Sharks Surface at Levi’s® Stadium
By Joe Hession, 49ers Museum historian
Call it the frozen tundra of Levi’s Stadium.
That’s right. The football home to Frank Gore, Colin Kaepernick and a legion of faithful 49ers fans will be transformed into a winter wonderland for one evening on February 21, as Levi’s® Stadium and the DeBartolo York family welcome outdoor hockey to Santa Clara. Fans accustomed to Anquan Boldin’s touchdown receptions at Levi’s® Stadium will suddenly be witness to Patrick Marleau’s shots-on-goal when the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings take center ice at the 50-yard line.
The 2015 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game between the Sharks and Kings will be Northern California’s first professional outdoor hockey event. The usually cozy Silicon Valley venue will morph into an Arctic ice box for the matchup. The puck drops under the twinkling stars at 7 p.m. and is expected to attract the largest crowd ever to see a hockey game west of the Mississippi, easily topping the 54,099 who filled Dodger Stadium last season for a game between the Kings and Anaheim Ducks.
“It’s been cool to watch the transformation of Levi’s into a hockey palace,” Keena Turner, the 49ers vice president of football affairs said. “I think the Stadium Series and the Winter Classic has been a great addition to the NHL.”
It’s also a continuation of the DeBartolo family’s long-standing association with the NHL. Edward J. DeBartolo, Sr., grandfather of San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York, initially ventured into professional hockey when he purchased the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1977, the same year he bought the 49ers. Denise DeBartolo York, currently the co-chairperson of the 49ers along with husband John York, was appointed the Penguins team president.
As one of the few female executives in the league, Denise helped revitalize the downtrodden Penguins and develop them into contenders. Under her leadership, Pittsburgh won its first Stanley Cup after the 1990-91 season, and Denise became the third woman (at the time) to have her name etched on the coveted silver chalice. She remains one of just 12 females in that very elite club. Denise also was instrumental in attracting the NHL All-Star game to Pittsburgh for the first time in 1990.
The DeBartolo name continues to occupy a prominent place in Penguins’ history. Many Penguins fans recognize the DeBartolos as the saviors of Pittsburgh hockey in the 1980s when they established a championship caliber organization and drafted star players like Mario Lemieux (1984) and Jaromir Jagr (1990).
Edward Sr. was inducted into the Penguins Hall of Fame in 1996, and the franchise presents the annual Edward J. DeBartolo Community Service Award to players who have “donated a considerable amount of time during the season working on community and charity projects.”
To find out more about the DeBartolos contributions to professional sports, visit the 49ers Museum presented by Sony and stroll through the Edward J. DeBartolo, Sr. 49ers Hall of Fame gallery, which features life-size statues of the club’s 26 Hall of Famers. Guests can also see the Denise DeBartolo York Education Center, the re-creation of Coach Bill Walsh’s office, and wander through the Super Bowls gallery where all five Lombardi Trophies are on display. For more information on Museum tickets, hours and content, visit levisstadium.com/Museum. For group pricing call 415-GO-49ERS.
For those attending the 2015 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series on February 21, the 49ers Museum will be open from 4pm until 6:30pm. Guests must have a valid ticket to access the Museum on this day.