SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT (publ. 2/1/2014, pg. A4)
A story about Sharks employee Steve Maroni incorrectly reported the number of Sharks hockey players competing at the Sochi Winter Olympics. The number is four. Goalie Antti Niemi, who will be competing for Finland, was left off the list.

SAN JOSE -- Steve Maroni is heading to his fourth consecutive Winter Olympics. Only he's not a skier, figure skater or bobsledder.

He's not even an athlete.

Maroni is the Sharks' director of event presentation, which means if you've ever attended a hockey game at SAP Center, you've seen his behind-the-scenes handiwork. And thanks to his NHL work, he also has become a Winter Olympics regular. His production role in Sochi, Russia, will be making sure all goes smoothly at the Bolshoy Ice Dome hockey venue in front of a global audience.

So, no pressure or anything.

"The electricity of every game at the Olympics is just insane," said Maroni, 43, a San Jose resident. "We do 41 games over six months with the Sharks. In Sochi, we'll do 27 in 11 days. It's an adrenaline rush, and there's nothing else like it."

Of course, he's not the only Sharks employee to be making the trip to Sochi. The Sharks have four players competing -- Joe Pavelski representing the United States, Antti Niemi of Finland, and Patrick Marleau and Marc-Edouard Vlasic for Canada. Also, production associate Elisabeth Farkas is working at the Games.


Advertisement

For Maroni, serving as an Olympic venue producer is an extension of his day job, which he thinks is pretty darn cool, and not just because he sits ice-side during games between the two penalty boxes. From that vantage point, he oversees a staff of 20 as they control the arena atmosphere and make sure that, well, there's never a dull moment.

Coach Todd McLellan may run the Sharks bench, but Maroni pretty much directs everything else in the building that fans experience on game night as he oversees the music, the video boards, and even the lowering of the iconic giant Shark head so players can make their dramatic entrance onto the ice.

"Tell me what else you can do where you're throwing a party for 18,000 people?" Maroni said. "This isn't work. I'm still that 10-year-old watching a game, only now I get paid for it as I help create 125 decibels of noise. When you go home your ears are ringing, and that's when you know you've done your job."

Steve Maroni at SAP Arena in San Jose, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014. Maroni is going to his fourth Winter Olympics. Only he’s not a skier, skater or
Steve Maroni at SAP Arena in San Jose, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014. Maroni is going to his fourth Winter Olympics. Only he's not a skier, skater or bob-sledder. He's not even an athlete. Maroni is the San Jose Sharks' director of events: The guy who acts as a conductor, controlling every aspect of the SAP Arena experience that doesn't occur on the ice. And he will be in Sochi, doing the same thing at one of the Olympic venues, overseeing the music, video boards and other activities that help keep spectators engaged during sporting events. (Patrick Tehan/Bay Area News Group) (Patrick Tehan)

When he was that little boy growing up in western Massachusetts, Maroni was mesmerized by the 1980 Miracle on Ice hockey team that won the gold medal only a few hours away in Lake Placid, N.Y. Someday, Maroni decided, he was going to attend the Olympics.

He got his chance in 2002. Marino was with Carolina Hurricanes when he was asked by a friend in the NHL if he wanted to be her production assistant at the Salt Lake City Games -- a joyful sports festival that helped boost the spirits of a country still reeling from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"It was such an amazing experience," said Maroni, who worked for the Sharks in the 1990s and returned in 2003. "I still get goose bumps thinking about it."

Those Games were so glitch-free from a sports-production standpoint that Olympic officials decided not to mess with success.

The 2006 Torino Games organizing committee hired the same production group to help stage their Olympic event in Italy -- including Maroni. Next thing he knew, he was working at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. Then last week he left for Sochi, where he is in charge of the primary hockey venue.

So there's a good reason why a framed picture of the Olympic rings symbol hangs prominently in his Sharks office.

"We think that it's great to have one of our own over there," Marleau said of the upcoming Games.

Maroni is working with Russian assistants as he walks that fine line of being a boss as well as a guest in a proud country that reportedly has spent more than $50 billion to host these Games.

"I kick myself because I wish I studied my Russian more," Maroni said. "I know a little bit, just to get by. I want to at least me able to extend the common courtesies and ask, 'How are you doing?' My team in Sochi has been working very hard, and they're very excited. Hockey probably will have the highest profile of any sport there."

He also has paid close attention to the news reports about the threat of terrorism, and he concedes that it is a concern.

"But you can also get whacked walking across the street," he added. "You just have to be smart, be careful about where you go, and keep your eyes open."

Back in November, Maroni got the chance to meet a man who helped plant the seed of his Olympic fervor. The goalie of the Miracle on Ice team, Jim Craig, attended a Sharks game, and Maroni made sure he was able to talk with one of his boyhood heroes.

"Jim told me, 'Hey, you're going to your fourth Olympics, and I've only done one,' " Maroni said with a wide smile.

David Pollak contributed to this report. Follow Mark Emmons at Twitter.com/markedwinemmons.