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Sharks varsity high schoolers take new league to SAP Center

 

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Players in the Sharks High School Hockey League are getting a rare opportunity to live the life of a pro.

Having recently dropped the puck on its inaugural season, the five-team league has each of its teams playing three games of a 10-game schedule at SAP Center, home of both the San Jose Sharks and their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Barracuda.

Amanda Long, the high school hockey coordinator for Solar4America Ice in San Jose (formerly known as Sharks Ice) says players are going to get an experience that would only be rivaled by taking the ice for the Barracuda themselves.

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“We’ve worked with the Barracuda and each of our teams will play either before or following a Barracuda game,” said Long. “Additionally, their production crew has really helped us with doing things like running replays on the Jumbotron, music, goal announcing, and player introductions. We even have head shots of all the players to run alongside the stats. We want to make this experience as close as possible to a pro game.”

Long says as part of team dues, tickets to Barracuda games are included, so each school has an allotment of tickets they can use to either go to the game or sell to students or family members, thereby increasing exposure for both the Barracuda and the high school league.

The league is made up of five schools, four of which are in San Jose. Bellarmine College Prep, Archbishop Mitty High School, Valley Christian High School, and Willow Glen High School are joined by Los Gatos High School.

By starting the season in October, the league marks a change in approach when it comes to high school hockey, as in the past varsity hockey leagues have run on a different schedule.

“We’ve had varsity leagues in the past, but they have always been in the spring,” said Long. “Typically, once tier and travel teams are ending, we will start a varsity league, but with this, we’re trying to create an in-season varsity league.

“I think people are starting to realize that hockey is becoming bigger and bigger and a lot of kids want to play for their high schools. If we can help to grow that by playing a few of our games at a venue like the SAP Center, I think that’s going to be a positive.”

The first game at the SAP Center took place on Nov. 6 – an 8-2 win for Bellarmine over Willow Glen (both teams pictured above) – and Long and the league now prepare for the next SAP game, which will take place on Dec. 8 when Bellarmine plays Valley Christian.

“We’ve had a ton of amazing feedback for the first SAP game,” said Long. “People were really pleased with it. But the non-SAP games – the ones that take place at Solar4America Ice here in San Jose – have been well received, too.”

With a 10-game schedule with no playoffs currently scheduled, Long acknowledges that the league is taking it cautiously in the beginning. However, she feels that the interest is there for the league to go through a growth spurt.

“Most of California is moving that direction as it is, so ideally, we would like to expand for as many teams as we can get into the league,” said Long. “But it’s also important for us to ensure that we are moving at the proper pace – there’s no reason for us to rush and try to put something in place that isn’t realistic for the time.

“It’s like putting the playoffs in place. It’s a great way to put the cap on the season and it will be implemented at some point I’m sure, but there needs to be more discussions on what the format would be for something like that as well.”

For more information, visit www.sharkshighschoolhockey.com.

— John B. Spigott