fiend once the puck dropped on the tennis court outside the locker room we were forced to play on. I became known as “Hosposaurus Rex” in middle school, throwing hip checks and slap shots like a bat out of prepubescent hell. Thankfully, I had a great P.E. coach who encouraged physical play, much to the dismay of the basketball players, who would always insist I was playing too hard, and kept demanding penalty shots. For some reason, when I held that stick in my hand, I felt like a God. Gone were the taunts and teases, gone were the criticisms, the awkward looks. There was only look in my classmates’ eyes during hockey week: fear.
As the years went on, so did my fandom. I stood in front of Vinnie Damphousse’s SUV as a nine-year-old to get his autograph after a game. When I was twelve, I got my first jersey, the one from my all-time favorite Shark: Mike Ricci. A few years later, I would get the chance to make him coffee at the Starbucks I worked at in high school. I almost cried when he signed a coffee sleeve for me (I still have it on my desk). I wept like a nine-year-old when the Sharks got upended by the Ducks in 2009. I went into contortions watching Nabokov make “The Save” against Dallas during 4OT of Game Six back in 2008. I remember cursing Teemu Selanne for missing a decisive wraparound in 2002 against the Avalanche in the 2002 Playoffs. Now that I live in LA, I make a habit of going to games whenever the Sharks are playing the Ducks or the Kings. Despite the ridicule I receive for wearing my Sharks jersey out in Southern California, watching the Sharks unload on their SoCal rivals makes it worth every boo, jeer, or hiss thrown at me. My favorite moment as a fan was being at Staples Center for Game 3 of the Sharks/Kings 2011 playoff series, and screaming my face off when the Sharks came back from a 4-0 hole to win the game 6-5 in OT. If I could, I’d probably legally name my firstborn child “San Jose Shark Hospodor”. This team has been through its highs and lows, I’ve been through nearly every single one with them. I love this team like the Giants like wearing silly hats.
And now, look at the Bay Area. You can’t drive five miles down Highway 85 without running into a Sharks license plate holder. Practically every business in San Jose has a “Sharks Territory” sign out front. Places like Mr. Pickles and Sushi on the Run in Los Gatos have become favorites for players like Brett Burns. We have more than a city that likes a team. We have a city that is a team.
Simply put, I love the Sharks. I’d probably jump out of a plane for them if I had to (oh wait, I did). I’m thrilled to be able to blog here. I’m excited to inject some of my own input into the site. It’s my hope that my articles will start discussions between readers and writers of Blades of Teal alike, and give us more to talk about as the season unfolds, and this team takes us on another emotional roller coaster journey through the Heavens and Hells of the Hockey Gods. And you can bet I’ll be in the front car, waiting for my picture to get taken. In the meantime, feel free to follow my Twitter. I look forward to getting to know all of you.
See you around.