FRIDAY FEATURE: LIKE FATHER, LIKE SONMar 15, 2019
Ulf Dahlen played parts of four seasons with the San Jose Sharks from 1994-to-1997, appearing in 161 regular-season games in teal and 25 Stanley Cup playoff games during that stint.
Nearly 11 months after being traded from the Sharks to the Chicago Blackhawks, in a deal that included Hockey Hall of Fame netminder Ed Belfour, Ulf and his wife, Maria, welcomed their son, Jonathan, on December 21, 1997.
Fast-forward 21 years and after a deadline deal in late February with the Vancouver Canucks, Jonathan, a second-round pick of the Ottawa Senators in 2016, is now a member of the organization his dad once proudly represented two-decades prior.
When the Canucks called to inform the AHL rookie that he’d been traded to San Jose, one of the first people he spoke to was his dad, who had an intimate knowledge of the town his son would now be calling home.
“After I found out I had been traded I spoke to my dad a lot in the next 24 hours and he had nothing but good things to say about the city and how my mom and he loved living here,” said Dahlen in an interview following the trade. “After the initial shock wore off, it was exciting to think that I’d be joining an organization my dad once played for.”
“When we found out about his new opportunity in San Jose, we were so excited,” said Ulf. “San Jose is a tremendous organization, a great place to live and I loved my time there. Some of my best memories of my career came in San Jose. It’s really special for me to share that with my son.”
In Ulf’s final season in the South Bay, he played for current Barracuda head coach Roy Sommer who was an assistant under Darryl Sutter from 1996-to-1998.
“It was a long time ago when I coached Ulf, Jonathan wasn’t even born yet, but he was a skilled puck-possession style of player who put together a really nice career in the National Hockey League. And he was just a really good guy,” said Sommer. “When I first spoke to Jonathan on the phone after we traded for him, we had a good laugh when I told him I coached his dad 22 or 23 years ago.”
“Roy’s a really good coach and he’s been there forever which is a sign of a great organization,” said Ulf.
Although Jonathan is now following in the footsteps of his father who played in 966 NHL games between New York Rangers, Minnesota North Stars, San Jose Sharks, Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, and Washington Capitals, Ulf wants his son to carve out his own path in his professional career.
“He’s following his own path… he knows I’m here if he ever needs anything but I don’t want to get in his way,” said Ulf. “I watch every game and If he has questions or wants my opinion, I’ll give it but he’s his own person and I’m just here to support him.”
Ulf who was a key piece in the Sharks upset of the Detroit Red Wings in the 1994 Western Conference Quarterfinals, the franchise’s first Stanley Cup playoff series win, sees the major benefits in having both the AHL and NHL teams in the same town and is excited about the journey his son is on.
“It’s huge for young players to be around such good coaches and be within an organization that has had as much success as San Jose. And be able to watch the NHL team whenever they want, that’s extremely important,” said Ulf.
In 56 games between the Utica Comets (Vancouver Canucks) and Barracuda, Dahlen has 33 points (14 goals, 19 assists) and ranks third in the AHL among rookies in power-play goals (8).
Prior to coming to North America, Jonathan played for Timra in Allsvenskan, where he was named the League’s Most Valuable Player and Forward of the Year in 2017-18, after scoring 44 points (23 goals, 21 assists) in 44 games. He also posted 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in 10 playoff games, helping Timra capture a league championship and earn a berth in the Swedish Elite League.
“He comes from good stock… a hard-working kid that we’ve followed right from his draft-eligible year and we think he’s got a bright future in the NHL,” said Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson during a conference call following the NHL trade deadline.
Within the Sharks organization, prospects are often given a jersey number that ranges anywhere from 40-to-98, but with Dahlen, a special exception was made as the team issued him the #22, the same his dad wore in San Jose.
If Jonathan were to reach the NHL with the Sharks, the Dahlen’s would be the first father-son combo to play within the organization over its 28-year history.