Joe Pavelski knew leaving San Jose was a possibility, but that didn't make his decision to leave the Bay Area any easier.
The former Sharks captain chose to sign with the Dallas Stars when NHL free agency opened, ending a 13-year run in the Bay Area.
As Pavelski prepares to depart California for Texas, he admits the decision to leave the only organization he's known was emotional, but he only has good things to say about his former organization.
"Oh yeah it was tough," Pavelski told NBC Sports Bay Area. "I don’t want to say it was harder than I thought it was going to be because I knew it was going to be hard once we got to that state and started looking at different teams and understanding that it was a real possibility that we should be prepared in case it gets there.
"I’ve only got good things to say about San Jose and the organization there," Pavelski continued. "The way the guys have treated me and the teammates that I’ve had that are still there. It was tough to leave. You don’t stay somewhere for 13 years and not grow attached to it. I’ve just got some tremendous friendships there and you know it’s not really goodbye it’s more of a thank you to the fans and everyone that was involved and helped turn me into the player and person I am today. Those decisions never come lightly and it wasn’t easy."
Pavelski leaves the Sharks having played the fourth-most games (963), scored the second-most goals (355), notched the third-most assists (406) and third-most points (761) in franchise history.
Despite all the goals and accolades, Pavelski couldn't pinpoint one thing he was going to miss about playing for the Sharks.
"Just the relationships," Pavelski said. "At the end of the day, being able to drive to the rink in San Jose, pulling up to the SAP Center knowing that the crowd was going to be out there excited, it’s just a special place to play, it was a bond that I really felt close to my heart with San Jose, just with the fans and scoring goals and celebrating and just wanting to play for the city and compete.
"It’s hard to pick one thing that I’m going to miss about it. I’m going to miss it all. But at the end of the night being out there on the ice and trying to win games for them and for the team, it was just a special place for 13 years."
Pavelski and the Sharks never were able to bring home the Stanley Cup during his time in San Jose. The 34-year-old laments not winning it all with the Sharks, but he doesn't have any regrets about his time in the Bay.
"Looking back we are proud of what we accomplished," Pavelski said. "We were always right there and definitely disappointed we never got over the final hump. We had some good opportunities. You always want a little bit more and you always wish you could have did something different, but you know looking back we don’t really have any regrets. we laid it all on the line and played hard. We didn’t get the bounce or make the play we needed but it was a fun ride we had."
The Sharks now will look for bigger contributions from Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and other young Sharks to fill the void left by Pavelski.
Pavelski will make his return to SAP Center on Jan. 11, 2020 to what is sure to be a rousing ovation.