SAN JOSE – His videos have become synonymous with Sharks’ game day ritual. The hat-and-scarf combo popping in the mirror reflection. The animated pre-game pep talk on what it takes to beat the opponent. That relentless plea to “Stay out of the penalty box!”
Sharks superfan Zak Kroft has become a staple presence in the San Jose Sharks’ social media universe, despite the fact he lives 2,664 miles away in Toronto. Now, the Thornhill, Ontario native has a goal in mind that will top off his many years of fandom – finally making it out to San Jose to watch Team Teal play in their home barn.
“The fact he’s never been to a game in San Jose is incredible,” says Phil Casella, host of Sharks-Barracuda YouTube podcast The Cuda Phil Show, which Kroft is a frequent guest on. “It’s crazy how passionate he is. Just his zeal for the team.”
Despite growing up in Maple Leafs’ country, Kroft developed a love for the San Jose squad at the age of 10.
“My older brother got me into hockey,” Kroft said in a phone interview with NBC Sports California. “He was like, ‘Hey, there’s this team you might like! They’re called the Sharks.’”
After falling in love with the team’s logo and getting a classic white Sharks sweater of his own, Kroft’s fandom has only grown. He’s met several past and present players over the years, some of whom have signed that same jersey. Kroft has had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with former captain Owen Nolan – Kroft’s first favorite player – on a couple occasions at an event in Toronto, and talked hockey with Sharks’ radio announcer Dan Rusanowsky on one of Team Teal’s roadies through Canada. Since seeing games in San Jose hasn’t been an option, Kroft goes to see his favorite team on as many road games as he can – where he can also bond with other Sharks fans from the area.
“There are tons of Sharks fans in Toronto,” Kroft exclaimed. “I have a friend who lives two minutes away from me in Toronto who’s a big Sharks fan.”
But the place Kroft really began bonding with fellow fans has been on social media, where his enthusiastic dissertation of the team’s performance garnered him a following. After chatting with other fans on Facebook, Kroft got the idea to take his usual rant and create a game day video centralized around giving the Sharks a pregame speech.
“I just started doing them,” Kroft said, before adding with a laugh, “My goal is to get them on the cube someday.”
@SanJoseSharks @NBCSSharks @sharkvoice @Bakes_Jamie13 @DanRusanowsky @BretHedican @KKurzNHL @TealTownUSA @BrodieNBCS @DocBrown37 @SoniaTyding @JonnyRoot_ @TheFinFactor @ChelenaGoldman @GackleReport @sjsharkie @FakeSharksGM @jbecher #Win #SJSharks #BeatThoseCanucks #Pride pic.twitter.com/Uj7CGdAQWr— Zak Kroft (@Zakman200) April 2, 2019
The high-octane videos brought Kroft even closer with his fellow fans. So close even, some have been kind enough to mail him gameday giveaways he otherwise wouldn’t have gotten having never been to a game in San Jose.
“I think the first thing a got was a Joe Pavelski bobblehead,” Kroft reflected. “I think I have a ‘Playoff Mode” t-shirt on the way. It really is amazing how great this fanbase is.”
Kroft may have the opportunity to get his own gameday giveaways in the not-to-distant future because of the effort to get him out a Sharks home game. The trek from Toronto is an expensive one, and fellow fan Casella is heading up an effort to raise money to make Kroft’s dream of coming to San Jose a reality.
“He’s all the way in Canada, but I consider him my friend,” Casella told NBC. “We want to get him out here. Take him to a game, take good care of him.”
How is Casella attempting to make this trip happen? Raising money by selling shirts decorated with Kroft’s face and his infamous taglines.
“It’s so amazing,” Kroft gushed when asked about the shirts. “People are wearing shirts with my face on it. It’s so shocking and so amazing.”
Between now and when he makes that trip, Kroft will continue to create his videos every game day. And with the playoffs about to get underway, he’s hoping the Sharks make a deep enough run that there will be many more videos to come.
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“I think if the Sharks stay healthy and don’t make any mistakes, I think they could do it,” Kroft said enthusiastically. “I want this team to win a Cup.”
He likely also wants the team to “Stay out of the penalty box!” while they’re at it.