FanPost

Man The Harpoons: The HP Pavilion Road Fan Experience

HP Pavilion. The Shark Tank. The last arena I'd need to visit to complete my tour not only of all the California NHL venues, but also all of the Pacific Division arenas (I went to a Predators-Coyotes game during Spring Break last year on a spur-of-the moment decision...we had nothing better to do). But this was going to be a special experience no matter what, since it was the Dallas Stars against the San Jose Sharks. There aren't many games I get amped up more than Stars-Sharks games. This time, I'd be going to HP Pavilion for the first time ever.

My girlfriend Ann--who is from San Jose and a Sharks fan--and I planned to go to this game in January, so to say I was looking forward to April 7 is a major understatement. It's always interesting to go to a game with somebody who's a fan of a rival team, but it's even more interesting to go to that same game as a visitor to her team's home arena.

Sure, I was going to this game with somebody, but this was the first road game I went to in which I was truly on my own. She would not be high-fiving me if the Stars scored. No way.

I could discuss everything that went into the entire trip, but that could encompass 8,000 words, and I would lose everybody's interest before I even got to the part where we got to downtown San Jose. Seriously, there was so much to this trip.

I also took hundreds of pictures on this trip, a lot of them on the road. If I posted all of the good ones from that batch, it would crash your browsers, and then you wouldn't be able to read this post.

Here is a small list detailing what we did on the trip before game day:

  • Drove 6 hours from Los Angeles to San Jose.
  • After a brief stop at her house, drove another hour to San Francisco, aka "The City," as it's referred to in the Bay Area.
  • I made a wrong turn, and accidentally drove onto the Bay Bridge, and had to find a way to get back to San Francisco, a city in which I had never driven in before.
  • Then we took the scenic route to try to get to the North Beach district, which has a lot of Italian restaurants. Seriously the most terrifying drive of my life.
  • Went to Ghirardelli Square, but unfortunately everything was closed by the time we got there, so we couldn't buy any chocolate.
  • Drove back to San Jose and called it a night.

If you would like to know more about the time in San Francisco, feel free to ask in the comments. But now, I'm going to start from Game Day.

Also, if you're reading this, thank you very much Mr. and Mrs. Frazier for letting me stay one night at your house. That was very generous of you.

San Pedro Square

Since this was an early game, we had to leave her house at 10:45 AM so I could get the full San Jose Sharks game day experience.

Unlike Southern California, there was no ridiculous amount of traffic on a Sunday afternoon on CA-85 or CA-87, the two freeways we needed to drive on to get to downtown San Jose. When we got to San Jose, I began to learn just how much the Bay Area cares about the Sharks. It was 11 AM, and we were already seeing many people wearing Sharks jerseys walking down Santa Clara Street, where HP Pavilion is located.

We drove to San Pedro Square in downtown San Jose, just down the street from HP Pavilion. Parking at the garage nearby is $7, which is very decent. Parking near the arena will cost more than twice that, and you won't get to see downtown.

Tuba Top Tip: Go to San Pedro Square.

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This is San Pedro Street. Judging by the gigantic "This Is Sharks Territory" banner hanging, could you imagine what would happen to businesses here if the lockout killed the season? I don't have hard data on how much more business these shops get on game days, but if I had to venture an educated guess I'd say a lot more than normal.

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Despite the enticing banner, we did not go here to eat. Although it's apparently decent, per the Yelp rating I just saw when I Googled it.

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San Pedro Square actually has public restrooms you can use in the middle of San Pedro Street, but you need to pay to use them. I'm not entirely sure how much you need to pay, but I think it's a nickel or something really arbitrary.

We settled on a place called Peggy Sue's. Everybody in the diner was wearing a Sharks jersey, except for me.

Oh and here's one very important thing to know about Sharks fans: they do not like Steve Ott.

Anyway, I ordered an avocado cheeseburger and garlic fries, because when you're in NorCal, you've got to eat garlic fries, since GIlroy is not too far away to the south and is the garlic capital of the world, so you know it's fresh. The food was actually pretty good and reasonably priced when you think about how much you'd pay for arena food. The really nice thing about this place was that we paid as we ordered the food, so we could leave the restaurant and head to the game whenever we wanted.

Santa Clara Street

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By the way, it was a beautiful Northern Californian spring day.

When you're going to a game at HP Pavilion, you have to walk down Santa Clara Street towards the arena with everybody that's going to the game. That will get you in the zone and psyched for the game.

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The Guadalupe River runs by HP Pavilion, and on March 1995, it flooded so badly that nobody could get to the arena and the NHL had to postpone the game. It is the only rainout in the NHL's history.

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Earth to the Red Wings fan, you're taking away somebody's seat that might want to go to the game! Your team isn't playing this game! Why are you there?!

And yes, that fan is wearing a Pittsburgh Penguins Jaromir Jagr jersey.

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Finally, I was here.

Pregame

Concourse

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I think it's pretty cool that the seal of the city of San Jose greets you as you enter the arena. It was around 12:15 PM by this time, which meant we had a lot of time to kill. We walked around the concourse so I could see everything in the arena.

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I was intending to get a picture of the concourse as we walked in, but then when I was flipping through my photos afterwards I realized that the Sharks fan in the teal jersey is making a very funny face, which makes this picture so much better. Candid shots for the win.

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By the way, all you Canadians on this blog, they sell Molson at this particular Ice Bar. They go for $7.50. You're going to need a beer like I did after eating garlic fries, because garlic taste really lingers in your mouth if you don't wash it down. You don't want garlic breath all day, especially if you're a road fan, because not only are you wearing apparel for another team, but your breath also stinks. Double whammy.

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If you're having trouble reading the silver letters, they read "This Building is Dedicated to the People of San Jose." I thought that was particularly cool. I don't remember seeing anything like that at Reunion Arena, but then again I was very young when I went to games there.

You'll also notice plaques on the wall. Throughout the concourse, the arena honors people who either are from San Jose, or played on San Jose-area teams. I remember seeing Brandi Chastain among the people honored. That's another really cool aspect of this building.

You'll also notice that the arena lists directions to seats in the 100-level seats and the 200-level seats. HP Pavilion has only one main concourse, and it leads to both levels of seats.

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And it's...HEY WAIT A MINUTE...YOU'RE THE MASCOT WHO CHOMPED ON MY HEAD BACK IN DALLAS IN 2007. Don't think I haven't forgotten that, Sharkie...

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And now you chomp on this poor lady's head? How could you?

Warmups

What became abundantly clear to me was that there were not many Stars fans at this game at all. Fewer than I saw in Los Angeles and Anaheim for sure. I counted three the entire time we were walking in the concourse.

As we walked to the rink to see the warmups, it became clear why I saw so few Stars fans in the concourse: all of them were at the Stars tunnel waiting for the team to come out.

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It's Razor, and his bald spot.

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I should have asked this in the game thread that day, but did anybody see me taking photos? Judging by this photo, it doesn't look like the television camera was framed to get the fans in the background, but I thought I'd ask anyway.

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Keep Calm and Kari On.

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Hey Chaser, could you move a little slower? My camera can't keep up.

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Slow down, Jamie!

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Notice the Ray Whitney Sharks jersey on the right. I also think it's interesting how HP Pavilion alternates the seat colors between gray and black.

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Too bad I can't read all the signatures on that lady's jersey.

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Smile, Matt Fraser. You're on candid camera!

Amazingly enough, this was the first ever time I had gone to a game early enough to cheer the Stars on as they entered the ice for warmups, and I've been going to game since 2000.

As we were walking back to our seats, I covertly took this photo:

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This guy defaced his Brenden Morrow jersey. Why? I don't know. I didn't want to turn on the flash on my camera because that would have been extremely awkward.

Just after 12:30 we finally walked to our seats. This was our view from the second to last row in Section 226.

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That's the good thing about arenas with two seating levels: there's not a bad seat in the arena. Actually, this was a pretty damn good seat, but we did have to pay quite a bit for it: $51 apiece. These were $90 face value on Ticketmaster, for what it's worth.

Given how small the arena is, the scoreboard, installed in 2007, is enormous, and somehow doesn't cover up any part of the ice no matter where you sit. The arena also upgraded its speaker system that year, and wow do they sound awesome. Crystal clear sound.

Here's a really fun fact about the HP Pavilion: the city messed up constructing it. The Sharks were supposed to play in this arena starting in 1992, but team management discovered that the architects designed the arena for community use, and didn't include luxury suites or a press box, which are needed to meet NHL standards. In the photo above, you actually can't see the press box. That's because it's above the rafters. For a time, the broadcasters used to call the games from the front row of one of the 200-level sections, with the home team calling the game from the center of the arena and the road team's broadcasters calling it from a couple sections away. Now, both teams' broadcasters call the game from the press box.

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Sure, banners hang forever, but you're missing a big one.

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I always noticed on television that the lighting appeared to be pretty dark for HP Pavilion, but this visit proved that was not the case. It's lit like this the whole game.

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The seats in HP Pavilion are steep. If you're attending a game at HP Pavilion, whatever you do, do not, under any circumstances, lean forward in your seat. You will block somebody's view, and that person will yell at you for doing so. The arena even warns fans not to lean forward in their chairs for this reason. It's not a light issue, either. Sharks fans take seat-leaning policy very seriously. But, given how small the venue is, you don't need to lean forward in your chair anyway.

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For some reason, the area with the actual score listed on the scoreboard always comes out bluish on cameras. It's actually gray.

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The Sharks put fins on their zambonis, which is something I can appreciate. This zamboni even refers to the classic Saturday Night Live "Land Shark" skit with "LAN Shark" written on it, since we're in Silicon Valley.

Pregame Presentation

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Go Stars.

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The San Jose Sharks pregame presentation is kickass.

First, the arena lowers the giant shark head covered by a black curtain onto the ice.

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Sharkie then rappels from the rafters onto the ice to start things off. Once he lands he walks to both ends of the ice and gets both sides of the crowd fired up, and boy do they ever get fired up for Sharkie. They go absolutely nuts.

His stunt usually goes on without incident, but on March 12, 1999, Sharkie got stuck.

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Then the arena plays music that closely resembles the theme from Jaws, which is understandable since they're the Sharks. If the Sharks skated out to the Jaws theme, it would make sense. It wouldn't be spectacular, but nobody would say it was bad either.

Then suddenly, Metallica's "Seek & Destroy" starts playing, and the roof blows off the building. The curtain covering up the shark head is lifted up, revealing not only the shark head with fog shooting out of its mouth and its eyes flashing red, but also the San Jose Sharks. Because I'm biased, I will always say the Stars entrance is the best, but this one is a very close second. I strongly approve the team's choice to play "Seek & Destroy" as they enter the ice. "Seek & Destroy" is an awesome song by itself, but it just fits perfectly with the Sharks. In nature, as we all know, sharks are very good at two things: seeking and destroying. But if you listen to the first verse, it's the perfect song for the start of a hockey game: "We're scanning the scene / In the city tonight / Looking for you / To start up a fight / There's an evil feeling / In our brains / But it's nothing new / You know it drives us insane." If you aren't familiar with Metallica, they write a lot of dark songs, as you can probably tell with these lyrics. In a hockey setting, this is a song that gets people going. Ever since I saw the Sharks skate out to "Seek & Destroy," I've listened to that song at least twice each day in the past week. True story.

Now, since the Stars are division rivals with the Sharks and have eliminated them all three times they've played each other in the playoffs, Sharks fans loathe the Stars. They also really don't like how Stars fans yell "STARS!" during the banner, and they have an interesting tradition that only takes place when the Stars are in town. The arena tries so hard to prevent it from happening by letting the crowd sing the Star Spangled Banner instead of hiring a singer that day, but it never works. Every time that lyric comes up, Sharks fans cover up the Stars fans in attendance yelling "Stars" by booing that lyrics. So, it sounds like "Who's broad stripes and bright BOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" This is hostile territory, ladies and gentlemen. Oh and you bet I made sure the fans around me heard me emphasize "Stars" during the Banner. The crowd got out of sync with each other during the Banner. Now, I went into this game knowing about the Banner tradition, so I was ready for it.

Furthermore on the Banner, if you're going to sing the Banner at HP Pavilion, when you hear "YOU SUCK!" right before you start singing, that's not directed at you. This didn't happen before the Banner when I went oddly enough because the arena didn't give this a chance to happen. What normally happens right before the Banner is one fan in Section 209 yells, for example, "HEY LA!" and the entire arena yells back "YOU SUCK!"

After eating in San Pedro Square, walking down Santa Clara Street, watching the Stars skate out onto the ice for warmups, watching the Sharks awesome "Seek & Destroy" intro, and singing the Star Spangled Banner, it was time to drop the puck.

Gameplay Atmosphere

First Period

First thing I noticed immediately with Sharks fans: they focus on nothing else but the game. I didn't hear any prolonged loud conversations about what people did the day before or whenever. When it was game time, it was game time.

This worked out well for me for a couple of reasons:

  1. I'm also a very focused hockey watcher.
  2. I'm in the second to last row, which only allowed for one row of fans to possibly heckle me should they choose to do so.

Ann and I were so focused on the game that we did not talk to each other while the game was in progress. We'd only talk with each other during commercial breaks.

And since I was literally the only Stars fan in my section, I strongly adhered to my rules: Don't be obnoxious. Treat the home fans with respect.

And with 11:21 left to go in the first, it wasn't looking good for the Stars.

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If you ever see this during a game at HP Pavilion, it means bad things.

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I hope I never see a shark with bright red eyes breathing fog out of its mouth in nature.

There is heavy use of a synthesizer during breaks in action, and the beats are kind of catchy. I found myself clapping along to the synthesizer multiple times throughout the game.

Then the Stars took a penalty later in the period, and since I also saw this Sharks fan tradition occur at the Sharks-Ducks game a couple months before, I was ready for it at HP Pavilion and got my camera ready. Normally you only hear the Jaws-like theme play while watching a Sharks game on television. What you don't normally see is what the fans do, and it's unique. As the arena's playing the Jaws-like music, almost all the fans move their arms up and down and separate their fingers to emulate shark teeth. This is known as the "Chomp."

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Thankfully the Stars killed it off.

First Intermission

I had to go to the bathroom after the first period, and that's when a lot of the Sharks fans in my section realized I was a Stars fan, and was bold enough to wear a Steve Ott jersey. One fan jokingly gestured as if he was going to push me over, and I played along with it, which made the fans nearby chuckle a little bit. Once I got to the aisle one fan saw I was wearing an Ott jersey and said to me "You must really love your friends!" and high-fived me out of respect. I didn't expect to get a high-five from a Sharks fan at any point in the game for wearing a Sharks fan, especially at the Shark Tank.

I saw that there was a gigantic line for the men's bathroom near my section so I went to a different bathroom, and that also had a long line, or so I thought. It moved surprisingly quickly.

Tuba Top Tip: Don't be deceived by the lines to the men's restroom. I can't speak for the women's restrooms.

I got back to my seat and told Ann I had lowered my expectations so much that just being able to celebrate one goal in HP Pavilion would be considered a victory. It would really suck to go to a road venue and watch your team get shut out. It's never happened to me, and while I didn't expect much from this game, I wanted to see at least one damn goal.

The second period would provide me that and then some.

Second Period

Second period started off badly, too.

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Brent Burns with the puck leads to more bad things.

The game turned on a dime 35 seconds later, however, when the Sharks were sloppy with the puck in their own zone, and Eric Nystrom made them pay, and I got to celebrate in the Shark Tank. It was mission accomplished. It turned out to be a funny experience for everybody, because I stood up cheering and said "Woohoo! And now I'm going to sit back down." Hey, I was the only Stars fan in my section. I wanted to make a good first impression with the fans around me to prove I wouldn't be obnoxious. I also didn't want to piss off Ann, since we were going to be driving back to USC for 6 hours after the game.

When I sat down the fan next to me said something along the lines of "I applaud your enthusiasm." I also didn't give anybody a chance to yell "SIT DOWN!" at me because I was standing for maybe two seconds maximum.

Then Alex Chiasson scored 26 seconds later to tie the game at 2-2, and I was a lot more emphatic in my celebration but still knew not to rub it in to literally everybody around me. I was the only person standing and cheering Chiasson's goal. It was empowering.

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That looks much better.

My elation was short-lived, however, when TJ Galiardi of all people scored the prettiest goal of the game with a spin-o-rama backhand from the right circle that beat Kari.

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When your spin-o-rama leads to bad things, TJ, I'm not happy. I don't care if the other 17,000+ people are happy. I'm not.

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The scoreboard ate Brenden Dillon.

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Then there was this mad congestion of humanity at Kari's net.

Everybody on television knew what the referees were reviewing. Nobody in my section knew, though. All we knew is that they went to commercial break, but then the game wasn't resuming immediately when it came back from commercial, so something was up, obviously. They weren't showing any replays of what happened before the commercial break happened. The fan next to me and I guessed that it had something to do with the puck and whether or not it crossed the line. I started getting more concerned as the review persisted longer and longer, which I inferred as the refs determining that the Sharks scored.

Then the referee announced that the puck crossed the line, and while the goal horn blared, the crowd didn't celebrate too much. I think they were just as surprised as I was by the call, and that subdued their celebration a bit.

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Too much this.

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And too much that.

So it was 4-2 now. The Stars had given up three goals in the second period in this game after giving up none to the Ducks two days before. But even with the Stars giving up three goals, it felt different from other bad second periods because of how quickly the Stars scored their two goals.

During the last 30 seconds of the period, a fan behind us kept saying repeatedly to his younger daughter "anything can happen now." I applaud him for teaching his daughter to always watch every minute of the game, but this time nothing happened, and the second intermission commenced.

Second Intermission

I didn't catch first intermission entertainment, but I did catch second intermission entertainment, which consisted of people at center ice trying to form a puzzle on the ice to win a prize, and I don't remember the prize because I wasn't paying attention.

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After one of the groups won, the staffers literally trying to pick up the pieces looked like they were understaffed and were struggling mightily trying to bring them off the ice.

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I also took the time to play out all the reasons why there was no way I could come away unhappy from this game:

  1. If the Stars won the game, I'd be happy.
  2. If the Stars lost, they would fall deeper into the standings and therefore closer to a higher draft pick.
  3. If the Sharks won, Ann would be happy, and when she's happy the day's always good, and when we're driving six hours back to USC this is extremely important.

Little did I know I was about to see something spectacular.

Third Period

The Stars were shooting towards my side of the arena for the third period, which worked out beautifully for how things transpired.

Sharks fans can blame Sharkie for the Stars tying the game, because as soon as he sat down in the aisle of our section, Alex Chiasson scored his second of the game. I'm not sure what came over me, but I didn't even yell when I stood up to celebrate. I blame Sharkie for distracting me.

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Then three minutes later, Loui Eriksson tied the game, and once again, I stood up to celebrate the goal but didn't yell my excitement. This time, though, I nodded to myself and clapped to show my appreciation for tying a game in an unlikely fashion. The entire building was stunned silent.

The fan to my right who I had briefly chatted with a few times earlier in the game then asked me what the Stars did for their home games. I explained that the Stars fans didn't have anything like a "chomp" to commemorate a power play for the Stars, and that we didn't even have a mascot. But I made sure to tell him we yelled "Stars!" during the Banner, which he knew since he took part in the Banner booing, and that the Stars had their own fight song written by Pantera. He was genuinely interested in Stars fans traditions, though, and that was something I didn't experience at either Staples Center or Honda Center.

Later in the period, HP Pavilion put up a graphic of Sharkie holding up signs that read "Beat the Stars!" and the arena started chanting that. I'm not sure if that's unique to the Stars, and I don't think it is, but I didn't see a chant like that directed at the Stars at either Honda Center or Staples Center.

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Perhaps the funniest moment at HP Pavilion was when a cameraman near the corner boards got on camera and decided to start dancing wildly while still holding the camera. I'm not sure if that's a staple at HP Pavilion, but it provided some much-needed comic relief from the intense game.

Again during the last 30 seconds of the period, that same fan behind us kept saying "anything can happen now." He wasn't wrong, but nothing happened and the game went to overtime.

Overtime

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The Stars had brought me back in yet again, and then played the most dominant four minutes of puck possession I had seen them play in a while. Sure, it didn't amount to a goal being scored for us, but it also ensured that San Jose wouldn't get a good chance on Kari.

It would take the infamous skills competition to settle this one.

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Jamie Benn scored going my way, and that was awesome. Since he was the second shooter, all Kari needed to do was make a save against Brent Burns to steal the game from the Sharks. He made that save, and I was about to celebrate quite a bit, but then I remembered I was with Ann and realized that wasn't a good idea, especially since she vocally showed her disgust with the outcome. I snapped a picture of the scoreboard and packed my camera away.

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Postgame

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It was quite a long walk back to our car in San Pedro Square. As I walked by one Sharks fan yelled at me "You better keep walking, Ott!" I've learned to take heckling with a grain of salt, so that didn't do anything.

While I wasn't loudly cheering the victory as we were walking out, I texted the two friends I went to the Ducks game with two days before to say how awesome it was to watch the Stars win at the Shark Tank, because it truly was.

Would my experience have been different if I sat anywhere else and if the Sharks won? No doubt. I wouldn't have minded a last row seat at HP Pavilion because the venue's pretty small. But if I sat in a row near the front of the section, the likeliness of getting heckled by fans behind me might have been higher. I can't determine how Sharks fans would have felt after a win because we won, but even when the Sharks were up 4-2 nobody was harassing me.

If there's any place you need to catch a Stars game on the road, it's HP Pavilion. I know I'm writing all these great things about it since the Stars won, which undoubtedly made the experience much better, but this was honestly one of the best NHL venues I've been to.

I sincerely hope you enjoyed reading all three of these arena posts. I know this last post is very long, but it's also the only time in which I experienced the entire game day atmosphere for a city other than Dallas.

Go Stars.

This is a user-created FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of SB Nation or Defending Big D. FanPost opinions are valued expressions of opinion by passionate and knowledgeable hockey and Dallas Stars fans.

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