Sharks goalie first Bay Area kid to play for his hometown team

In a season where the San Jose Sharks could make history for futility due to the team’s low win total, there’s a glimmer of hope and another type of history sitting between the goal pipes at a recent practice at Sharks Ice in San Jose.

"It’s crazy. Like since I’ve been traded, this whole thing has felt a little bit like a dream. It’s a dream come true, but it still doesn’t feel real," said Devin Cooley.

The 26-year-old Los Gatos native who’s peering through the bars of a birdcage mask while staring down attacking skaters.

If this ice feels like home following a trade from Buffalo, it should. Cooley is the first Bay Area hockey player to make the trek, from Sharks junior hockey to the AHL San Jose Barracuda, to NHL stardom with his home team in its home arena.

"I can’t even explain how surreal this feels," said Devin’s mother, Heynia Cooley.

She and Devin’s father, Scott, all still live in Los Gatos, with the Sharks’ goalie living at his dad’s house. Scott Cooley said his son’s substitute stint as a goalie at the age of five struck a chord that led to a career choice.

"He would beg people to beg people to shoot pucks on him. His brothers, me, his mom. Anybody," said Scott. Added Heynia, "And then, when he was inside, they were doing knee hockey. So we had portable nets and little sticks and so if it wasn’t enough on the outside, on the inside they were still playing some form of hockey."

Cooley, a middle child, stuck with hockey like tape to a stick. His older and younger brother pursued other sports. Over the year’s Devin’s skill grew as he won championships with the Junior Sharks, then a Triple-A team in high school, and a scholarship to the University of Denver.

"A once-in-lifetime opportunity to go play pro, or play college and then consider playing pro? So we’d support anything that he wanted," said Heynia.

Cooley was signed by the Nashville Predators as an undrafted free agent in 2020. After three seasons, he was then signed by Buffalo last July as a free-agent. And a month ago, he was traded to his hometown team for a 7th round draft pick.

"It was like a total shock. But once I heard the news, I was so happy because it meant that I got to go home and play for the hometown team. And you can’t put a price on that," said Devin.

Getting to the level of the NHL and remaining on the roster are two different things. So, Cooley is working tirelessly on the ice during practice, to improve his craft. Coaches say he’s usually the last play off the ice during practice.

"It’s a hard adjustment. A lot of guys can’t do it. But he’s done a really good job coming here working hard each day. Wanting to get better. I’m excited for his next opportunity," said Sharks Head Coach David Quinn.

It’s an opportunity born of a boy’s love for blocking the puck, and his parent’s willingness to support his dream -- a dream that brought him, back home.

"It’s just nice to back home. That’s the biggest thing," said Devin.

Jesse Gary is a news & sports reporter, and a sports anchor, based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on the X platform (formerly Twitter), @JesseKTVU and on Instagram, @jessegontv