Sharks

Sharks' John Leonard hopes to follow in ex-roommate Mario Ferraro's footsteps

Sharks' John Leonard hopes to follow in ex-roommate Mario Ferraro's footsteps

UMass-Amherst has produced its fair share of NHL talent. Aside from longtime Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, the school's most prominent NHL alumni are defensemen, such as Colorado Avalanche phenom Cale Makar. The Sharks have found plenty of success with UMass defensemen, whether it be former blue-liners Justin Braun and Matt Irwin, or current rookie Mario Ferraro.

Ferraro, San Jose's second-round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, made the jump straight from college to the pros, and was arguably the brightest spot of the Sharks' season that has since been indefinitely paused due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The following year, San Jose went back to the UMass well in the 2018 draft, but this time used a sixth-round selection on forward John Leonard.

Fresh off of being the NCAA's leading goal-scorer and a Hobey Baker award finalist, Leonard officially agreed to join the Sharks franchise this past week, and he hopes to follow in his former college roommate's footsteps.

"The reason Mario was able to do that was just based off his work ethic and his drive to want to be great," Leonard said on an introductory conference call with reporters on Friday. "He's definitely someone I look up to. I was his roommate at school and we worked out together every day and trained together. His work ethic alone got him to where he is and I'm definitely going to try to do everything I can to follow that up."

Though Leonard has committed to San Jose, he has yet to officially sign, as he's waiting for clarification as to if and when the current season might resume. In the meantime, just like the rest of the NHLers currently practicing social distancing, he's doing his best to stay in shape.

Given that he used to work out with Ferraro in college, naturally, it begs the question as to whether or not Leonard has tuned into Ferraro's "quarantine" workouts that he is posting online. According to his former roommate, this is nothing new.

"Yeah, he was actually doing those at school, too," Leonard explained, "but they were a little bit more under the radar. Now they're open to the public and he loves it."

Ferraro surpassed even the wildest of expectations in his rookie season, and Leonard will certainly be challenged to do the same. If he's able to, however, it stands to reason that the former roommates might be reunited.

From the sounds of it, Leonard wouldn't mind -- though he might want to keep an eye on the pantry.

"The best thing about it is just his personality," Leonard said of rooming with Ferraro. "He's always in a good mood. He's a hilarious guy and he's just always fun to be around. Worst thing? I don't know. The guy ... he's always eating, so maybe he takes my food a little bit."

[RELATED: How COVID-19 impacts Sharks' salary cap, draft planning]

Ferraro already appears to be an important piece of the Sharks' core moving forward, and they're definitely hoping that Leonard can join him. 

If he impresses enough, he'll have his own room in no time.

Sharks vow to learn, grow from adversity faced during 2019-20 season

Sharks vow to learn, grow from adversity faced during 2019-20 season

The Sharks aren’t used to losing. Say what you want about the team’s inability to complete a NHL playoff run and hoist a Stanley Cup, but there’s no doubt this team has been an excellent regular-season unit and a perennial contender for more than two decades.

The Sharks last finished the regular season below .500 during 2002-03 season, going on a 15-season run of winning hockey snapped this year. The Sharks were terrible despite plenty of star power, unable to improve on an awful start that got Peter DeBoer fired and left the team languishing in the Pacific Division cellar.

The Sharks didn’t handle it well.

Goalie Martin Jones was honest about that fact in an interview with SportsNet’s Elliott Friedman.

“When it started to spiral, we went our own ways instead of coming together,” Jones said in a column published May 14. “It’s something that will be addressed moving forward.”

Airing dirty laundry, even with a constructive spin, isn’t always welcome in the aftermath of a season gone awry. Jones’ teammates, however, had no issue confirming the fact the Sharks frayed a bit as losses started to mount.

“When you’re losing and things aren't going your way, frustrating builds and it builds quickly,” Sharks captain Logan Couture said. “With us, a lot of guys in our room have never gone through a season like that. Some may have years ago, but not recently. From top to bottom I don’t think anyone handled it the best possible way. I’m obviously in that group. There’s a lot that I think I can learn from.”

[RELATED: What Couture learned from first season as Sharks captain]

The Sharks were tested during a difficult campaign and they didn’t always pass, but the veteran leaders are determined to use it as a teachable moment to handle adversity better in the future.

“It’s easy for guys to be good guys if everything’s going well, but you don’t really grow from that,” defenseman Brent Burns said. “You know what this feels like now. A lot of guys hadn’t been through a lot of that before. It’s not easy. Guys here know it’s hard. They have grown through a culture that has been very successful through a lot of work and a mental edge. It’s important not to lose that mental edge. It was not fun. There aren’t a lot of positives you can take from [season], other than not wanting to go back there. It’s frustrating. There’s nothing great about it.”

[RELATED: Sharks GM Doug Wilson discusses odd end of season, coaching search]

Defenseman Erik Karlsson wasn’t happy about the team’s response to adversity, but he didn’t consider it out of the ordinary or something that frayed relationships that could linger into future seasons. The Sharks’ goal is to contain a bad campaign and make it the outlier their history suggests it could be.

“When things don’t go your way individually and as a team, it’s nothing more than natural that you start thinking in different directions and looking for solutions that might not be there,” Karlsson said. “Overthinking is one of the biggest mistakes you can make but something we all do in tough situations. That’s especially true when you don’t feel like you are doing enough or playing up to your own standards.

“Anything that happened this year was a normal reaction you would’ve gotten on any team in any sport. … I didn’t see anything alarming, and I don’t really judge the things that happened this year. You get to see a lot of different sides of people you hadn’t seen before, and you learn a lot about yourself. This year is something for each individual to learn from when looking at the situation and what they could do differently if a situation like this creeps up again.”

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

Sharks' Logan Couture speaks up on racism, in support of Evander Kane

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Sharks' Logan Couture speaks up on racism, in support of Evander Kane

Sharks captain Logan Couture thanked Evander Kane and former NHL player Akim Aliu for speaking out against racism in hockey, tweeting a note Saturday that said the sport and society "are only scraping the surface in what desperately needs fixing."

"Racism exists in society, it also exists in hockey," Couture wrote. "That's a fact. Growing up in this game is a privilege. [At times,] I think most of us have been at fault for turning a blind eye when it comes to racism. It cannot continue."

Kane later tweeted his appreciation of Couture's message.

Kane, who is black, has become increasingly vocal speaking out against racism within -- and beyond -- the sport in the past year. In September, Kane told TSN 1040 in Vancouver that hockey lagged behind other professional sports in diversity and addressing racism after fan told him to "stick to basketball" in an Instagram comment. Kane called a story in "The Players Tribune" earlier this month authored by Aliu, whose revelation that Bill Peters directed racial slurs towards him in the AHL led to the Calgary Flames firing their now-former coach late last year, a must-read for everyone involved in hockey.

George Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody Monday outraged Kane, tweeting that video of the incident made his "[f---ing] blood boil." Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, could be heard on video saying "I can't breathe" as former officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee into Floyd's neck while three other officers at the scene looked on. Chauvin and the three officers were fired Tuesday, and Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

[RELATED: Kerr says he, white people have to do more to fight racism]

Kane said Friday in an interview on ESPN's "First Take" that white athletes couldn't leave speaking up against systematic racism to their black peers. While Kane felt supported by his teammates, he told "Writers Bloc" on CJCL in Toronto later that day that hockey's team-first culture often encourages silence on a wide range of issues in the sport and outside of it.

“Is it going to change? I hope," Kane said (H/T Sportsnet's Sonny Sachdeva). "I’m going to try to be a part of the solution and process in creating that change. But … when it comes to social injustices and racism in hockey, it requires change at the top. Because, you know, that’s the only way true change is going to take place. At the top. Because it’s going to have a trickle-down effect.

“And until things change at the top ... until they make the necessary change to condemn these sort of acts and mindsets … and really weed out that type of thought process, we’re going to be stuck in the same position we are today, and that’s unfortunate.”

Sharks owner Hasso Plattner, who doesn't often publicly comment, said in a rare statement Friday that the Sharks applauded Kane's "rational and thoughtful response to the terrible tragedy" of Floyd's death. Defenseman Mario Ferraro retweeted the statement, and Couture's note is the first tweeted by one of Kane's San Jose teammates in support.