Welcome home, Evgeni Nabokov!

At the second annual San Jose Sharks FanFest yesterday, the team made an announcement I’d been hoping to hear for months:

Sharks Name Evgeni Nabokov Goaltending Development Coach and Special Assignment Scout

What really touches me is that Nabokov is taking on the same role that his mentor, the late Warren Strelow, had for the Sharks in ten seasons with the team. (Strelow, of course, also is beloved for his role as the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team goaltending coach during the Miracle on Ice in 1980. When I read Wayne Coffey’s excellent The Boys of Winter, I realized how important Strelow’s calming influence was for U.S. goalies Jim Craig and Steve Janaszak, and even for legendarily prickly head coach Herb Brooks. The book also has some very moving quotes from Nabokov about his deep rapport with Strelow.)

It was wonderful to witness such a joyful moment in person yesterday, and I know that it can mean only good things for the Sharks. I’m sure I wasn’t the only fan who felt that Nabokov wasn’t quite the same on the ice in the years following Strelow’s death in 2007. After the bittersweet news of Nabby’s retirement last February, and the Sharks’ first non-playoff season in eleven years, the team’s faithful needed something to restore their hopes. Seeing Nabokov so eager to build on his beloved mentor’s role really convinced me that a new era is beginning for the San Jose Sharks. Judging from the deafening applause Nabokov received during the official announcement at last night’s (awesome!) rookie game, everyone else is starting to believe again, too.

Lead the way, Nabby. We’re ready!

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