Wilson on his health, Sharks honored Mike Greer

Doug Wilson spoke this morning on the eve of his Thanksgiving dinner tonight at the SAP Center.

Wilson, 65, took the podium at a downtown San Jose hotel, addressing the media for the first time since his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame last November.

The San Jose Sharks icon took a medical leave of absence from his GM role two weeks after his Hall of Fame induction, then stepped down for good in April.

Wilson was the general manager of the Sharks from 2003 to 2022. Before that, the defenseman played for the Chicago Blackhawks and the expansion Sharks.

Opening remarks by Doug Wilson:

Thanks again Hasso [Plattner] and the whole organization because I think who I am is just a reflection of all kinds of different people in that organization. Go back to the Cow Palace days, go back to the coaches, the trainers, the staff, the office workers.

I think you all know how I feel about Mr. [George] Gund. None of us would be here without him. To be here to represent all the people for the last 25-30 years is an honor that I accept and I can’t even put it into words. To come back here to do this, admit I’m starting to [think about] some memories, thinking about all the great players we’ve had come through this organization, not just great players but great people. And that includes the Cow Palace days, the teams that made the first playoff all the way in the last couple of years, when it was a challenge with COVID that affected … I’m so proud of our players.

Wilson on his most memorable moments in San Jose:

The first match at the Cow Palace was one.

Another one that comes to mind because I went up to the top of the Levi’s Stadium building to see 70,000 people watching hockey in California, it was actually pretty emotional when you look down and see that.

Going to the Cup final, obviously, because that’s the goal. And that is what the ownership of this organization strives to gain. We haven’t been able to achieve that, but I won’t take away a lot of things that the players and coaches have accomplished here.

A special moment for me that is almost a miracle in several ways was Vegas Game Seven and seeing that game and how we came back. I played, obviously, in Chicago Stadium, which is one of the loudest rinks in the world, but SAP was the loudest I’ve ever heard.

If you were there and felt it, a little side story: One of my best friends had a massive heart attack in overtime during that game and three of the season ticket holders carried him to the concourse where the paramedics worked on him for 45 minutes to an hour. They thought they lost it three times. I never made it to the locker room after the game to see him.

The emotions, it was an amazing night in our building, season ticket holders carrying someone up to the hall from the lower seats. Paramedics would be working on him for 45 minutes, blue coats around him, and here was one of hockey’s greatest games at the same time, so maybe it was a precursor to the things that happened. But this day and match certainly stood out.

Wilson, what happened to this friend:

Well, he had a heart attack last week. He really survived and came back and is one of our biggest fans in the Sharks organization. Good friend, his name is Gary Martin, so he needs our thoughts and wishes with him right now.

Wilson, on his own health:

Everyone has been through things in the past few years. It’s something I’m not where I need to be. I have some work ahead of me. I have a lot of empathy for people dealing with things that you have to be proactive about dealing with. I let some things slide and ended up in a not great place to be honest. I have some work to do and we have great doctors and we’ll leave it at that.

Wilson on whether the stress of hockey may have caused him to let things slide with his health:

I guess that’s called life. There were things that were on very different levels. So I’ll leave it at that.

Wilson, for tonight’s tribute:

I don’t look at it like it’s for me. I watch it again, for that parallel. I can be a good representative of different people. And I’ll just say this, Mr. Gund, because of his love for the game, his love for this organization, his passion for life, we wouldn’t be here. This franchise wouldn’t be here.

So I think I represent a lot of people. The fact that I am is humbling. For my family, what they said when they came here the first year. My wife, she just came together and said “Let’s go!” All the players and staff members who have families, it’s a family commitment to do it. So whatever, I want them to end too.

Wilson on the decision to step down from the GM role in April:

It was the right thing to do. I don’t want to make graphs or anything like that. I must have been a bad patient. I should have known how far he was going and probably should have approached him sooner. I’m not looking back and I’m very, very proud of the fact that Mike Greer, one of our former players, is involved. I think he will do a great job. I’m a big fan of his. So for the reasons I mentioned before, it was just the right time.

Wilson, how hard was it to watch last year and not be as involved as you used to be:

I mean, it’s a great group of guys over there. We knew there would be an evolution after Jumbo and Pavs [left]. In particular, Tommy and Timo, Logan, guys who are stepping up. Every team in the league goes through this. We had a pretty good run for a long period of time. There will come a time when we have to reset it and get people to step in and do it.

But I will just say that I think the COVID experience that this team went through was different than most other teams. After being on the road and having training camps and stuff – I’ll remember one meeting we had, I think it was in Colorado, after most of the trip [in the 2020-21 season].

I [saw] a band that I was really worried about just with the depression and the things that everyone was dealing with. So I give our guys a lot of credit for pulling through, it really wasn’t an easy moment.

Wilson on when the San Jose Sharks will return to the postseason:

In this league, look at teams that take a step back and reset, you certainly have to fill. In all the years we’ve pursued this, we’ve moved a lot of first-round picks to try to get a chance to win. You pay the price for it.

I think the last few drafts have added some skill and we have some size mix. You have to have a hybrid of things to compete in this game today.

So I don’t think it’s as far off as people think because it’s a matter of getting the right people in key positions, getting some surprises. We want someone to come out of left field and make the team and make a big difference at times. But in this league, if you have a plan and stick to it, [and] I think Mike has a plan: This team will be back in racing in the very near future.

Wilson, after learning the San Jose Sharks had hired Greer:

Yes, I called Mike right away. When he came here, he did a great job for us. I remember where he sat in the dressing room. Come in, first place. [He just had] presence for him.

Probably like me, he learns by osmosis. His brother is obviously doing a great job [with the Miami Dolphins]. He was in New York with Chris Drury and this whole group. I think he’s ready for it. And he surrounded himself with some good people.

He is a good person. And I think this organization is in good hands.

Wilson, on the loss of Brian Marchment:

It’s hard here because I’m looking at some people we’ve lost recently.

Whether it’s Richie Perez, whether it’s Tommy Woodcock or Musch. I’m the wrong person to answer because I don’t understand when these things happen. It is heartbreaking to break this news. I think we’ve all lost people over the last few years, and whenever it’s a young guy, out of left field, it’s devastating.

Wilson on why it’s important that his Thanksgiving night is against his former Chicago Blackhawks:

I had such a great experience in Chicago and you look back on the last one [years]people we’ve lost, biggest influences [on me] with Stan Mikita, Keith Magnuson and Tony Esposito. These are people who influenced me as a person and as a person. [They] they were there for me when I went through difficult times when I lost my father for example.

My only children were born in Chicago, met my wife there playing for the Original Six organization. The players I played with are endless: Troy Murray was inspirational. Dirk Graham. Dale Tallon. Bob Murray, Dennis Savard.

The list goes on and on and it’s only been the last few days that I’ve been thinking about it. Playing for an Original Six team and a brand new expansion team are experiences not everyone gets.

Wilson on a possible return to hockey:

My priority is getting my health back for the seven grandchildren I want to be able to pursue. They are probably harder to chase than the 23 players. I’ve always been aware of how important health is, and this has intensified a bit in the last year. This is really important and you need to get it back before you consider other choices or activities. But I believe I will succeed.

Wilson’s parting words to Greer:

Just be yourself. Then realize what you know and what you don’t know. People who are really smart seem to ask the right questions, and he does. I was impressed with him as a player. In our conversations, when he took the job and what he said, he’s very methodical, he has a plan. And he’s going to ask questions and he’s had a lot of learning through experience too, no doubt about that. It runs in his family. Just the way he played, the way he trained, the way he carried himself, and I think that’s pretty good [standard] for many people.

Wilson, on what he shares about his health:

I’m in good hands. I think I’m in a better place than I was 10-11 months ago. I need to be a better patient, that’s what I’ve been told. But it was worrying. But I feel like there is a lot of light at the end of the tunnel.

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