by Russell Preston, KHTK Sacramento

Breathe in, San Jose Sharks fans. It’s a new year with new expectations (and hopefully better results). Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the franchise’s inaugural season, the Sharks have plenty of fun stuff planned for it’s loyal fan base this upcoming season.

They have “Heritage Nights,” cool giveaways and guest appearances all year long, so if the new coach and roster are a dud on the ice, at least you’ll head home with a free gift in your hands.

Here are the top-5 games to go to for the 2015-16 season:

5. Oct. 10 vs. Anaheim Ducks

This will be a big game for the franchise for many reasons. First, it’s opening night – with new coaches and players joining the roster, it’ll be interesting to see how they form chemistry from the first puck-drop. Secondly, they are honoring the late George Gund III with a banner raising ceremony. Gund was the Sharks founding owner back in 1991.

Another reason to attend: the Ducks. The Ducks and Sharks have had a bitter rivalry for decades now – any game these two teams play (much like Sharks-Kings games) is going to be a good one.

The last perk of this game will be of course, the free T-shirt sponsored by Barracuda Networks. The design of the shirt has not been released, but who cares? It’s a free shirt!

4. Nov. 3 vs. Columbus Blue Jackets/Dec. 1 vs. Pittsburgh Penguins/Jan. 18 vs. Ottawa Senators

Okay, so this isn’t exactly a single game to attend, but these three games share one thing in common: Heritage Night. Yes, after 25 long years, the Sharks will pay homage to the early years of Nor Cal professional hockey. They have designed new jerseys to be worn on these three nights only, but they have yet to be leaked.

I, for one, cannot wait for this. The franchise has never worn an old sweater on the ice – ever. I like the idea of only moving forward with your brand, but going old school is something all fans can appreciate. Sure, the Sharks have always been that classic team to don the teal – no other team can identify with that color as much as the Sharks – but mix in some of the gray of the classic 1991 jerseys.

If they really want to go heritage, they would blend in some of the California Golden Seals jersey worn in the Bay Area before the Sharks existed.

3. Oct. 22 vs. Los Angeles Kings/Jan. 9 vs. Toronto Maple Leafs/March 12 vs. Washington Capitols

These nights are going to be special for two reasons: 1 – they will be honoring Scott Thornton, Owen Nolan and Evgeni Nabokov respectively for “Alumni Nights” and 2 – they are giving away free mini lockers of each player to the attendees. Not bad if one of these guys is your favorite Sharks player.

2. Oct. 28 vs. Nashville Predators/Nov. 10 vs. New York Islanders/Dec. 30 vs. Philadelphia Flyers/Jan. 26 vs. Colorado Avalanche/Feb. 29 vs. Montreal Canadians/March 22 vs. St. Louis Blues

These six nights are a part of a poster giveaway series where six local artists made their own poster with a favorite moment from Sharks history. If you’re a poster hoard or are a fan of original art, these are the nights to go to the SAP Center.

1. April 9 vs. Pheonix Coyotes

This is the last home game of the season, also known as “Fan Appreciation Night.” If you’ve been to one before, you know they have the best giveaways and promotions because the fans are the focus (outside of the actual hockey game, of course).

This year, they will be handing out Joe Pavelski bobbleheads to those fans who go. Bobbleheads aren’t as popular in hockey as they are in baseball, so having the chance to get a cool little souvenir like that is awesome.

This game is all about the little things: fans sing the national anthem together instead of some random singer and more giveaways handed out between periods and during the game. It’s all about having the fans leave happy whether the Sharks won or lost.

 

For a full list of the promotion days this season, click here.