Battle of the NHL mascots: When S.J. Sharkie out-Gritty'd Gritty


Battle of the NHL mascots: When S.J. Sharkie out-Gritty'd Gritty

The NHL's biggest star will wear a Philadelphia Flyers jersey but won’t suit up against the Sharks on Tuesday. 

That’s because it’s a mascot. 

Yes, we’re talking about Gritty, the googly-eyed Flyers mascot that went viral almost immediately after being unveiled in a preseason press conference just over two weeks ago. The costumed character looked a bit like a cross between the Phillie Phanatic and Animal the Muppet -- one that’s really, really sleep-deprived -- and became an Internet darling.

Gritty fell before a preseason game, then channeled Kim Kardashian. Appearances on "Good Morning America" and "The Tonight Show" followed suit. So did bits featuring Gritty stand-ins on "Last Week Tonight" and "Conan." 

Now, Gritty -- or, at least the people running its eponymous Twitter account -- has set its terrifying eyes on the Sharks’ mascot, S.J. Sharkie. 

We’re not here to stoke up the #PleaseLikeMyMascot crowd. But with everyone talking about the Flyers mascot, we would be neglecting our Journalistic Duty if we didn’t remind you about two instances where Sharkie out-Gritty'd Gritty in a pre-social media age. 

There was, of course, the time the Sharks mascot hung from the rafters at SAP Center. 

Flashback to March 12, 1999. The Sharks had won three out of four, and were looking to make the playoffs in consecutive seasons for just the second time in franchise history. San Jose was tied for seventh in the Western Conference, two points clear of missing the playoffs entirely, and the Detroit Red Wings were in town. 

In an effort to hype up the crowd before the game, Sharkie started to repel from the rafters ... then stopped. Abruptly.

The mascot was stuck hanging over the ice for 20 minutes, according to a report from Ross McKeon in the San Francisco Examiner that night. Rubber mats were laid on the ice, but it didn’t reach that point: Sharkie was lifted to safety after the game was delayed for 12 minutes. 

"It was nice he didn't fall," then-Sharks defenseman Mike Rathje told the paper that night, in what remains an understatement.

The death-defying incident even got the late-night treatment, as it was lampooned in a mock-investigative piece in an episode of “The Daily Show” later that summer. 

Of course, that wasn’t be the only time Sharkie (reportedly) was in a perilous situation with an Original Six franchise in town. 

Just over two-and-a-half years later, the Sharks hosted the New York Rangers on Dec. 28, 2001. With New York up 2-1, once-and-future San Jose antagonist Theoren Fleury was given an attempt-to-injure penalty for kneeing Sharks forward Mark Smith. 

On his way back to the locker room, Fleury ran into San Jose’s mascot, and an altercation ensued. The New York Times wrote the following month that Fleury “allegedly punched Sharkie,” while other outlets reported Fleury broke the performer’s rib. 

Fleury ultimately wrote a letter of apology, and in his return to San Jose exactly one year later with the Chicago Blackhawks, joked to reporters that he hoped the mascot had “been training” for a rematch. In an interview in 2008, the Saskatchewan native said he only “nudged” Sharkie, and later wrote in his 2009 memoir “Playing with Fire” that the incident was blown out of proportion:

“On my way down the tunnel, Sharkie … was standing in my way," Fleury wrote. "He could see me steaming, but he refused to move. He was doing his Sharkie thing, so I brushed past him. Seriously, I barely touched him. The next thing you know, it was reported in the Knight Ridder newspapers that I ‘broke S.J. Sharkie’s ribs in a scuffle after being ejected from a game.’ Typical American [b.s].”

Look, late-night television appearances are cool and all, but Defying Death and Beef With A Professional Athlete are the true rites of mascot passage.  

Gritty might be well on the way toward surpassing Rocky Balboa as a Philadelphia icon, but the mascot pecking order is another matter entirely.

Sharks displeased with controversial calls in overtime loss to Bruins


Sharks displeased with controversial calls in overtime loss to Bruins

SAN JOSE -- Suffice to say, the Sharks’ Monday night contest against the Bruins didn’t end the way they wanted it to. Not just because they got only one point in the standings from the 6-5 overtime loss, but because of one particular call that was made toward the end of the game.

San Jose was dialed in and holding down the fort to ensure they got a would-be 5-4 victory fueled by Joe Thornton’s hat trick. But then, Bruins’ forward Chris Wagner registered the tying goal by swatting the puck out of the air with his stick, which looked like a high-stick play. Wagner then gave the puck an extra nudge as it trickled into the net with just a little over one minute left in regulation.

Per the NHL rulebook, high-sticking the puck -- as the rule says, “battling the puck above the normal height of the shoulders” -- should have negated the goal. In Monday’s game, the officials decided the puck was played low enough for the goal to count and for the game to be tied. The Sharks revealed after the game that wasn’t how they saw it.

“I was right there on the play and it was pretty clear it was above both the crossbar and his shoulders,” Logan Couture said. “I think it was above his eyesight.”

Sharks coach Peter DeBoer didn’t agree with the call either, calling it one of a few calls he didn’t particularly agree with at the end of the game. “I’m sure we’ll get an explanation and some type of apology,” he said frankly. “It doesn’t help us in the standings but that’s usually how it works.”

The call was also confusing in that the Sharks weren’t able to review it afterward. (It’s possibly because Wagner tapped the puck in legally after knocking it down with his stick, but the league has yet to provide an explanation.) All the same, the ruling put San Jose in a tough position.

“They said it was under his shoulder and then he put it in, so the call stands, and it sounded like it wasn’t reviewable,” Joe Pavelski relayed to the media post-game. “Maybe a little glitch in the rule there. We’re a little unlucky that we can’t challenge it. I haven’t seen it close up, but it felt like it was high.”

The tying goal then set Boston up to tally the game-winner in overtime -- a tough pill for San Jose to swallow after they’d battled back from a 3-0 first-period deficit to take a 5-4 lead in the third frame. Plus, as DeBoer pointed out, the decision gave the Sharks only one point on the evening, so they couldn’t keep pace in the standings with the Calgary Flames, who defeated the Arizona Coyotes earlier on Monday 5-2.

[RELATED: Expect Sharks-Flames division race to go down to the wire]

At the end of the day, the Sharks weren’t completely unhappy with how they rallied and played against a tough Boston team. But that doesn’t mean they have to be happy with that controversial call at the end of regulation.

“I’m sure the refs are going to watch it and they’ll probably feel bad about this one,” Couture said.

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in wild 6-5 overtime loss vs. Bruins

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in wild 6-5 overtime loss vs. Bruins

SAN JOSE -- Monday night’s contest between the Sharks and the Bruins was billed as a must-see, playoff-caliber matchup. And boy, was it a roller coaster ride.

Fueled by a hat trick from Joe Thornton, the Sharks roared back from a three-goal deficit to stay neck-and-neck with a tough Bruins squad. The high-octane contest went all the way into a very intense overtime, which ended with the Bruins emerging victorious, 6-5.

Here are three takeaways from Monday’s game:

Joe Thornton had himself a game

Long story short, Thornton put on a top notch performance. He was buzzing all evening, looking confident while collecting all three of his goals. It’s hard to pinpoint which goal was the most impressive -- although his reaction when he notched his third goal was pretty spectacular. 

Of course, Thornton’s three goals on the evening also elevated him further up the NHL’s all-time points list, closer to catching Stan Mikita at 1,467 points. While he may be hitting new milestones almost every game, the way he did it on Monday evening was extra enjoyable to watch.

You can’t ever count this team out

There were likely many viewers who wanted to turn the game off when the Sharks went down 3-0 in the first frame. But thanks to Thornton’s first goal on the evening -- which occurred with two seconds left in the first period -- San Jose got a boost to roar back in the second stanza and tie things up.

San Jose really turned up the heat in the third period, taking advantage of the fact Boston was at the end of their road trip through California and a bit gassed. That’s the kind of resiliency a team needs not just at the end of the regular season, but headed into the playoffs. It’s just unfortunate the Sharks didn’t get the win out of it.

On a less positive note …

San Jose is still taking too many trips to the sin bin

When NBC Sports California asked Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer what San Jose had to beware of in facing Boston, he named the Bruins’ dominance on the man advantage. “They’re elite in certain areas like their power play,” he said. “Last game we took too many penalties. When you play a team like this you have to be clean in all those areas.”

While two of the Sharks’ penalty kills were masterful, they also couldn’t completely contain the second-ranked power play in the league. Win or lose, this is an area the Sharks want to clean up.

Although, let’s be honest -- Logan Couture's short-handed penalty shot goal was fun to watch.