SAN JOSE- Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart is one of those players who simply gets it. He works hard, appreciates the fans and he takes losing personally. Sharks fans may recall Stuart violently slamming his stick towards the boards in disgust after a game-winning OT playoff goal by then Sharks forward Benn Ferriero deflected of his stick and into the Red Wings net during the 2011 playoffs.
This season the 33-year-old defenseman returns to San Jose for his second stint with the Bay Area club. Stuart broke into the league during 1999 after the Sharks made him the third overall pick in the 1998 NHL draft. He spent parts of six seasons with the Sharks before being part of the trade package that brought current Sharks captain Joe Thornton to San Jose.
In the time away from the Sharks, Stuart did have some relatively unsuccessful stints with the Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings, and Calgary Flames before honing his game as a defensive stalwart with the Detroit Red Wings.
During his stay in Mo-Town, Stuart picked up a Stanley Cup ring along with a reputation as a hard defender to play against.
But while the new and improved No. 7 for San Jose is now a more defensive minded defenseman, Sharks fans remember him most for a goal scoring memory. During the 2003-04 regular season finale against the Los Angeles Kings, Stuart scored a pair of goals in the final 19.8 seconds to tie the game and force overtime.
The ending sequence of that game has nearly 25,000 hits on YouTube even though the Sharks didn’t need the victory to get into the playoffs. But that was a special season to a lot of fans. Not only did those Sharks earn the franchise’s first ever trip to the western conference finals that year but the season prior saw the Sharks completely miss the playoffs. They finished an abysmal 13th in the western conference that year, so no victory was unimportant during the stretch of the 2003-04 campaign.
Now how much does Brad remember from that crazy season finale? Well once I mentioned the Kings were the opponent, a sparkle caught his eye and smile came to his face.
“It was an exciting moment to score two goals late to tie it [You know with] 19 seconds left. I remember it being pretty exciting and the building was rocking pretty good” recalled the defenseman. “Those are the fun types of moments that you remember. The game itself probably didn’t mean much but those are the type of moments you don’t forget.”
Sharks fans can still be found talking about that game and that Sharks team to this day and Stuart was much appreciative of hearing about that.
“I didn’t realize anybody remembered that. You can find anything on YouTube,” he chuckled. “It’s kind of cool to still have that as something people remember and talk about and anybody can go and see it.”
Stuart also wasn’t shy in talking about the type of group the Sharks had all those years ago.
“That was a fun group. We had some older guys, we had Reech [Mike Ricci], Vinny Damphousse [who had the primary assist on Stuart's game tying goal ],” Stuart recollected. “There was two seconds left [on that goal] your just going for it, it’s all or nothing so skate through the crease and Vinny was such a great passer throughout his career. He just put it right on my tape and I just had to put my stick on the ice basically.”
The defenseman has certainly created special memories for Bay Area fans in the past and he will now have an opportunity to finish the job by helping bring the Sharks their first ever Stanley Cup. But before the Sharks can raise the chalice, Stuart will have to make his second-stint debut. Just how much is he looking forward to that first home game in front of his old fans?
“There will be a lot of different emotions probably. It will be a little strange but it will be exciting and probably gonna have some flashbacks to my early years, maybe the first time I ever skated out as a Shark. Maybe I’ll have some flashbacks to that but I’m at a different point in my career so it’s different but there are some similarities. It’ll be exciting, I’m looking forward to it a lot.”