SAN JOSE — Sharks fans travel from many different places to watch the team take the ice on practice days in the South Bay. For Sunny Boparai, that meant a drive on Tuesday morning from Fairfield, with a stop in Livermore to pick up his nephew, Jay.
“I took his older sister last year, and she had a blast,” Boparai said in a phone interview with NBC Sports California on Wednesday. “Jay was sick last year and couldn’t go, and he’s been asking me for about a year if he could go.”
After finding out at 6 a.m. Tuesday that he had the day off work, Boparai made arrangements to go pick up his nephew, who turns 5 in June, and make the rainy drive down to San Jose to watch Team Teal practice.
There was only one problem: They didn’t know until they got to Solar4America Ice that Sharks practice that morning had been canceled.
Boparai said he and Jay checked out Barracuda practice before he realized the NHL squad wasn’t holding practice that day. After taking Jay, noticeably disappointed, to check out the pro shop, the duo took a final gander at the South Rink, where the Sharks usually practice.
He then noticed Peter DeBoer was on the ice.
In a final push to catch something close to a practice, Boparai took his nephew to meet the Sharks’ bench boss.
“I was here, and I ran into them outside,” DeBoer recounted to NBC Sports California on Wednesday. “He had driven from quite a ways away for practice, and we’d canceled practice.”
So, DeBoer did the next-best thing. He gave Boparai and his nephew a personal tour of the Sharks’ dressing room at their practice facility.
“I felt bad for him, and so we gave them the best alternative, which was a tour of the room,” DeBoer said. “I was happy to.”
After the tour, DeBoer took a photo with Jay near the stall of the young fan’s favorite player — Sharks captain Joe Pavelski. Boparai was particularly struck with how “down to earth” DeBoer was, and loved how open he was to showing them around.
“It wasn’t more than five minutes, but it really turned my nephew’s day around,” Boparai said. “He was already a fan for life, but now …”
After getting a personal tour of the Sharks’ dressing room, how eager is Jay to get out to a full practice?
“We were on the drive home, and he was like, ‘Can we come back tomorrow,’ “ Boparai said with a laugh. “I think now I need to take him to an actual game.”