Every so often, I post a photo of a puck or a jersey I was fortunate enough to get signed by a San Jose Sharks player. Almost invariably, someone will ask how I attained said autograph. So, here are my tips for getting autographs from Sharks players. These probably hold true for athletes from other sports as well.
Before we go any further, I must share the two most important words of advice: BE COOL!
In other words, don’t go full-on fanboy. Simply put, be respectful and polite. If the player denies your request, for whatever reason, just say “okay, thank you”. You have no idea what that player is going through at that time. Respect their decision and move on. With that said, let’s get on with it.
Every year in September, the Sharks hold a festival for fans at SAP Center. These festivals include many activities, including an adult-only Tank Tailgate and other fun shenanigans. At the tailgate event, fans can sample various craft beers and play games, such as corn hole or other hockey-related games. Once you’re inside the Tank though, these Fan Fests are mostly known for being an annual event for fans to get a signature from, or photograph with, San Jose Sharks players.
The players know these events are specifically geared for photos and signings. This is your best bet to interact with a player. There are also other San Jose Sharks signing events scheduled if you happen to be a San Jose Sharks season ticket holder. These are your best opportunities for getting your cherished item signed. However, these events are generally limited to one signature per player. This is not an event to get half of your collection signed by one player.
Practices and Postgame
Another way to try to get an autograph or photo with your favorite Shark is to attend a practice or hang out after a game by player parking.
The Sharks practice regularly at their facility, Solar4America Ice, and most players are receptive to fans seeking signatures and photos following a practice. As I stated earlier though, some players may not feel like signing on that particular day. This can be soul crushing for kids to see their idol and not be able to get an autograph or photo so be prepared to go to several practices or games if you’re hoping for a specific player.
Sharks fans have also been able to get autographs/photos from players as they’re leaving SAP following a game. As you can imagine, players tend to be more responsive to photos and autographs after a win so take that into account when making your request.
On occasion, sports shops will hold signing events with specific players. Usually it’s only one or two players and you’re usually required to pay for the autograph. However, because you’re purchasing the signature at these events, you’re generally allowed to bring as many items as you want to be signed.
Also, the Sharks and Sharks Foundation will periodically hold an event such as book drive or other promotion that will feature a player. The events typically require a donation or purchase of some sort.
Do’s and Don’ts
Again, be cool when asking a player for a photo or autograph.
- Be respectful. While you are a fan and fans support the league, the player still isn’t obligated to give you their time.
- Be polite. Say “Excuse me, Tomas. May I have your autograph?” rather than “Hey Hertl, can you sign this?”
- Consider other fans. When possible, move out of the way once your photo is taken or item is signed so that other fans have an opportunity too.
- Make sure kids get in first. Some players will only sign for kids so make sure they get the first opportunity.
- Consider a photo instead of an autograph. After all, aren’t photos are the new autograph? Players appear to be more receptive to taking a photo with you since the photo only holds value to you rather than an item to be sold for profit.
- Don’t show up with a ton of various merch trying to get everything signed. It’s fine to bring a couple player-specific items such as a player-specific puck or a jersey, but don’t show up with your entire memorabilia collection.
- Don’t be the guy who shows up with fifteen 8x10s of Brent Burns and tries to get them all signed.
- Never be the guy that posts what you got signed on eBay or Craigslist or some other site. If you’re this guy, you are literally the reason why some players are hesitant to sign memorabilia. Stop ruining it for everyone else.
What if you’re not local to San Jose? Obviously, your next best option is to purchase online from a retailer like Fanatics or another sports shop website. Many times, when sports shops hold signings, they will have that player sign extra items to be sold and the player is fully aware. These sites generally include a Certificate Of Authenticity (or COA) with your purchase to guarantee the autograph is legitimate. However, when purchasing an autographed item, do your due diligence to ensure you’re not being scammed. Some items and autographs are quite easy to replicate and there are a lot of disreputable sites on the interwebs.
Some players just won’t sign autographs if they’re not at fan-specific events such as Fan Fest. I believe these players have become tired of being a nice guy, signing an autograph, only to see that signed item on eBay the next day.
Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous people in the world who post photos of themselves getting items autographed. They only do this to prove the authenticity of the signature because they’re trying to sell it. I’ve even seen examples of people trying to sell items they got for free at #TurnUpInTeal events. These people are the ones that ruin it for fans just hoping to get their one cherished item signed by their favorite player.
In an effort to combat these exploitative “fans”, Brent Burns and other players have become notorious for asking your name before signing an item so they can personalize the signature. This is a great move by Brent and I would love to see other players follow his lead. It makes it terribly difficult for shady people who sell signed merchandise as their side hustle, but it also proves you got the signature in person rather than purchasing it from somewhere else.
I’m not saying that buying a piece of autographed merchandise is a bad thing. I’m just saying I think it’s way cooler to have a personalized item.
How have you been successful at getting player photos or autographs? Leave your tips in the comments below.