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Sharks announcer talks playoffs with Rotary Club of Los Altos

Courtesy of Jerry Tomanek
Randy Hahn, announcer for the San Jose Sharks, addresses the Rotary Club of Los Altos April 10. The veteran broadcaster has has called more than 1,000 NHL games in 30 years.

Los Altos resident Randy Hahn, the San Jose Sharks’ television play-by-play announcer for 21 seasons, shared his passion for the team with the Rotary Club of Los Altos April 10.

Hahn has called more than 1,000 National Hockey League games in his 30 years of sports broadcasting. He launched his career at age 16 when he announced the “paw-by-paw” excitement of a dog sled race in the Yukon. Versatile and experienced, Hahn has also called matches in three soccer World Cups.

NHL postseason playoffs for the Stanley Cup began April 16 and continue for two months. The Sharks won their first postseason game Thursday against the Los Angeles Kings 6-3. The Sharks continued to dominate Sunday, besting the Kings 7-2 and taking a 2-0 lead in the first round of the playoff series.

The Sharks now hold the second-longest streak of making the playoffs – 10 consecutive years – but can they win the coveted Stanley Cup? Winning is extremely difficult with 30 teams playing 82 games each, Hahn said, but he assured the audience that this is the “best team we’ve ever had – on paper.”

A native of Edmonton, Alberta, Hahn is a natural hockey devotee. He joked that most Canadians are born “with a hockey stick in their hand, though that makes for a difficult birth.”

Among the outstanding Sharks players today, he named Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski, who played on the 2014 U.S. Olympic hockey team. The strong “character players,” he added, include Matt Nieto, just 21 years old, the first California native drafted by the Sharks. James Sheppard, who shattered his kneecap in the offseason in Colorado, was traded to the Sharks and has spent three years battling to regain strength.

“They’re all tremendous athletes and great citizens of our community who volunteer in many charitable events,” Hahn said.

As vice president of Pro Hockey San Jose, Hahn was instrumental in bringing the NHL franchise to the Bay Area. Twenty-two years ago, the “Shark Tank,” now named SAP Center, was one of the last multiuse arenas constructed with public funds. Along with the Fairmont Hotel and the Convention Center, the excitement of hockey rivalries at SAP Center has helped develop downtown San Jose into a community-building entertainment destination, which Hahn calls the “soul of the city.”

Hahn said hockey is probably the most difficult sport to announce because the game is so fluid, with quick substitutions on the fly.

A player’s average shift on the ice is only 30-40 seconds, because his oxygen is depleted so rapidly when skating at full speed.

The sport has gotten faster, Hahn reported. In the 1970s, goalies didn’t wear masks, and Doug Wilson, original captain of the Sharks, was grandfathered in as one of the last team members to play without a helmet. Slapshot pucks that used to fly at 70 mph now travel at 100 mph, so protective helmets have become essential.

Hahn said the Sharks’ iconic logo, developed by Matt Levine, was the No. 1 sports logo in sales its early years. The teal and black logo still ranks in the top 10 in sports merchandise sales.

Why were they named the Sharks when San Jose is far from the ocean? The name sounds “fierce and predatory,” Hahn said.

Marlene Cowan is a member of the Rotary Club of Los Altos. For more information, visit LosAltosRotary.org.

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