sfgate.com photo: The San Jose Sharks will honor the first Bay Area NHL team the California Golden Seals on Saturday night at SAP Center in San Jose for the 50th Anniversary tribute
By Ana Kieu
SAN JOSE–In preparation for the upcoming game against the Detroit Red Wings, the San Jose Sharks held a meet and greet at Solar4America Ice for media members to socialize with alumni of the defunct California Golden Seals team.
During their tenure in the Bay Area, the Seals played under a couple of nicknames — California Seals (1967-68), Oakland Seals (1968-70), California Golden Seals (1970-76) and even the Bay Area Seals for two months in the 1970-71 season — but the NHL persuaded late Seals and Oakland Athletics owner Charles Finley to revert to the Golden Seals.
I found one goaltender that stood out the most. His name was Gary Simmons and he played his first two seasons with the Seals. The former goaltender went 10-21 in 34 games in the 1974-75 season and 15-19 in 40 games in 1975-76.
Simmons shined in an unusual way when he recorded a shutout in his first NHL game.
Unlike most hockey players, he made his professional debut at the age of 30.
“So I’ve been around in the minors for many years and I think it was different for me,” Simmons said. “I was glad to finally get to the NHL. I think I ended up with 23 or 24 shots in the game. There are only 25 or 26 goalies that have done that.”
However, Simmons is more than just a netminder.
It’s worth noting he was given the nickname “Cobra” because of his mask with a design of a large cobra. The reasoning behind the nickname was something worth mentioning.
Fascination filled my eyes when I spoke to Simmons about his nickname.
He told me that in his first game in Phoenix against the Roadrunners, one reporter told him: “You move just like a snake out there, moving around the ice and stopping the puck…you’re just like a Cobra.”
The newspapers dubbed him as the “Cobra” the following day and he has been known as the Cobra ever since.
Dennis Maruk was another name to keep an eye on.
Maruk was a former Seals forward who centered the 3M line with Al MacAdam and Bob Murdoch. This line alone could create a good trivia question for the general public.
“We had a great line,” Maruk said. “It was a lot fun playing with those guys (MacAdam and Murdoch).
The line was significant for a few reasons. The trio were put together in training camp and they worked out so they just stuck together during their tenure with the Seals.
At first, Maruk was perplexed at the fan chants of “Maruuuuk” aimed towards him. Maruk thought the fans were booing him so he pushed himself to work a little harder, but then found out what was going on.
Overall, Maruk enjoyed playing for the Seals.
“I owe a lot to the California Golden Seals because they drafted me,” Maruk said. “They drafted me and I got to come to the NHL to show what I could do as a player…It was a special time for me.”
The defunct Seals obviously don’t play anymore, but the memories remain and the players reminisce about the past. The Sharks will honor them Saturday night at 7:30 pm PST. You can watch the game on CSCA and FDT+ or listen to the radio broadcast on 98.5 KFOX.