December 5th, 2021

Hockey in the palm trees

By Steve MacNaull on November 16, 2019.

Photo by Steve MacNaull
SAP Centre, home of the NHL's San Jose Sharks, is located downtown on palm-tree lined Santa Clara Street

As we emerge from the urban, palm tree forest, there it is.

The 17,500-seat SAP Centre, a silver-sided edifice better known as the Shark Tank, is the home rink of the National Hockey League’s San Jose Sharks.

This is definitely going to be NHL hockey, California-style.

Me and my son, Alex, have walked three blocks up downtown’s main drag of Santa Clara Street to the arena from our hotel, the Art Deco landmark De Anza.

The entire street is lined with palm trees, but the swath of widened sidewalk approaching SAP Centre is populated with even more of the tall distinctive trees swaying in the early evening breeze.

It’s quite the welcome for two Canadian guys seeking Canada’s national-obsession sport in sunny California.

We’re Vancouver Canucks fans and the Canucks will be taking on the Sharks tonight.

Inside, we find we’re not the only ones cheering for Vancouver.

Several hundred of the capacity crowd are wearing Canucks jerseys, Alex and I included.

Watching sports live always has an electric energy.

It’s even more electric when your team excels.

We had lots to applaud with Vancouver besting the Sharks 5-2, with two goals coming from the Canucks’ young phenom Elias Pettersson.

Similar scenes play out at the SAP Centre when the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets, Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens come to town.

More and more Canadians are finding their way to San Jose, not just because they have tech business in Silicon Valley, which San Jose is the hub of.

Canadians are also visiting San Jose to watch hockey, enjoy California’s balmy weather, hike in the redwood forests and delve into craft-beer culture.

It was tech business traffic that lead Air Canada to start flying twice a day between Vancouver and San Jose in May 2016.

But it’s the increase in leisure traffic that prompted the airline to add a third daily flight in May 2017.

Soon, Toronto will get in on the action with Air Canada announcing it will start flying between Canada’s largest city and the Silicon Valley capital in May 2020 using the new, 130-seat A220 narrow-body jet.

Taking the city of one million’s catch phrase of “San Jose is not just techy, but fun” to heart, Alex and I embark on the ultimate Canadian-boys-in-San-Jose itinerary.

After Saturday night’s hockey game, hiking in the Bear Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve is in order on Sunday morning.

Northern California is famous for being home to Sequoiadendron giganteum, the redwoods that are the biggest trees on the planet.

The Alma Trail takes us two kilometres through dappled sunlight to a stand of the most majestic redwoods in the 580-hectare preserve.

The largest is Big Alma, a 70-metre-tall, 10-metre-around-the-base beauty.

The small crowd gathered there oohs and aahs and everyone takes their turn getting their picture taken with giganteum.

Me and Alex certainly take the photo opportunity, but the best picture I snap is of three women friends tree hugging Big Alma as a shaft of daylight illuminates them.

It’s also where we run into another Alex, Alex Cocina, from nearby Los Gatos, who is out hiking with friends.

We get to talking and he provides us with the best recommendations for the rest of our trip.

That means it’s off next to Loma Brewing Co. in Los Gatos for a lunch of Loma Vida craft lager and jackfruit salad bowls.

Inspired by the brewery experience, we plan our own impromptu, self-guided beer tour.

After catching an Uber back to downtown San Jose, we hit ISO Beers to sip Modern Times Tenbier on the sunny patio; Original Gravity Public House for Kolsch Cali Coast in the beer garden; and Floodlight Brewing for its own Remain Present India Pale Lager on the rooftop terrace.

To work off that beer the next day, we do some bouldering at The Studio Indoor Climbing Gym, followed by the IMAX movie Back from the Brink: Saved from Extinction at The Tech Interactive (formerly The Tech Museum).

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