Joe Pavelski has a fan in NASCAR driver Michael Annett.
Annett, who picked up his first career Xfinity Series win at Daytona in February, played with the Sharks captain in 2003-04. The two were members of the USHL's Waterloo Black Hawks that season, and won a Clark Cup -- the league championship -- together.
“You get those 30 guys from all over the country that you can find to play for one team for a season, you all grow really close like brothers,” Annett told NBC Sports' NASCAR Talk. “I’m just really proud of him. I know what it takes, I know how many hot, little kids are hockey players and that’s what they dream of doing. To see him still doing it at the level he is as the captain of a team that’s made the playoffs (in all but one of Pavelski’s 13 seasons), just really proud of him.”
Pavelski led Waterloo in goals (21), was second in points (52) that season, and the team entered the postseason as the lowest seed in the East Division. The Black Hawks upset two higher-seeded teams en route to the Clark Cup, and Pavelski earned a reputation as a playoff performer with 12 points (six goals, six assists) in 12 games.
Annett follows his old teammate's exploits in the NHL, but it's not a one-way street. He said Pavelski reached out to him after his first Xfinity win in February, and the two still talk occasionally.
“It’s all through Instagram messages,” Annett said. “When somebody does something pretty cool you reach out and tell him that ‘That was pretty awesome, I’m still following you.'”
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Annett told NASCAR Talk he has followed the Sharks' run in the Stanley Cup playoffs so far, noting that the team has "got to get their act together if they're going to beat the [Vegas Golden Knights]" in the first round. San Jose trails 2-1 in the series, and Pavelski has two points through three games.
Pavelski will have to be a big part of the Sharks' potential comeback, and his old teammate will be pulling for him.