Five Wins Away

 

Hello Game 7, my old friend.
You’ve come to haunt the Ducks again.

As I sat inside Honda Center watching the Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks play in Game 7 of the Western Conference Final on Saturday night, there were moments early on in the game, particularly after the first period, with Chicago (more specifically, Jonathan Toews) up 2-0, where I felt like I was watching the same horror movie for the third time in three years.

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But as the game went on, I decided that this series, and subsequent season-ending 5-3 loss, had a much different feel than the Game 7 losses of 2014 and 2013. Although the frustrating outcome was the same—the Ducks were again bounced from the playoffs by way of a Game 7 defeat in their own barn—I didn’t see the same scared, shell-shocked bunch that failed to show up to play against the Kings and the Red Wings.

There were spurts where the Ducks pushed hard, even in the first period. But it wasn’t sustained, and the second they let their guard down, the Blackhawks capitalized, to the surprise of exactly no one. Because that’s what elite teams do in Game 7 when a trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line.

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There’s been plenty of analysis as to what happened in that final game, how the team’s leaders played “terrible” and there’s a lot of truth to that. Ducks’ Captain Ryan Getzlaf was clearly outplayed by Toews. Goaltender Frederik Andersen wasn’t at his best, and neither was the defensive play in front of him. The Ducks got behind early, and the team known for being the “comeback kids” all season had seemingly run out of magic.

After the game, Getzlaf stood in the dressing room and answered a boatload of questions, with a level of composure I’m certain I would not have in that same situation. His answer to one question in particular told me all I needed to know about how the Ducks let this series get away from them.

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The Captain was asked if he would agree that the Blackhawks were the better team.

He paused before he spoke, for what seemed like an eternity, while he carefully figured out his answer.

“No,” Getzlaf said, very emphatically. “I’m not telling you that they’re a better team than us. I’m telling you that they played better than us tonight. They played good enough to win.”

That’s it, right there.

The Blackhawks were not necessarily the “better team” in this series. The Ducks played right with them for the first part of this series, dominating them at times. A couple of bad bounces, a post and a crossbar…who knows how this could have gone through the first four games.

But Chicago became the better team as the series moved along, beginning in Game 5. Even though the Ducks won that game in overtime, I could sense as Toews and his troops rallied to tie the game in the last two minutes of regulation that the tide was shifting.

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Up 3-2 in the series with a chance to close it out in Chicago in Game 6, Anaheim instead was handed its first regulation loss of the playoffs. So going into Game 7, my own gut feeling had me concerned with how the Ducks would respond to that situation. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe they could win. I absolutely did. But in a long playoff run, such as the one that is required to win the Stanley Cup, it is as much about how a team responds to the losses as it is about the wins.

The Blackhawks made the adjustments they needed to make. The Ducks did not.

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When you are three rounds deep into this playoff chaos, you’re invested and the emotions are real. And when your team loses, no matter how it happens, the ending is jarring and abrupt. As I stood and watched defenseman Cam Fowler address the media, he did his best to keep it together.

“It’s something that’s hard to put into words,” Fowler said of his emotions. “I feel like you pour your heart and soul into this. I feel like we let the fans down and let the people around us down. We felt like we had a special thing going. It doesn’t feel like we deserve to be done yet.”

It was brutal. The mom in me just wanted to give him a hug.photo-15a

I’m determined not to let Saturday night’s loss erase what this team has accomplished this season. They were still playing on May 30. This series against Chicago was full of great hockey and thrilling moments. And in each of the last three years, the Ducks have inched closer to the big prize, having made it one round further than the previous year. This group has a confidence about them that I haven’t seen in some time. They believe they can win. But having it all end just one win away from playing for the Cup is a sobering reminder of how hard it is to get there in the first place.

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“I gained an appreciation this year for making it to where we did, with how tough every series is,” said Head Coach Bruce Boudreau. “You hear about it on TV, but until you really see how many hurdles you have to go through, it’s really difficult.”

It will be interesting to see what changes lie ahead. I don’t think they need to be drastic. The window is still wide open for this young, skilled group. Their youth may have been too much this season, especially on defense, but their depth will allow them to address that.

In order to be considered an elite team, the Ducks will need to beat an elite team when it matters most, in a seven-game series in the playoffs. That’s what is missing. The experience from the last three seasons will go a long way in getting them there.

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Take heart, Ducks fans. This team is close.

They were five wins away. And there is no shame in that.

 

 

 

Anaheim Ducks ‘PowerPLAY!’ Project Provides Campus Upgrades for Local Elementary School

What a way for the kids at Hermosa Drive Elementary in Fullerton to be welcomed back from their spring break.

While the students were enjoying their time off last week, more than 100 volunteers were on their campus providing upgrades that would make coming back from vacation a little easier to take.

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Anaheim Ducks staff members, season seat holders and volunteers from several of the Ducks corporate partners, along with many Hermosa Drive Elementary teachers, worked to provide a makeover for the school as a part of the Anaheim Ducks and Anaheim Ducks Foundation “PowerPLAY!” project.

Valued at more than $100,000, the school received permanent upgrades that included a street hockey rink, landscape improvements, painted wall murals and technology equipment for the school’s library.

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The kindergarten through sixth grade student body made their way out to their new street hockey rink Monday morning for the big “reveal” and an assembly to dedicate their newest playground space. Anaheim Ducks host, Kent Walls, joined Wild Wing and Ducks alum, Guy Hebert, in congratulating the school and students on many future street hockey contests.

“Some of these kids might not even know about hockey,” said Hebert. “For them to have an opportunity to experience something different, and to have something on their campus now that they can readily use every day, is great.”

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Hermosa Drive Elementary is a long-time partner school in the Anaheim Ducks S.C.O.R.E. (Scholastic Curriculum of Recreation & Education) program, and has been an enthusiastic participant in many of the program’s initiatives, such as Reading is the GOAL, First Flight Field Trip and Captain’s Challenge.

Fullerton School District Superintendent, Dr. Bob Pletka, and Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, Emy Flores were both in attendance for the dedication and were overwhelmed by the generosity the Ducks provided in this makeover project.

“We’re really excited,” said Pletka. “This is a way to help our kids be life-long physically fit.”

“We have great programs in our school district, but this takes it to the next level,” added Flores. “We’re so excited for our kids. What a fantastic partnership. We’re just so appreciative.”

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In addition to the street hockey rink, new landscaping and trees were planted around the campus, along with newly painted wall murals that feature the school’s colors and mascot, Hermosa Hawk, alongside Wild Wing and the Ducks logo and colors.

Ducks corporate partners such as 7UP, SoCal Honda Dealers, Banyan Group Construction, Park West Companies and VIZIO stepped up to provide many of the project’s upgrades.

“I think it’s fantastic when you can bring together so many different entities,” said Anaheim Ducks Chief Operating Officer, Tim Ryan. “It’s not just the Ducks. It’s not just about the S.C.O.R.E. program, but bringing together over a dozen of our corporate partners that have donated their time, the equipment and the money to improve the lives of all of these kids.”

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In an effort to address not only the physical fitness efforts of students at Hermosa Drive Elementary, but also technology-based learning, the school’s library received upgrades that included four flat-screen televisions with Apple TV connectivity, tech cabinets with charging stations, a 3D printer and accompanying work station, new work tables and chairs, a lounge area and refurbished bookshelves.

Hermosa Drive Elementary Principal, Robin Gilligan, said that recent budget cuts have limited the school’s use of the library space. But with the upgrades provided by the Ducks, more opportunities will be provided for the students to use their 21st century learning skills.

“This is now a way that our teachers can come in and have a whole class working in here on projects, using the library the way it really should be used,” said Gilligan. “We’re just opening the doors of possibilities for our students.”

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Surprised by all that had been done to the campus over spring break, fourth grader Madelyn McLeran is excited to use the upgraded library.

“To have the Ducks come here was a really big surprise,” said the 10-year old McLeran. “I am really impressed. It looks so different now. We can 3D print and do presentations here. I am very thankful and very appreciative too.”

McLeran is also a member of Hermosa Drive’s street hockey team that participates in the Anaheim Ducks S.C.O.R.E. Street Hockey program, an in-school physical education module provided for free by the Ducks to more than 45 schools throughout Southern California.

“Now I can practice hockey during lunch. It’s really exciting.”

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The school’s motto is Learn – Serve – Achieve, and fourth grade teacher Alison Garcia said that the Anaheim Ducks “PowerPLAY!” program aligns perfectly with those concepts by modeling for the students what it means to be a good citizen and give back to the community.

“It parallels exactly what we do here,” said Garcia. “The learning that they provide for us is truly effective and applies toward our education standards and our fitness and wellness goals. And the students see what it means to serve and give back. We couldn’t be more happy.”

 

 

**Renovation photos and group photo provided by the Anaheim Ducks

Anaheim Ducks Travel to Boston and Make Hockey Dreams Come True

For fans of this great game, there may be no bigger moment than getting the chance to meet your hockey hero in person, face to face.

Shaelin Earle got to have that moment—times two—when he was a guest of the Anaheim Ducks this week as the team traveled to Boston to take on the Bruins.

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A self-proclaimed sports fanatic, Shaelin lives just 25 miles north of the sports-crazed city of Boston but has a penchant for following teams from outside of the region.

His hockey devotion reaches all the way to the west coast, and his loyalties lie with Corey Perry, Cam Fowler and the Anaheim Ducks.

“I like their style, the way they play,” said Shaelin of Perry and Fowler.

So when Shaelin, who has cystic fibrosis, was given the opportunity to have a wish granted through Make-A-Wish, an organization that grants wishes for children with life-threatening medical conditions, he wanted nothing more than to meet Perry and Fowler in Anaheim.Ducks MakeAWish Photo10a

Make-A-Wish Massachusetts and Rhode Island teamed up with Make-A-Wish Orange County and the Inland Empire, along with the Anaheim Ducks, to put together an experience that would allow Shaelin to meet his favorite team and his hockey heroes, but the trip came up against an unexpected snag.

As he and his parents, Randy and Jeanne Earle, traveled west last November to watch the Ducks face the Kings at Honda Center, the team was just beginning to deal with players who had contracted the mumps, including Perry.

This kept Shaelin from being able to interact with the players while in Anaheim, but the experience continued for the Earle family, as they watched the team practice alongside Anaheim Ducks alumni, George Parros. The former enforcer took Shaelin to lunch at SoCal favorite, In-N-Out Burger, and presented him with an Xbox, Surface tablet and Ducks jersey signed by the team. Shaelin and his parents were also there to cheer on the Ducks as they took down their cross-town rivals in a shootout thriller, defeating the Kings 6-5.

Perry and Fowler were determined to make this up to Shaelin, so the Ducks came to him, using their spring contest against the Bruins as a second chance to make his wish come true.Ducks MakeAWish Collage01

Game day in Boston started early for Shaelin as he rode with Perry and Fowler from the team’s hotel to TD Garden to watch as the Ducks took the ice for their morning skate.

When Shaelin arrived in the dressing room, there was a locker set up for him situated between Perry and Matt Beleskey that included his own jersey and nameplate. And the entire team embraced the 14-year old, as different players spent time talking to the young fan throughout the morning, giving him signed sticks, gloves, his own helmet and plenty of fist bumps.Ducks MakeAWish Photo09a

Shaelin watched from the bench, quiet, but wide-eyed and grateful, as both the Bruins and the Ducks took turns on the ice for their pre-game skate.

“This has been so cool,” said Shaelin.

After practice, Shaelin rode on the team bus back to the hotel to enjoy lunch with the players. His mom and dad were overwhelmed at the generosity shown by the Ducks to their son.Ducks MakeAWish Collage02

“Athletes inspire him,” said Jeanne Earle. “He goes through so much for his treatment, so for him to get to meet these players in person, is just wonderful. Over the last two weeks, it’s all he could talk about.”

A life-threatening illness, cystic fibrosis requires Shaelin to spend many hours a day treating the disease, including wearing a respiratory vest, receiving intravenous antibiotics and taking several medications.

But Shaelin doesn’t let the disease slow him down. The eighth grader plays several sports including soccer, cross-country and lacrosse, and uses his natural speed to make a difference on the field.

“He’s fearless,” said Randy Earle. “That’s why he likes hockey and that’s what helps him deal with CF so well. He’s just fearless.”

Director of Wish Program, Lauren Cotter, from Make-A-Wish Massachusetts and Rhode Island, was impressed with the lengths the Ducks organization went to as they helped make this wish come true for Shaelin.

“It was the Ducks who put this together,” said Cotter. “They really got behind this and put together a great experience for Shaelin.”

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The day didn’t end after the morning practices, as Shaelin and his family returned to TD Garden that night to see the Ducks and the Bruins face off for a critical two points. Shaelin cheered on his favorite team and even had the chance to spend some time in the television broadcast booth with Ducks broadcasters John Ahlers and Brian Hayward.

The “Comeback Kids” didn’t disappoint. Down 2-1 with less than a minute remaining in regulation, Perry tied it up with 38.5 seconds left. Ducks Captain Ryan Getzlaf finished the comeback, scoring in overtime to secure the 3-2 victory.

After the game, the players welcomed their special guest of the day into the room as Perry presented Shaelin with the Fireman Hat, which is presented to the player of the game after each Ducks win.

As equipment and bags were quickly packed and the Ducks prepared to head out to their next stop in New York, Fowler took a few extra minutes with Shaelin before they hit the road.Ducks MakeAWish Photo16a

“What did you think of the win? Did you cheer loud when we scored those goals?” Fowler asked Shaelin. “You’re our good luck charm, buddy.”

Still in awe of the memorable day, all Shaelin could do was smile and nod his head. But that was enough for Fowler.ShaelinPhoto02a

“When you see these guys on TV all the time, it’s almost like they aren’t real,” said Randy Earle of his son’s experience. “But to get to meet them in person and have all of these players pay attention to you? It does a world of good for him.”

 

 

**Bottom photo courtesy of the Anaheim Ducks

 

 

 

Anaheim Ducks Host the Eighth Annual Lady Ducks Fashion Show Luncheon

This week it was sunshine, an ocean view and the hottest fashion trends, all for a great cause as the Anaheim Lady Ducks and the Anaheim Ducks Foundation hosted the eighth annual Lady Ducks Fashion Show Luncheon presented by The Grant Family benefiting CHOC Children’s.LadyDucksFashionShow2015 Photo14a

The Balboa Bay Resort in Newport Beach was the site of this year’s sold-out event, where Anaheim Ducks players and their significant others strutted the runway with some very special kids to raise money for Orange County’s own children’s hospital.

In the past seven years, the event partnership has raised more than $750,000 in support of CHOC and the life saving care they provide to children in our community. This year, the funds raised from the event will go to support the NICU Surgery Unit at CHOC, where children born with conditions that require corrective surgery receive care.

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“We are so grateful for what the Lady Ducks are doing for CHOC Children’s today,” says CHOC Children’s Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Jan Lansing. “To raise such enormous amounts of funds so that we at CHOC can save more children’s’ lives, it’s so important. The community’s support allows us to continue to offer the best care anywhere in the world for children in this region and the Anaheim Ducks are amazing partners.”

Anaheim Ducks TV Host Kent French and KTLA’s Henry DiCarlo were the afternoon’s co-hosts, as guests enjoyed lunch while watching a fashion show presented by Bloomingdale’s South Coast Plaza.

LadyDucksFashionShow2015 Collage01Throughout the afternoon, silent auction items were available for bidding, including items such as Anaheim Ducks signed memorabilia, spa packages, a 50” Toshiba television and a tasting menu at Selanne Steak Tavern.

After the luncheon, live auction items were available to the highest bidder, as Kent French auctioned off exclusive Anaheim Ducks experiences such as a cooking class at Sur La Table with Ducks defensemen Francois Beauchemin and James Wisniewski, a dinner at Anaheim White House with Clayton Stoner and John Gibson, and a four-hour yacht cruise in Newport Beach with Ryan Getzlaf, Bruce Boudreau and Brian Hayward.

At the conclusion of the live auction, the Ducks players and several CHOC Children’s Ambassadors took the stage wearing Bloomingdale’s spring season fashions.

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Background on each of the current and former CHOC patients was shared as they walked the catwalk, including emotional stories such as beating cancer and successfully battling lifelong conditions such as seizures and Spina Bifida, all with the help from care received at CHOC.

Some of the kids were shy, while others took full advantage of their moment under the lights, but they all had smiles on their faces that showed they were creating unforgettable memories.

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The event was co-chaired by Caroline Marchant, wife of Ducks Alumni and Director of Player Development Todd Marchant, and Paige Getzlaf, wife of Ducks Captain Ryan Getzlaf. Marchant says that supporting CHOC Children’s in their efforts to provide children with the best care possible is a cause that is dear to their hearts.

“It’s a chance to give back to the children, the ones who are going through all of this,” says Marchant. “Whether it’s through improving the technology at the hospital, or finding ways to buy new equipment, we will do what we can to help them have a better chance at surviving the disease that they’re fighting.

“We feel that these kids are the real champions, so if we can do anything in our power to help that situation, then we are willing to do it.”

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And the players were definitely touched by their runway partners and their inspiring stories.

“Any time you can support kids, it’s the best feeling in the world,” says Ducks defenseman, James Wisniewski. “To see the strength that these kids have and the joy that comes out in their faces during an event like this, you gain a huge perspective on how diseases like these don’t discriminate against anybody.”

Wisniewski walked with seven-year old Jane, who battles daily with seizures, but no longer uses the walker she needed when she was younger. A father to two daughters of his own, he was captivated by his young runway mate.

“You see how much joy these kids can bring out in you,” says Wisniewski. “They are strong. They are funny. It’s just so much fun to be part of their lives for a little bit.”

 

 

Anaheim Ducks Challenge Students to ‘Build a Better Puck’

Last week, more than 16,000 elementary students from 160 local schools descended upon Honda Center as the Anaheim Ducks hosted the 15th annual First Flight Field Trip.

As the largest component of the award-winning Ducks S.C.O.R.E. program (Scholastic Curriculum of Recreation & Education), the event aims to bring education to life for students in the community through the sport of hockey.

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This year’s curriculum was the Ducks boldest step yet into providing a way for students to explore the elements of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Each participating school was provided with workbooks titled, “Build a Better Puck” that challenged the students to “think like an engineer” by using design-based problem solving to study the elements of a hockey puck.

From the material, to the shape, to how it moves across a surface, 3rd – 6th graders spent time in their classrooms getting up close and personal with the properties of a hockey puck, examining why this small object made of vulcanized rubber is designed the way that it is.

And this year, for the first time, the curriculum provided an online component for schools to take the learning even further through the “Build a Better Puck” Challenge.

The Ducks organization teamed up with Autodesk, one of the leading providers of 3D design software, to offer a way for students to take what they learned about hockey pucks through the workbook and apply that knowledge toward developing their own original designs.

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Launched as a part of Autodesk’s Project Ignite, a free educational tool that provides hands-on interaction with integrated design tools, teachers and their students were able to go online and use Autodesk’s Tinkercad program to design their own hockey pucks. Many of the participating teachers attended training sessions to be able to facilitate the project in their classrooms.

“What we’re trying to do with the Anaheim Ducks and the First Flight Field Trip is integrate, match and complement what they’re doing with their STEM content,” said Amy Bergin with Autodesk. “Step by step, the students are guided through the elements of our Tinkercad software. It matches the content in the workbook, it’s hands-on design-based learning and the students are getting it through a non-traditional method. We’re proud to be a part of this.”

On the day of the field trip, students and teachers were greeted in the Honda Center parking lot by “The Playground” segment of the event, where interactive stations were set up for the kids to continue to explore the concepts of engineering and design-based problem solving.

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From examining different shapes to constructing forms out of materials such as marshmallows and pasta, the stations served as a great way to get the kids in the creative mindset before heading inside for “The Classroom” portion of the event.

“We see events like First Flight as being important to the future of our industry,” said Danny Craig, Public Relations Lead for Stantec, one of the program’s partners. “We see a deficit in the number of future engineers and leaders who are interested in the engineering industry. So with First Flight, there’s a real opportunity to inspire future leaders. Hopefully events like this help show the students that engineering is about creativity and problem solving and not about being a math wiz.”

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Inside the arena, the students and educators were in for a treat as they got to watch the Ducks practice while they were guided through some of the “Build a Better Puck” lessons by hosts Kent French and Phil Hulett.

Ducks Emerson Etem, Rickard Rakell and Josh Manson explored geometry by demonstrating different angles used while stick handling and passing. Cam Fowler, Jakob Silfverberg and Kyle Palmieri ran drills using pucks made of alternative materials, such as glass, plastic and wood. And Nate Thompson and Andrew Cogliano tried to work with pucks of different shapes, including a sphere, cube and pyramid.

All of these on-ice demonstrations aligned with the First Flight curriculum and were meant to demonstrate to the students not only the design elements of a hockey puck, but the process used in examining those elements.

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The field trip closed with the Ducks participating in a skills competition that showcased three winning puck designs chosen from over 500 submissions from participating schools through the “Build a Better Puck” Challenge.

Using actual pucks that had been manufactured to the specifications of the students’ winning designs, the players competed in the hardest shot contest, relay race and longest shot contest.

Ducks defenseman, Ben Lovejoy, praised the puck design used by his “orange” team in the relay race.

“We won the relay race and I went over and thanked that classroom, because their design actually helped us win,” said Lovejoy. “That classroom should take credit for the orange team winning that race.”

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The winning puck designs were submitted by Hannah Yoon’s classroom from Merton E. Hill Elementary in Garden Grove, Kim Brooks’ classroom from Canyon Vista Elementary in Aliso Viejo and Laura Camastro’s classroom from Turtle Rock Elementary in Irvine.

Kim Brooks’ classroom, which was represented by the “orange” team, used Chrome Books recently purchased for her clasroom to create their winning puck design.

“The kids were mesmerized with the possibilities of designing a new puck,” said Brooks. “The best thing was, they designed their pucks having very little training on this software. Students are still begging me to be able to go to Autodesk so they can create more 3D objects. This opens up a brand new door to get more kids involved in engineering.

“We are so grateful to the Anaheim Ducks for giving us the opportunity to not only compete in this competition, but to give teachers the training they needed in order to help the kids.”PUCKCHALLENGEWINNER2

Autodesk teamed up with Robo 3D and Stantec to provide the three winning schools, along with Hermosa Drive Elementary School in Fullerton, a 3D printer and PC workstation for use in their classrooms.

“What a great opportunity and what a great way to connect math and science with something so fun!” said Laura Camastro. “We learned a lot about 3D design during this project and we’re so excited to learn more with our new 3D printer.”

In Hannah Yoon’s classroom, the learning and exploring is continuing at the request of her students, even after the field trip has ended.

“My class has decided that we need to have monthly design contests using Tinkercad and print the top 3 designs,” said Yoon. “I know that other teachers at my school also want to have their classes use Tinkercad and print their designs as well. I am very thankful to the Anaheim Ducks for providing me and my class with such a wonderful curriculum centered on math, science, and technology.”AnaheimDucks FirstFlight2015 Collage04

As for the players, they seemed to enjoy hosting the 16,000 enthusiastic kids as they used the sport of hockey to teach these educational concepts.

“When we started going over the lessons with our guys here in preparation, it’s amazing how much [about hockey] can be tied into science and math,” said Ducks forward, Kyle Palmieri. “It’s cool to bring it to a real life experience for them. Hopefully they had as much fun as we did, and hopefully they learned something from it.”

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And in addition to the learning, it wasn’t lost on the players what an impact attending a NHL practice can have on both young fans of the game and those kids who may not be as familiar with hockey.

“That would have been the highlight of my year as a young hockey player,” said Lovejoy. “I never got anywhere near as close as they were today. I grew up idolizing professional athletes and the Boston Bruins and having the kids here for a casual practice I thought was very special.

“I just thank them for coming today. That was spectacular. It makes coming to an everyday practice so much more fun.”

 

 

 

Anaheim Ducks Host Holiday Shopping Spree for Students from The Wooden Floor

Last week the Anaheim Ducks participated in one of my favorite events that they do for our community—taking some of the awesome and talented kids from The Wooden Floor on a holiday shopping spree.

For the seventh year in a row, the Ducks have partnered with the Santa Ana-based after school dance program for an afternoon of shopping, where professional hockey players get to show these students the true meaning of the spirit of giving.

Corey Perry, Clayton Stoner and Francois Beauchemin, accompanied by Beauchemin’s wife, Marie, Ryan Kesler’s wife, Andrea, Mark Fistric’s wife, Geena, and Perry’s fiancée, Blakeny, hosted 10 students from The Wooden Floor as they pushed shopping carts all around Target in the Irvine Spectrum while the kids selected gifts for themselves and their families.

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This was not just another shopping trip for these kids. Classified by HUD as extremely low-income, this was an experience of a lifetime, one that would be giving them a Christmas they otherwise would not have.

I spoke with single mother Martha Garcia, whose son, Martin Sapien, was among those chosen to attend the event.

She told me through tears how she has taken a leave of absence from work to go back to school to finish her masters degree. Because of this, she told her kids that Christmas might not be what they are used to.

“It was such a blessing when I got the phone call that my son was selected to go on the shopping spree,” said Martha. “I couldn’t wait to go run and tell him. I think it’s so great what the Ducks do to give back to the community.”

And Martin, who spent the afternoon shopping alongside Francois Beauchemin, had a fantastic time with his new hockey buddy.

“I think it’s awesome because I got to get a lot of stuff for me and my family,” said 12-year old Martin.

The defenseman was impressed with how Martin kept his family members in mind while he was shopping.

“I was with Martin today, and he picked out clothes for himself and then we went into the toys department, and he’s such a great kid, the first thing he thought about was finding things for his brother and sister,” said Beauchemin.

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Clayton Stoner was paired up with Carlos Dominguez, and he helped the 12-year old pick out a new skateboard, pants, socks and jeans.

“I really appreciated Clayton helping me shop,” said Carlos.

Stoner returned the sentiment.

“It was super fun,” said Stoner. “Carlos and I bonded and it was fun to see how excited he was. He picked out a lot of stuff that he really needed. He’s going to have a great holiday, and I’m glad to be a part of it.”DucksHolidayShoppingSpree 2014 Collage02

The Wooden Floor has been helping to change lives in our community since 1983. Each year, the arts-based youth development program works with 375 low-income students and uses dance education and performance to break the cycle of poverty.

Additionally, the non-profit provides services to their students and families such as academic tutoring, college scholarships and family services, all with very tangible results.

Since 2005, 100 percent of The Wooden Floor’s graduates have finished high school on time and have immediately enrolled into college, compared to about 35 percent of their socioeconomic peers. Those are tremendous numbers.

“The Wooden Floor breaks the cycle of poverty through dance. It sounds outlandish, but it’s true and it’s amazing what we accomplish through our long-term dance program,” says the Director of Communications and Marketing at The Wooden Floor, Payal Kumar Avellan.

“We do serve a very low income population, so what the Ducks are doing here today is so amazing. Not only are they getting a Christmas, they’re also getting that mentorship, so they know that they are important. They know that they count.

“A lot of messages they get in everyday life contradict that, so these opportunities go a long way in giving them the power and hope to break the cycle of poverty.”DucksHolidayShoppingSpree 2014 Photo01b

After the shopping spree was finished, the fun continued for the kids with some time on the Irvine Spectrum ice rink with the pros. It was definitely a day these students will never forget.

“Just to be able to put confidence in them,” said Perry of the event. “That’s the biggest part. It will help them get to bigger and better things.”

I’m a big believer in the arts and the power they have to transform lives. So to see a program like The Wooden Floor promote dance in such an intentional way for these kids—and use it to help change their future—is something I can definitely support.

And to see my favorite hockey team support and value their efforts as well, and go so far as to make the holiday season memorable for these kids each year, that makes it even better.

Read here for more stories from the holiday shopping spree hosted by the Anaheim Ducks for The Wooden Floor.

For more information on The Wooden Floor and how they use dance performance and education to break the cycle of poverty, visit thewoodenfloor.org.

Holiday Giving–Anaheim Ducks Style

Looking for some fun ways to do some giving this holiday season? The Anaheim Ducks have several ways for you and your family to give and help support our community. Whether you are a hockey fan or not, check out some of these simple and affordable options that will help make the lives of local families a little brighter this year.

 

9th Annual Wild Wingers Kids Club/CHOC Kits For Kids Donation Drive

Share a Wild Wingers Kids Club Kit with the awesome kids at CHOC this month by donating one or more kits. This year’s membership features some great items including a Kids Club Captain Ben Lovejoy jersey T-shirt, a Ducks light-up wristband and a Wild Wing bobblehead. Donors will be rewarded for helping in this cause by having the opportunity to earn prizes.

KitsForKids

For kids and their families who have to spend extended time in the hospital, receiving these fun items will definitely put smiles on their faces.

Visit anaheimducks.com/choc for more information and to donate.

 

Anaheim Ducks Toy Drive

Join the Anaheim Ducks as they collect toys for the annual Anaheim Ducks Toy Drive benefitting the Spark of Love Toy Drive with the Anaheim Fire Department

Bring new, unwrapped toys books and games to the Ducks December 10th home game or bring your donation to any of the drop off spots during the entire month of December at each of THE RINKS locations (Anaheim ICE, Corona Inline, Irvine Inline, Huntington Beach Inline, Westminster ICE, Yorba Linda ICE) as well as the Anaheim Ducks Team Store.

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Also, stop by the Anaheim Ducks Team Store where an exclusive Anaheim Ducks Foundation holiday ornament will be for sale for $20. For each ornament purchased, the Anaheim Ducks will donate a toy to the Spark of Love Toy Drive. These same ornaments will also be available for purchase at Duck the Halls at The Market Place, Edwards Theatre Court on December 6th, 13th and 20th, and at the Anaheim Ducks Skating Rink at the Irvine Spectrum on December 6th and 13th (weather pending).

Those who drop off a donation at THE RINKS, Anaheim Ducks Team Store or any of the Ducks events at The Market Place or The Irvine Spectrum will receive a 2-for-1 public skating pass (limit one pass per person redeemable at any of THE RINKS locations).

And for those who want a chance to get out on the ice and skate this holiday season, stop by the Anaheim Ducks Holiday Toy Drive Skate Party on Wednesday, December 17th from 7:00pm – 9:00pm at The Rinks – Anaheim ICE. Those who bring new, unwrapped, toys, books and games can skate for FREE that evening and will have the opportunity to skate alongside Anaheim Ducks Alumni, Wild Wing and the Power Players.

Visit anaheimducks.com/toydrive for more information.

 

Mighty Max and CHOC

Read the story of “Mighty Max” Maldonado and his eventful entry into the world this past summer. CHOC Children’s repaired his tiny heart when he was less than one day old and now his family is sharing their story in hopes of helping other families and babies just like theirs.

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Join the Anaheim Ducks in supporting CHOC by pledging to donate for every goal the Ducks score this season. All donations are tax deductible and will help CHOC continue the work of saving and helping the lives of babies and children in our community.

Visit choc.org/ducks for more information on Mighty Max and how you can donate.

Let Rubio’s Help You Celebrate the Holidays

It might sound a little strange to suggest picking up some fish tacos and burritos for your holiday celebration this year, but we are unique in how we celebrate the holidays here in OC, wouldn’t you agree?

When we host large family gatherings at our house, whether it be for birthdays or other holidays, one of my favorite go-to food solutions is Rubio’s. Their catering is fantastic—delicious, affordable and the customer service has always been top-notch.

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The fresh Mexican food that Rubio’s is so well known for is packaged in convenient-sized catering meals that serve small groups to big crowds. I always go with the build-your-own taco bar, the burrito platters and trays of taquitos for the kids. Whenever I’ve served Rubio’s food, it’s always been a big hit.

Ordering is made easy by going online to rubios.com where you can browse their product offerings based on which store location is nearest you. You can either have the food delivered or pick it up yourself, which is what I typically do. And every time I show up, the food is ready to go and packed into these awesome reusable totes. I’ve never had any issues with my orders, but even if I did, I’m guessing their staff would do what it takes to fix it.

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If you are a fan of lobster, Rubio’s is currently featuring several premium limited time offerings with Langostino Lobster, including the Langostino Lobster Burrito, Enchiladas and Surf and Turf Two Taco Plate.

Rubio’s remains committed to serving sustainable seafood when possible, with selections such as Alaska Pollock, Atlantic Salmon, shrimp and tilapia, all of which are 100% sustainably sourced. Their sustainable seafood options are indicated on their menu boards with a special icon so customers can make the choice upon ordering to help preserve the ocean environment.

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The brand is also currently undergoing a redesign of their 60 California-based restaurants, a renovation effort with expected completion at the end of 2015. The fast casual chain that got its start back in 1983 in Mission Bay is also planning a logo update, adding Coastal Grill to its name, along with the addition of seven new locations.

I’ve always enjoyed Rubio’s as an option for fresh, great tasting food. Their tacos are a favorite and as I said above, you can’t go wrong with their catering–any time of year.

Visit rubios.com for more information on their limited time menu items featuring Langostino Lobster, their catering menu and more.

On Role Models and Dreaming Big

They all crowded around at the end of the rink, my daughter and her teammates, in their jerseys and gear and skates, their faces pressed up against the glass, waiting to see her come out onto the ice.

A hockey rock star was in their midst that day, and they weren’t going to miss her big entrance.

The Lady Ducks cheered as two-time U.S. Women’s Olympic Ice Hockey silver medalist and professional women’s hockey player, Hilary Knight took the ice and joined a practice session with the Anaheim Ducks. In town to participate in the Ducks inaugural Girls Play Hockey Night and in support of USA Hockey’s “Girls Try Hockey for Free” event on October 12, it is believed to be the first time a female skater (non-goalie) had ever practiced with a NHL team.

Knight is one of the best female ice hockey players in the world, and she showed it in her practice time with the Ducks, skating stride for stride and pass for pass with the big boys. All with a huge smile on her face.

“To be able to practice at the NHL level was something I aspired to do,” said Knight. “It was an unreal experience, and I hope I get the opportunity to play in an exhibition game some time in the future.”

When the girls on the glass got the nod, they quickly strapped on their helmets, grabbed their sticks and hurried over to the other rink inside Anaheim Ice, where Knight joined them for some of their own practice time.

As much as was made about Knight’s skating with the NHL players, I think maybe the bigger story that day was her time on the ice with the Lady Ducks, the seven to eleven year olds, the next generation of female hockey players, and the mark she left on them.

“Being able to see the young faces out on the ice for the first time, it’s a pretty remarkable and honorable experience in itself,” said Knight of her time with the Lady Ducks. “I remember when I was that age, looking up to my role model. I don’t think of myself as such, but it’s great to give back. I was happy to have the opportunity to skate with them. They’re good skaters, they looked like they were having fun.

“The biggest thing I stressed with the younger girls is just to have fun. And if you listen to your coaches, it will get you pretty far.”

The following evening, Knight participated in an exclusive meet-and-greet session at Honda Center prior to the Ducks final preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

And with many of these same Lady Ducks players sitting at her feet, Knight spoke about how when she starting playing the sport, there was no women’s ice hockey in the Olympic Games. But that didn’t stop her from dreaming big.

“I turned to my grandma when I was five years old and said, ‘I’m going to be in the Olympics’”.

She spoke of her own hockey idol, Hockey Hall of Fame member and U.S. Olympic Champion, Cammi Granato, and how meeting her at a young age shaped her view of her future in the sport.

“I remember when I was your age,” Knight said to the girls, “I used to go to the Cammi Granato [hockey] camps. It was great because I got to see all the Olympians and be on the ice with them. It motivated me to want to be in the Olympic games even more.

“And that’s actually one of the reasons why I wear the number 21 right now because Cammi Granato was the face of women’s hockey when I was growing up and I thought if I can get this number, I could continue to try and fulfill her legacy. She’s a tremendous role model. Now that I’m older, I realize all the things that she had done for young girls like me growing up. I know I have a huge responsibility to grow this game.”

She talked about her mom and what a strong, influential force she was in her support of her daughter’s endeavors, never dismissing the idea that Hilary could one day become an Olympian.

“When I told my grandma that I was going to be in the Olympics, she pulled aside my mom and said, ‘Girls don’t play hockey,’ and my mom looked her right back in the eyes and said, ‘Oh mom, get with the times.’ So you can imagine my mom’s fervor for being a great role model in the sport.”

After taking a few questions from the crowd on hand, Knight signed autographs, posed for photos, and passed around her Olympic silver medal from the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

As the girls approached the table, their eyes and smiles so big, Knight didn’t rush them through. She engaged with every one, talking with each girl, asking questions such as her favorite color, which position she played and her favorite type of candy.

And I could see in their eyes that this was an experience these Lady Ducks would not soon forget.

Don’t ever underestimate the power moments like these have on young girls and their dreams.

For my own hockey girl, who spent the following days talking about her Olympic-sized experience with anyone who would listen, I thought about the impact meeting someone like Hilary Knight could have on her dreams.

I thought about the enormous role that I play in her life as her mom, her supporter, her champion, and how that, too, will shape her future in this sport that she loves.

And I thought about courage, having the courage to dream big, to play a sport that maybe some still see as “not something girls do,” and how important it is to instill in our daughters the courage to follow their dreams and be who they want to be.

“We have to have a lot of courage to stand on a stage and speak about what we do and pursue this great dream,” said Knight about the role she and her teammates play in growing the sport for girls. “Hopefully when you guys grow up, you’ll have even better opportunities than we’ve had.”

Amen to that, Hilary. Amen to that.

#GirlsPlayHockey

 

**Photo of Hilary Knight with Lady Ducks player Jackie Fisk courtesy of Chantal Chenier-Fisk.

 

 

 

Anaheim Ducks Die Hards Booster Club

After starting the 2014-15 season on the road, the Anaheim Ducks finally return to Honda Center ice on Friday with a solid 3-1-0 record, ready to kick off a five-game homestand with a matchup against the Minnesota Wild.

I wrote recently about how you can get your kids connected with Ducks hockey by signing them up for the coolest club in town, the Wild Wingers Kids Club presented by UC Irvine.

The Anaheim Ducks Official Booster Club, the Die Hards, is also back this season with one of their best kits to date. Presented by The Tilted Kilt, just $50 will get you a membership that includes:

- Die Hards Backpack
– Andrew Cogliano Bobble Head (complete with missing teeth)
– Die Hards 3⁄4 Sleeve T-shirt
– Die Hards Pint Glass
– Die Hards Chrome License Plate Frame
– Die Hards Membership Card
– Exclusive Anaheim Ducks Die Hards Silver and Gold Ticket Packages
– Invitation to Die Hards Kickoff Party, VIP Skate Party and End of Year Party
– Invitation to Ducks Road Trip and Flight
– Watch party and volunteer opportunities

This is a passionate group of fans who love hockey, the Ducks and their community. In addition to cheering on their favorite team, they volunteer their time throughout the season for service projects like the CHOC Walk in the Park at the Disneyland Resort, the Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County and many of the programs and initiatives the Ducks provide to help grow the game locally.

They have a new feature this year called the Die Hard Member of the Month, where they profile a Die Hards member and his/her Ducks dedication.

You can find them outside Section 214 at Honda Center during this homestand and every Ducks home game, where you can purchase your Die Hards membership. Or purchase online by visiting ducksdiehards.com.

And be sure to follow the Die Hards this season on their social media outlets where they communicate with fans, announce exclusive watch parties and provide special offers and giveaways. Join the Die Hards this year, support the Ducks and don’t miss a thing!

Facebook: /anaheimducksdiehards

Instagram: @ducksdiehards

Twitter: @ducks_die_hards