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An Evening in the Minors
The 'Cuda's new arena didn't disappoint, but the team did
10/30/22 - By Paul Krill
With three of my favorite Sharks - Ryan Merkley, William Eklund, and Thomas Bordeleau - actually now playing for the Sharks' AHL affiliate, the San Jose Barracuda, and the 'Cuda now playing in a brand new arena, I thought I'd take in a 'Cuda game to check things out on Friday night.

First of all, the 'Cuda lost, 5-1, to the Tucson Roadrunners. San Jose's minor league team resembled most Sharks games this season: The 'Cuda scored the first goal in the first period, then fell apart in the second period, giving up three goals, and did nothing in the third period. As for the three players, Merkley had an assist on the 'Cuda's only goal but was -2 for the evening (although pretty much the whole team was a minus), while Bordeleau and Eklund didn't make the scoresheet but showed some of their high skill levels.

Some other familiar faces could be seen, like Jeffrey Viel and Aaron Dell. (Curiously, Sharks 2020 first-round draft pick Ozzy Weisblatt was dispatched to the ECHL Wichita Thunder recently after not suiting up for the Barracuda this season. Does this mean he's not now good enough for the AHL? This move gives off that eyebrow-raising impression. He did apparently suffer a shoulder injury last season, though. One published report had him already recalled to the 'Cuda.)

As for the new arena, called Tech CU Arena, it is first-rate. Nicely done; every seat is the equivalent of an expensive, lower-bowl seat at a Sharks game, with much-lower prices. Dress warmly, though - it's cold in there, as it should be. The place looked like a mini-SAP Center. Maybe we should nickname it the Fish Bowl, with the Sharks' arena already dubbed the Tank? But the crowd size was disappointing; game attendance at the 4,200-seat facility was listed at 1,211, although that figure seemed a bit generous.

If this new arena was supposed to pump up the 'Cuda's usually lagging attendance, it didn't do the job last Friday. Game 1 of the World Series was on at the time, which could have suppressed attendance, but I suppose that really didn't make all that much difference.

I've always thought the Sharks' affiliate would be better off located in Sacramento. That city has a first-class arena and is far enough to not compete with the Sharks for South Bay hockey dollars but close enough to get players here within a couple hours when they've been called up to the Sharks. I've never thought the South Bay was a strong enough hockey market to support two teams and that has turned out to be true.

Now, with the Sharks themselves no longer coming close to sellouts most nights, the notion of having two hockey teams here makes even less sense. But the 'Cuda are here to stay and we should embrace that. The only drawbacks I saw to the new arena involved parking and public transit.

The place was built on what used to be the parking lot of San Jose's ice center near Spartan Stadium. So there's only a parking garage ($10 to park) across the street and whatever parking spaces are left onsite at the ice center itself. But no VTA Light Rail access like the Tank offers, unless you want to walk a couple miles.

Anyway, I highly recommend everyone go see a 'Cuda game at the new arena. Check it out!

Note: The Friday game I was at was not the one that began with the slugfest, with both teams having players immediately kicked out of the game. That was Saturday afternoon.

Contact Paul at at paulkrill@letsgosharks.com


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