SAN JOSE -- There will be hockey at HP Pavilion this month even if the NHL lockout does not get resolved.
The San Francisco Bulls of the ECHL will face the Stockton Thunder on Dec. 17 at the home of the Sharks. All seats are complimentary with San Jose and San Francisco season-ticket holders getting access before the general public, which must wait until Dec. 12.
Parking will be free in arena lots.
In their press release announcing the game, the Sharks encouraged fans to stop at downtown businesses before and after the game, as many have been hurt by the lockout.
"This free event is a way for us to say thank you to our loyal and patient fans, while also trying to assist those who have been directly impacted by the labor dispute," said Sharks executive vice-president of business operations Malcolm Bordelon.
In addition, the Sharks Foundation will operate a "Toys for Tots" toy drive at the North and South Entrances of HP Pavilion, where fans can drop off new unwrapped toys or make a cash donation. All donors will receive a raffle ticket for prizes to be handed out at the game.
The Bulls, a Sharks affiliate, are in their inaugural season. This game originally was scheduled for Jan. 16 at the Cow Palace.
Sharks forward Ryane Clowe is an assistant coach with the Bulls and Bordelon said he will be able to be behind the bench during the game at HP Pavilion even though the NHL has locked players out since Sept. 15. All games have been canceled through Dec. 14.
The Bulls game will be the first ECHL contest in an NHL arena since the Peoria Rivermen played Wheeling Nailers in Pittsburgh on Oct. 20, 2002.
The Bulls currently have four Sharks prospects on their roster. Goaltender Thomas Heemskerk and forward Marek Viedensky were assigned to the Bulls by San Jose. Goaltender Taylor Nelson and forward Daniil Tarasov were loaned by Worcester, the team's AHL affiliate.