Even before the Sharks were bound for the Stanley Cup Final, Paige Griffin was going to buy Game 3 tickets as a birthday gift for her 21-year-old son, Reid Lepera — no matter what.
The long-time Sharks fans were prepared to fly to St. Louis or Tampa Bay, if necessary, even if their team wasn’t playing. But as it worked out, Game 3 happened to be in San Jose, with the Sharks hosting their first ever Final at SAP Center.
It’s quite a birthday present for Lepera, and quite an experience for Griffin, who has been a fan since the Sharks played their inaugural season in the Cow Palace in 1991:
“Here’s my Cow Palace story. My first game there, it was raining.”
The rain seeped through the roof of the old barn. Griffin said:
“They had to give us umbrellas.”
Attending a Stanley Cup Final game in the glamour of the Shark Tank and Silicon Valley is a far cry from those days. The two were also in attendance in Game 4 of the Sharks’ first-round series against the Kings two years ago — the start of the epic collapse from a 3-0 series lead.
Lepera described this year’s postseason run as “redemption.”
It seemed to be a common theme for fans milling outside SAP Center prior to puck drop, cautiously optimistic considering the franchise’s past, but excited to attend the biggest game in Sharks’ history, which their team ended up winning 2-1 in overtime in the NHL’s final championship round.
Trent and Jennifer Casey made the long trek down from Mountain House, near Tracy. Trent has been waiting a lifetime for this game, and as expected, is accustomed to the franchise’s suffering:
“I come to expect it. I hope they don’t [lose].”
He didn’t even tell Jennifer how much he spent on tickets — $2,200 in total. Said Trent:
“We don’t get to many games, but it’s worth it.”
Randy Ivie, another fan who attended games at the Cow Palace, spent $1,400 on two tickets in Section 206. There were no hiding his sentiments:
“Fantastic. It’s about time.”
And was the fortune he spent on the tickets worth it?
“It already is. I’d do it again.”
The streets surrounding SAP Center were packed hours before game time, primed by an afternoon. A giant, inflatable Shark head blocked off Autumn St. and led into a row filled with games, activities and cutouts of Sharks players while music blared in the background.
Victor Jorge dragged his wife and daughter to the arena early for the rally. Decked in face paint and glitter in Sharks colors, the family got a bargain — $120 each — because Victor purchased half-season tickets that guaranteed playoff seats.
The Sharks superfandom, though, can wear off on the family. While gleefully pointing out face paint and decorations, Victoria, his daughter, playfully remarked:
“You drive me crazy!”
Crazy, though, is just what you may have to be to remain faithful to a long-suffering franchise, to spend a vacation on tickets, and to arrive hours before game time. Less than an hour before puck drop, the cheapest ticket on Stubhub was $900.
Unless you’re willing to dole out the cash, good luck finding last-minute seats. Neal Yu, a fan who hails from Pleasanton, said:
“All my friends who have season tickets – none of them are selling. Nobody wants to miss this game.”