Is it time for the Sharks to retire Nolan's number?


Is it time for the Sharks to retire Nolan's number?

PROGRAMMING ALERT: The Owen Nolan Sharks press conference will be streamed live on at 2:30 p.m..

Owen Nolan is retiring as a San Jose Shark today, which means he is signing a one-day contract which will not require him practicing even once for Todd McLellan. And if it helps, he retires as the best Nolan in NHL history.And to be honest, Nolan was a good servant to the club in his eight years. He bounced around after being traded to Toronto in 2003, and never quite reached the heights predicted of him when he broke with the supremely talented but oddly underfunctional Quebec Nordiques, but he was a good Shark.
You may argue if he is the best Shark, and that answer will doubtless change as Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and the younger classes hit retirement age, but he is getting a reward for eight years (six full, and parts of two others) helping build a franchise, and being a credit to the club when it was going through its obvious growing pains.However, Nolans honor, being paid today, reminds us that the Sharks remain one of six active NHL clubs who have not yet found a number to actually retire, and frankly, the race not to be the last turkey in the shop should be more pressing than it seems to be.(At this point, we should mention that this is sarcasm, and that retired numbers arent what they used to be. The Minnesota Wild retired the number 1 on the opening day of its existence in honor of the fans it didnt actually have yet, thus lowering the bar for rafter enshrinement considerably).Oh I suppose technically the Sharks can say they retired Wayne Gretzkys 99, since that was a league-wide decision, but thats sort of cheating. And Mario Lemieuxs 66 was unofficially retired, at least until Calgarys T.J. Brodie wore it for three games last year before being upgraded to 7.Point is, the Sharks still have none, putting them in with Anaheim (which presumably will retire Teemu Selanne and Chris Pronger), Florida (which probably should have retired John Vanbiesbroucks by now), Tampa Bay (which is just waiting for Vincent Lecavalier or Martin St. Louis to stop being good), Nashville (which has a number of tepid candidates) and Columbus (which may move before it gets the chance, making them the new California Seals).And if youre going to retire players by signing them to one-day deals, you should be preparing for the next step.Doug Wilson, being a bluff old traditionalist, is probably loath to retire a number just to retire a number. He may want a Stanley Cup banner before he starts honoring individual players, but the standard is flexible. The Washington Capitals retired Yvon Labres 7 because he was Yvon Labre.And there are candidates. Arturs Irbe was sort of a fans pet, and his return as an assistant coach with Carolina was greeted with a huge ovation. He could be Yvon Labre. Mike Rathje is the only player other than Marleau to play a full decade in San Jose, though he could be a frustrating favorite. Mike Ricci did seven years here, represents the teams first renaissance, and is still in the organization. Wilsons been on board since the beginning, though he is unlikely to submit to such an honor for years to come yet.More likely, though, the first Shark to get his number retired will be Marleau, because 14 years with one team not only gets your number retired, it often gets you into the Hall of Fame. And theres a better-than-average chance that he wont have to sign a one-day-finish-as-a-Shark deal, which given the number of times fans have demanded he be traded is a feat in and of itself.By then, Anaheim will have retired Selanne, Floridas new ownership might have figured out how to celebrate 20 years of existence, Nashville will probably salute its last original Predator, David Legwand, Tampa will take care of Lecavalier and St. Louis, and Columbus will probably be in Newfoundland.In the meantime, a salute to Owen Nolan is well earned. Maybe if the Sharks decide to exchange ad space for a ring of honor at the arena, they can put him there as well.Ray Ratto is a columnist for

Frank Deford's longform storytelling made him worthy of our attention


Frank Deford's longform storytelling made him worthy of our attention

Frank Deford’s death over the weekend did not mark the end of longform sportswriting as we knew it; he had long ago become part of the electronic commentariat that has reduced longform’s place in the public’s attention span.

But there is still longform writing and storytelling to be found in many places, and it is still worthwhile. It has more production value, as the TV folks like to blather, and the words have to fight for their place between the cracks left by the pictures and the mutated graphics, but longform lives, and it should, lest we all agree as one people to further desiccate that attention span like a grapefruit left in the sun.

Deford’s death, though, reminds of when longform was the zenith of the storytelling art. It could, and still can, give you access and depth and breadth that a TV crew simply could not, and cannot. Even extended TV features are by their very nature so contrived by all the equipment that nothing is natural, nothing is a surprise, and the act of writing is almost an afterthought.

Deford knew this. He more than merely dabbled in TV himself, playing the wizened old raconteur who was as much character in his pieces as storyteller. He was also a star and a starmaker with The National, a daily sports network in newspaper form that was long on talent and ideas but short on delivery and distribution. It lasted 17 months, until mid-1991, but it led to grander attempts decades later, and could if you squint your eyes hard enough be the natural parent of Grantland and The Ringer and Vice and SB Nation and dozens of others – all bigger ideas, positioned in the post-typing world. Some lasted, more didn’t, but capitalism is like that – making fuel to keep the fires burning and the engines churning.

Deford could have thrived in such a world, to be sure. He was not, in the hideous phrase, “a man of his time.” Indeed, he was a crossover figure years ago in ways that other longform writers attempt to resist even now. They want to be Deford at the height of his powers at a time when the instruments for their gift are either dying or veering away from anything that hits the 600-word mark.

But his passing did not kill the art of clever writing and incisive storytelling. There are far too many people who can do that still, even if the market for their gifts is neither as pronounced nor as eager for the product as it once was. It did remind us not only that he was a giant, but that there are still giants among us should we deign to take the time to seek them.

Thus, Deford’s death marked his passing but not the thing that made him worthy of our attention. Storytelling, longform and otherwise, remains the heart of why this is still worthwhile to a culture, and when the generation his work spawned starts to die off, I suspect we’ll still be saying the same thing then. Notebooks are smartphones, photographs are streams, but the human eye and ear and hand still remain pre-eminent.

That is, until the robots take over, at which point reading won’t be worth it.

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

You thought you were done worrying about the Raiders. You thought the votes were in, the moving vans booked for three years down the road, and all gnashing and sharpening of teeth was over. You thought you were free.

Then those buttinsky-come-latelies from St. Louis decided to rear their litigious heads, and now you find yourselves slipping back into that desperate-hope world from which no one escapes.

It seems the city and its regional sports authority has decided to sue the National Football League and its 32 semi-independent duchies over the relocation of the Rams 15 months ago because, and you’ll like this one, the league allegedly did not follow its own relocation rules when it moved the team.

As you know, there is no such thing as a rule if everyone governed by the rule decided unanimously to ignore the rule. This doctrine falls under the general heading of, “We’re billionaires, try and stop us.”

But all lawsuits have a common denominator, and that is that there is money at the end of the rainbow. St. Louis is claiming it is going to miss out on approximately $100 million in net proceeds (read: cash) and has decided that the NFL and especially their good pal Stan Kroenke is going to have to pay for permission to do what they have already done -- specifically, leave.

Because the suit was filed in St. Louis, the benefits of home field advantage apply, and the league is likely to have to reinflate their lawyers for some exciting new billable hours.

As to whether it turns into a windfall for the jilted Missourians, well, as someone who has known lawyers, I would list them as prohibitive underdogs. But there is nuisance value here, which brings us to Oakland.

The city and county, as we know, did not put its best shoe forward in trying to lure the Raiders into staying or the other 31 owners into rejecting the team’s pleas for geographical relief. By that, we mean that the city and county did not fall all over itself to meet the league’s typically extortionate demands.

But they did play angry enough to start snipping about the 2019 part of the Raiders’ 3-More-Coliseum-Years plan, and they are threatening to sue over about $80K in unpaid parking fees, so filing their own breach-of-rules lawsuit might be a possibility.

Because, hey, what’s the point of sounding like a nuisance if you can’t actually become one?

By now, it is clear that everyone in SuitWorld got what it needed out of the Raiders’ move. The city and county could concentrate on guiding the A’s into activity on their own new stadium. The team could go where Mark Davis has been agitating for it to go for at least three years – somewhere else. The state of Nevada could find a place for that $750 million that was burning a hole in its casino vault. And the league went to a market that it, at first reluctantly and then enthusiastically, decided should be its own.

The fans? Oh, please. Who cares about them? To the NFL, and to all corporations in all walks of business, folks are just walking wallets.

But for some cash? Well, climb on board, suckers. The gravy train is pulling out on Track 3.

Nobody is fool enough to think the Raiders would be forced to return. Hell, even St. Louis isn’t asking for the Rams back. They just want to get paid for the money they probably banked on in the good old days before Stan Kroenke decided to head west.

And that would doubtless be Oakland’s stance as well if. Now the circumstances are slightly different, in that St. Louis worked harder to keep the Rams than Oakland did to keep the Raiders. St. Louis scared up $350 million toward new digs for the Rams, well short of what Kroenke would have accepted, while Oakland said it could get its hands on some infrastructure money and no more.

But Mayor Libby Schaaf complained in her relocation post mortem that the league didn’t follow its own guidelines (yay correlation as causation!), maybe with an eye toward throwing a few lawyers into the fire to see how long it would burn.

There is not yet any indication that the city and county are going that route (and the silence may simply mean that they are sick of the Raiders’ saga as everyone else seems to be), but if they do, well, don’t freak out that the team might be forced to return.

Except, of course, in that place where migraines start. Dragging this back up is a bit like the phantom pain amputees feel -- but hey, people will do a lot for a bit of court-ordered cash. Anyone who has ever watched Judge Judy will understand.