At season's end, Sharks swap skates for spikes
The Anaheim Mighty Ducks are making early tee times. The Dallas Stars are out on the course, too.
The Sharks? They're still playing hockey. And they'd like to keep it that way deep into the spring.
But since it is playoff time, and the Sharks are the Bay Area sports story du jour, it seemed timely for a mini-primer on which of the local hockey favorites you'd want to be paired with if you find yourself in the team's annual charity golf tournament next fall.
First choice, hands down: Vincent Damphousse.
The Montreal native sports a 4-handicap back home in Quebec and concedes he has ``been an addict for quite a while.'' Damphousse, 34, has been playing golf for two decades and honed his game as he was developing as a hockey player.
``My months off were in the summer. I was able to work out in the morning and play some golf in the afternoon, so I think it's the perfect sport to combine with golf,'' Damphousse said.
Damphousse is one of only a handful of players who has an established handicap. The others are Owen Nolan, with a 10, and Bryan Marchment, with an 11.9, both of whom play out of Silver Creek Valley Country Club.
But plenty of others play the game, and most like to put a few bucks down on the course.
``Nobody has real handicaps,'' Damphousse said. ``They play 90 the day before, so now they've gone up four strokes'' in their demands. ``It's tough to make them understand what a handicap really is,'' he said.
``Put that on the record: I took Vinnie three times in a row for money,'' boasted Mike Ricci, who is one of the fastest improving players on the team, along with Teemu Selanne, Patrick Marleau and Niklas Sundstrom.
Former Shark Bernie Nichols recalls playing with Ricci for the first time a few years ago at Ruby Hills in Pleasanton. ``He took a swing and spun around like a top,'' Nichols said.
Ricci admits to the tumble, saying it was a hilly lie.
``My game has changed,'' said Ricci, who isn't exactly the country club type and has been spotted lately on the driving range at Rancho del Pueblo, San Jose's east side executive course. ``I gotta play with Bernie one more time.''
Ricci's also known for a slick putting stroke, despite an obvious impediment.
``I don't know how he sees when he's putting,'' teammate Shawn Heins said. ``The hair's down over his eyes, but he's an unbelievable putter.''
If you're playing a scramble, your first choice might be Heins, who gets a lot of power out of his 6-foot-4 frame.
``This year I've been hitting them nice and straight,'' Heins said. ``Just a little under 300 yards.''
He's not so hot with the irons, however.
``We were out last week at Silver Creek. It was a 340-yard hole. I hit it about 300 yards and then put it in the drink, from 40 yards.''
If you're paired with Marchment, you might hope it's with Bryan's wife, Kim, rather than the Sharks defenseman.
``I lose every time to her,'' said the hockey player. ``Straight up.''
While some players say the hand-eye coordination that makes them good on the ice translates to the golf course, Marchment said that hasn't been true for him.
``I wish. I'm going to probably take some lessons this year and try to work things out. It's an enjoyable game when you play well but very frustrating for somebody that's competitive when you don't play well.''
Sounds like he's already learned everything there is to know.