SANTA CLARA –- The relationship between the San Jose Sharks and San Francisco 49ers is now more than Sharks general manager Doug Wilson and counterpart Trent Baalke being buddy-buddy, although that’s a good place to start.
“Trent is a very good friend and somebody I have tremendous respect for,” Wilson said following a press conference at Levi’s Stadium on Thursday, to announce the Sharks-Los Angeles Kings outdoor game on Feb. 21. “Finding different ways to improve your team, analyze things. To be in the same community and be able to tap into those resources is really valuable.”
According to Wilson, Baalke was a college roommate of longtime NHL forward Joel Otto at Bemidji State in Minnesota.
“I always kid Trent, I think he’s a hockey guy in a football world,” Wilson said.
Niners CEO Jed York’s connection to the NHL is much more personal.
His grandfather, Edward DeBartolo owned the Pittsburgh Penguins, while his mother Denise DeBartolo York ran the club, including during the franchise’s first championship in 1990-91. She’s one of the few women to have her named engraved on the Stanley Cup.
In fact, there’s a picture of her and the team celebrating with the Cup hanging in the entrance to the 49ers training facility.
“It’s hard to beat live hockey,” York said. “I loved it when I was a kid, I loved spending time with my grandfather, and we’d probably go to 15 or 20 Penguins games a year. I remember driving with him to Pittsburgh and watching Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, and Paul Coffey and Tom Barrasso and those guys play.”
Furthermore, 49ers COO Al Guido formerly worked for the Philadelphia Flyers and Phoenix Coyotes organizations.
Partnering up for an outdoor game is already paying dividends, as NHL commissioner Gary Bettman guaranteed that the outdoor NHL game would be sold out. The Sharks expressed their gratitude to the 49ers for allowing them to use their gleaming new facility to help grow the game of hockey.
Wilson said: “I know at the ownership level and executive level -– Jed’s involvement, he loves the game. Al Guido loves the game. It’s nice when people are not just on the business side, but they care about your game and how we can improve it.”