The American Hockey League has announced that the 2019-20 AHL regular season will be paused for the safety of its players, employees, and fans in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hey Barracuda fans! Nick Nollenberger here. It’s another week, which means it’s time for another blog. With Development Camp in full swing and the Sharks Prospects Game at SAP Center on Thursday night, it no longer feels like the offseason. But that is perfectly fine because I must say, it’s really fun coming to work every day with the staff we have and a renewed sense of optimism with new fresh blood in the prospect pool. Now, if you’re concerned about my offseason, don’t you worry, I’ll be out of midseason mode on Saturday when I’m leaving the Long Beach Harbor for a week-long cruise.
Back to hockey, some big news since the last time we talked. Professional sports can be a funny business. Your arch nemesis one day can be your friend the next. On Tuesday, the Sharks announced the signing of veteran forward and former Stanley Cup Champion, Brandon Bollig. The 30-year-old will enter his eighth professional season in 2017-18 and his first with the Sharks organization after stints within the Blackhawks and Flames organizations. Bollig is tough and can chip in some offense from time to time. With the departure of Zack Stortini (Charlotte, AHL), Alex Gallant (Syracuse, AHL) and Michael Haley (Florida, NHL), toughness and protection quickly became a major need for San Jose at both the AHL and NHL level. Put aside his skillset, what makes Bollig’s signing so amusing is the fact that he was at the heart of a near bench brawl between the Stockton Heat and San Jose Barracuda on April 9th that led to Bollig tapping his now head coach Roy Sommer on the top of the head with his stick as the two teams jockeyed for positioning between the half inch Plexiglas that separated them. According to Heat broadcaster Brandon Kisker, Bollig is great guy, and I’m sure he’ll fit right in next season. But before that happens, I’m even more sure both himself and Sommer will get a good laugh about the whole thing in training camp. Bollig spent all of last season with the Heat but may push for some time with the Sharks next year as well.
Ok let’s shift gears, I touched on it but let’s dive a bit deeper. He was only a member of the Barracuda for half the season, but Zack Stortini will be missed. Sure he had classic chirps from the bench, epic heavyweight scraps, and Mike Ricci rivaled toothless smile, but the greatest thing about Storts is his kindness. The guy was the nicest human being I have ever met hands down, and I think everyone on the team could agree. He’ll be a fan favorite in Charlotte, and I wish him nothing but the best. Speaking of fan favorites, San Jose lost a fan favorite themselves when Alex Gallant signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning organization on a one-year two-way deal last weekend. Gally was pound for pound the toughest hockey player I’ve ever witnessed. He couldn’t have weighed over 170 pounds, yet he could chuck them with the biggest of heavyweights. As most hockey fighters are, Gallant was another great guy off the ice, and he too will be missed.
Now, on to Development Camp or as I’d like to say hell week. The days are long, the lights are bright, and the pressure is on for many young players who are hoping to make a lasting impression on both the coaches and front office. Having not been apart of Dev. Camp last season, it is tremendous to see the devices that are used to collect comprehensive data and the physical demand that is put on each player both on and off the ice. I hate to put too much stock in how players perform in a practice environment, but several young players have shown off intriguing attributes over the last few days and Sharks, and Barracuda fans should be very excited. Thursday’s Prospect Scrimmage will allow for players to stick out.
Next week we’ll be back in the dog day of the offseason, but we’ll have some time to touch on some of the real standouts of camp and of course the status of my vacation. For now, I say so long. Enjoy your week, and I hope to see you at SAP Center on Thursday, July 6.