Lars Eller always looks like he's smelling something fowl.
Guerrero Returns to the Shark Tank, This Time a Caps Fan
When the Washington Capitals take on the San Jose Sharks Jan. 7 at HP Pavilion, it may just seem like a regular game for the players. But for the Caps’ Manager of Media Relations, Ben Guerrero, this game holds a different kind of importance.
Guerrero was born and raised a Sharks fan, living just outside of San Jose, and got his first public relations job with the team before making his way to Washington.
Returning means that he gets to finally see family and catch up with some old friends.
“I think the first and foremost thing is I get to see family. Especially around the holidays was kind of tough,” Guerrero said. “We did Skype Christmas and Skype Thanksgiving, but that’s not quite the same. It’ll be good to see family.”
But this time, when Guerrero returns to the Tank, he’ll be rooting for the team in red.
“It’ll be exciting to go back,” he said. “I grew up a Sharks fan and then getting my start there, they basically helped me into the position I am now, so nothing but good things to say about them. That being said, though, we haven’t won there since ’93, so I’d really like to get a win.”
For two seasons, Guerrero worked with the Sharks, and through those years he’s had many great memories, including meeting his childhood idol Arturs Irbe.
“I had worked in baseball before [the Sharks] so I was around athletes and stuff, but I’d say, kind of the first wow moment actually was with someone not on the current team,” he said. “Arturs Irbe was my hero growing up. I started playing goalie cause of him and he came to do an appearance so I got to meet him. That was before I came here and he was the coach here, so that was kind of that wow moment.”
One of Guerrero’s best memories with the team came in his first season with the Sharks when they were able to beat Detroit in Game 5 of the Conference Semi-finals, to progress to Conference Finals.
“Detroit was always a top rival we had there, and it was just one of those things where we hadn’t really gotten over the hump against the Red Wings, and then finally we were able to get rid of them, and at home too,” he said. “The fans just… it’s a really electric atmosphere, a lot like Verizon Center. I think that Game 5 against Detroit, Patrick Marleau scored the game winner in the third period and that was probably my best moment there.”
It wasn’t until the middle of the 2010-11 season that Guerrero joined the Caps’ organization. He said the main reason he took the position was because it gave him more responsibility and a chance to “bump up in the food chain” because the majority of the San Jose staff was young and “wasn’t going anywhere.”
“I had actually interviewed with [Caps Director of Media Relations] Sergey [Kocharov] when he was in Phoenix for a Phoenix position, and then Sergey, in the middle of that process, took this position, so kind of a small world. So I knew him from Phoenix before. The Caps were playing in San Jose around the time when he was interviewing, so I went and talked with him and then basically I flew out here, talked to all the people here, and then they offered me the job. It was just a better opportunity and a way for me to show more responsibilities, so I took it.”
For Guerrero, someone who’s worked with both teams, there are plenty of similarities between the two clubs, both on the ice and off.
“We’ve got a great group of guys here [in Washington],” he said. “You could have some teams that maybe aren’t the easiest to work with, but all of our guys know what they have to do, and they do a good job of making themselves available. They have a good group in San Jose, too. Both teams are kind of similar on-ice, if you take a look at regular season success, kind of struggling post season, both looking for their first Cup. It’s really kind of eerie to see the similarities there.”
In terms of differences, the main one Guerrero has found is with the media. He says that there’s a lot more media outlets in Washington than San Jose.
“In San Jose we had one, maybe two blogs that we credentialed, and that was actually right before I left. And then here, we try to have a lot more presence on the web because that’s what’s emerging as the new leader,” he said. “I think Ted [Leonsis] does a good job of trying to make sure we have as many different outlets as we can out here. I think we had, for the Pittsburgh game, we had the same amount of media for the regular Pittsburgh game as we would have for a first round playoff game in San Jose.”
In terms of his favorite player to work with, Guerrero couldn’t pick a favorite in Washington, but he says he’s always liked working with Joe Thornton in San Jose.
“Joe Thornton was really easy to work with there. He made himself available and very, very easy guy to work with. He’s the captain, so he took the responsibility. He’s probably one of the easiest guys I’ve ever worked with as far as hockey goes.”
Guerrero said he hasn’t really gotten a lot of teasing from the Caps team, mostly because he doesn’t think the players know he’s a San Jose native. But he said that Kocharov has given him a rough time.
“Sergey gives me a bad time, but we sort of go back and forth,” he said. “I give him a bad time about Phoenix because, you know, you kind of like to at least monitor how your friends are doing and stuff.”
However, despite the fact that Guerrero was a Sharks fan up until he came to Washington in the spring of 2011, he’ll be completely rooting for the Caps in his return to HP Pavillion.
“It’s all Caps,” he said. “I mean, you like to see your friends do well and stuff… but I want to see the streak continue and I’d love to get our first win there in a long time.”