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

Anaheim Ducks Wild Wingers Kids Club

The Anaheim Ducks are getting ready to kick off their 2014-2015 season, and there isn’t a better way to get your family connected with Ducks hockey than through the coolest club in town, the Wild Wingers Kids Club, presented by UCI.

This year’s membership is full of great items, discounts and parties, so you and your kids will be ready to be at Honda Center to cheer on the Ducks.

One of the things my kids always look forward to each season is finding out who the Kids Club Captain will be. And with the announcement of Ducks defenseman, Ben Lovejoy, I may have been just as excited as my kids.

The New England native is fast becoming a fan favorite not only in my house, but among Ducks fans everywhere. Acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins at the end of the lockout in February 2013, the “Rev” has been a regular with the Ducks since he arrived and is in the midst of a three-year contract he signed prior to the 2013-2014 season.

And is he excited about being this year’s Wild Wingers Kids Club Captain? Without a doubt.

“I’m very excited,” said Lovejoy when asked about serving as Kids Club Captain this year. “It’s absolutely an honor.”

Lovejoy may be one of my favorite players to speak with because he gets it. He’s smart about the game, but even more than that, he knows his role as an Anaheim Duck goes beyond the ice, and he understands what it takes to get kids engaged in the sport.

“One of the coolest things for me as a professional athlete is being able to interact with kids,” says Lovejoy. “I think that this is such a special place, and if we can get more and more kids involved with the Anaheim Ducks, I’m all for it and excited to be a part of that.”

For only $25, this is what this year’s kit includes:

• One (1) Ticket Voucher to a Select 2014-15 Anaheim Ducks Home Game

• Buy-One-Get-One Free Ticket Voucher to a Select 2014-15 Anaheim Ducks Home Game

• Free Admission to: Welcome Party, Honda Center Skate Party, and Annual End of the Year party at Knott’s Berry Farm, where club members will get to meet Ben Lovejoy and other select Ducks players

• Ben Lovejoy Jersey T-Shirt

• Ducks “Voice Activated” Light-Up Wristband

• Wild Wingers Kids Club 12-Month Wall Calendar

• Ben Lovejoy “Life-Size” Growth Chart

• Exclusive Wild Wing Bobble Head

• Wild Wingers Kids Club Membership Card

• Membership Discounts to: Hockey Giant, Guitar Center, Queen Mary, Medieval Times, The Rinks, and the Anaheim Ducks Team Store presented by Reebok

• Invitation to Anaheim Ducks Learn to Play

To purchase this year’s kit, just visit wildwingerskidsclub.com and sign up to join. The kit is regularly priced at $25, but until October 4, use promo code WILD WING and receive $5 off. You can also stop by Section 214 at Honda Center during any Ducks home game and purchase your kits there as well.

I have written in this space many times about how I believe this program is not only a great deal, but is also the perfect way to get your kids outfitted and to a Ducks game for a very reasonable price. When it comes to getting kids connected with the sport of hockey, no team does it better than the Ducks.

Be sure to follow the Wild Wingers Kids Club on their social media outlets throughout the season for news and updates!

Facebook: /wildwingerskidsclub

Instagram: @wildwingerskidsclub

Twitter: @Ana_Ducks_WWKC

Anaheim Ducks 5th Annual Mini 1-on-1 Tournament

The change of the seasons from summer to fall may not be too noticeable in the daily temperatures, but the arrival of fall means the arrival of hockey and the Anaheim Ducks are back getting in their preseason workouts as they prepare to kick off the 2014-15 campaign on October 9 in Pittsburgh.

As the season gets underway, so do the many youth hockey programs and events hosted by the Ducks each year that help to grow the sport locally. This includes the Anaheim Ducks G.O.A.L. Mini 1-on-1 Tournament presented by Hockey Giant.

In its fifth year of looking for the best youth breakaway shooter and goalie in California, the tournament features expanded divisions and some awesome grand prizes.

Every player who enters receives the following:

–Ticket to an Anaheim Ducks game
–Anaheim Ducks CCM hat
–Opportunity to compete against other shooters and goalies in a breakaway competition

 

Qualifying Rounds:

Saturday, October 18 at Westminster ICE
Saturday, October 25 at Yorba Linda ICE
Saturday, November 1 at Anaheim ICE
Saturday, November 1 at San Diego Ice Arena

Semi-Final Round

Saturday, November 15 at Honda Center

Divisions and Tournament Prizes

MiteBorn after December 31, 2005
–Championship Round: Sunday, November 23 at Honda Center during 1st intermission when the Anaheim Ducks host the Arizona Coyotes

–Grand Prize: Opportunity to face-off against Anaheim Ducks players in a shootout competition

SquirtBorn between December 31, 2003 and December 31, 2005
–Championship Round: Friday, November 28 at Honda Center during 1st intermission when the Anaheim Ducks host the Chicago Blackhawks

–Grand Prize: Trip to the 2015 NHL All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio

Pee WeeBorn between December 31, 2001 and December 31, 2003
–Championship Round: Sunday, December 28 at Honda Center during 1st intermission when the Anaheim Ducks host the Vancouver Canucks

–Grand Prize: Opportunity to face-off against Anaheim Ducks players in a shootout competition

BantamBorn between December 31, 1999 and December 31, 2001
–Championship Round: Sunday, January 4 at Honda Center during 1st intermission when the Anaheim Ducks host the Nashville Predators

–Grand Prize: Meet-and-greet with Anaheim Ducks player

High SchoolBorn before December 31, 1999
–Championship Round: Sunday, January 11 at Honda Center during 1st intermission when the Anaheim Ducks host the Winnipeg Jets

–Grand Prize: $500 Hockey Giant shopping spree

Registration is $30 OR, new this year, there is the option of registering for FREE with the purchase of any CCM item at Hockey Giant in Anaheim or at hockeygiant.com. Click over to ducksgoal.com to review the registration details.

Last year, the tournament saw close to 400 participants from all over Southern California. Here’s a recap video of youth players showing off their skills and vying for the top prizes.

So if you have some youth hockey players in your home, or you know of any among your family or friends, make sure they sign up to participate in this fun experience.

Visit ducksgoal.com for more information and to register.

Anaheim Ducks Host Elementary Students at Rookie Camp

Some local kids got the opportunity of a lifetime last week as students from Mattie Lou Maxwell Elementary in Anaheim were welcomed as special guests at the Anaheim Ducks Rookie Camp.

As a part of the Anaheim Ducks’ S.C.O.R.E. Day, fifth and sixth graders from the school attended a practice held at Anaheim Ice where they got to see Ducks prospects and rookies train in preparation for the upcoming season.

The students watched as names like Nic Kerdiles (Ducks 2012 NHL Entry Draft second-round pick), Rickard Rakell (Ducks 2011 NHL Entry Draft first-round pick) and Nick Ritchie (Ducks 2014 NHL Entry Draft first-round pick) ran through drills and a scrimmage in hopes of making a good impression with the Ducks’ coaching staff. From the stands, the kids cheered for every highlight-reel goal and spectacular save throughout the morning.

The 28 students in attendance were selected for this unique event due to their past participation in the Anaheim Ducks S.C.O.R.E Street Hockey program at their school, a free 10-day physical education curriculum that the Ducks provide to local partner schools, developed in conjunction with the California Physical Education Standards for 4th grade students.

After practice concluded, the students and the players ate lunch together inside the rink’s Club 32, while the students interviewed the players and gathered information they will use to complete a writing assignment and class presentation.

The questions asked of the players, developed by the students and teachers prior to the event, ranged from the curious, “Have you ever cried on the ice?” to the insightful, “Did you go to college? If so, do you think it helped you as a professional athlete?”

Mattie Lou Maxwell fourth grade teacher, Kristin Jones, knows this was a once in a lifetime experience for these kids.

“We’re encouraging the students to work on their interviewing skills and the development of primary sources for their writing assignment,” said Jones. “From the information they’ve gathered, they will write about the experience in a personal narrative and then present to the class what they’ve learned.

“Because these kids have played and represented our school in the Ducks S.C.O.R.E. Street Hockey program, they understand the game and can appreciate watching the practice and hearing what these players have to say.”

As the players sat down to eat and chat with the students, there were some nerves to start, on both sides of the table. But after the conversations got going, the kids and players were all smiles. Ducks captain, Ryan Getzlaf, and right-winger, Corey Perry, even stopped by briefly to check in on the group. By the end of the meal, many of the students said this was “a really fun experience” and “a lot of fun.”

The players enjoyed it as well.

“It’s been great to meet these kids,” said Ducks prospect Nic Kerdiles. “They’re just trying to get to know us and find out about our background. I’ve been telling them about my time at [University of] Wisconsin and how important school is.

“Being from here (Irvine), it’s great to see the growth of the game locally.”

And while the learning experience behind this day may have been focused on the students, Anaheim Ducks Director of Player Development, Todd Marchant, says these types of events are just as important for the club’s prospects.

“It’s a requirement for these players to be a part of the community,” said Marchant. “It starts with Henry and Susan [Samueli]. It’s a part of our culture to support our community as an organization.

“It’s a unique, but casual setting here today with the communication and interaction. Both the kids and the players take a lot away from this.”

The Ducks newest first-round draft pick, Nick Ritchie, agrees that this is all a part of the Rookie Camp experience.

“It’s great to see all of these kids here, and it’s great to give back to the community,” said Ritchie. “It’s been a good week.”

And for the kids from Mattie Lou Maxwell Elementary, being able to enjoy a meal and conversation with some of hockey’s future stars is an experience they won’t soon forget.

 

The award-winning Anaheim Ducks S.C.O.R.E. (Scholastic Curriculum Of Recreation & Education) program, developed in 2005, has been impacting over 28,000 students annually throughout Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties through in-class education and physical education initiatives, all provided for free to participating schools.
For more information, visit ducksscore.com.

Barbeque Bacon Burger – Winder Farms Burger Contest

I would never refer to myself as a foodie, but we love to barbeque at the Russo house. We live in an area where you can practically barbeque year-round, and we definitely take advantage of that.

So when I was approached by Winder Farms to participate in a burger contest using their farm fresh products that they deliver right to your door, I was game.

It’s my husband, John, who is the “master of the grill” around here, and he’s been making delicious burgers for us since I met him over 20 years ago. So we took his yummy go-to burger recipe and gave it a barbeque bacon twist for our entry. The items from Winder Farms that we used for this creation were dropped at my door on the designated day before 8:00am in a reusable insulated bag. Love that! Here is how we put it together.

 

Ingredients:

2 lbs. ground beef

1 egg

1/2 onion, chopped

parsley flakes

garlic salt

pepper

1 pkg. applewood smoked bacon

sliced mild cheddar cheese

lettuce

tomatoes

hamburger buns (I used cracked wheat)

barbeque sauce (use your favorite brand/flavor)

 

When John makes hamburgers to grill, he always adds an egg, chopped onion, parsley flakes, garlic salt and pepper to the ground beef before forming them into patties. This makes the burger infinitely more flavorful before ever adding any other ingredients, condiments or spreads. To take it up a notch, he added some crushed bits of cooked bacon (about 6 pieces of bacon) to the burger meat. Set the rest of the cooked bacon aside to top your burger.

Once you’ve combined all of the burger ingredients and made the burger patties, grill them over a lower flame until cooked to your preference. We added the sliced cheddar near the end of the cooking time to make sure it was good and melted.

Using only barbeque sauce as the spread on the buns, we added lettuce, tomato and some slices of that bacon to round out this meal—and I will say, this burger is a meal in itself.

We all love bacon in our house, so this was an instant winner. John took the other half of the onion, chopped it and grilled it and added it to his burger. Feel free to do the same, as well as try some other cheeses such as Swiss, provolone or Colby jack.

I’ve never used home delivery for groceries before, but Winder Farms makes it easy and delicious. They have over 300 farm fresh products that they will deliver to you once a week. Known as the “farmers market on wheels,” they provide this service for those “who value providing their families with healthy options, but don’t necessarily have time to make a trip to the local farmers market or multiple specialty grocers.” That sounds like most of us, yes? And their website is easy and intuitive to use, making the process even simpler.

Thank you to Winder Farms for the opportunity to try grocery home delivery. It was a great experience.

And for those of you who try the burger, happy barbequing!

 

 

Giveaway: Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour Zoo Party

Summer and ice cream.

It’s like they’re meant to go together, right?

So when the 1st birthday of a very special little girl came around this month, it was an easy decision for our family and our dear friends to meet up with all of our kids at Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour to celebrate.

Since all of us adults are Orange County natives, and since none of us had been back to Farrell’s since its OC resurgence, we spent the better part of the evening reminiscing about visits to the splendiferous shop years ago for friends’ birthday parties and other celebratory events.

Inside today Farrell’s (the one in Downtown Brea was where we visited), it’s all there, just like it was when we were kids. The straw hats, the drums, the sirens, the over-the-top exuberant staff. And the ice cream. Lots and lots of yummy ice cream.

We were all a bit optimistic as to the size of our stomachs as we ordered a full dinner before ever getting to the ice cream. And I’ll be honest, I was pleasantly surprised at how fantastic Farrell’s food is. My memories of visits as a kid were all about the ice cream. But dinner was just as delicious.

We started with a couple of their Shareable Starters, including the Old-Fashioned Onion Mountain and Chili Cheese Fries, and they were both great. I was already getting full at this point, but it was on to the main entrees.

I had the Gastronomicaldelicatessenepicurian’s Delight (go ahead, try and say it out loud!) or Gastro for short, and it was amazing. A sandwich that used to be served in a three-foot long version, today’s shorter version for one comes with corned beef, ham, oven roasted turkey breast, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and Italian dressing on a parmesan roll. Served either hot or cold (I had it hot). And I substituted the standard sea salt fries on the side for Grown Up Mac and 4 Cheese. That mac and cheese was almost a meal in itself.

The kids’ meals have plenty of great options too, including the Grilled Cheese Samich, Chickity Dippers and Grilled Chicken Breast, with the option of either fries or fresh fruit on the side and choice of drink included.

The accompaniment to your meal at Farrell’s is the sirens and singing for all the celebrations—and just about everyone who eats there is celebrating something—so it’s not a quiet or intimate place.

But it’s super fun, especially when they bring the World Famous Farrell’s Zoo to your table. Created by Bob Farrell over fifty years ago, it’s five-and-a-half pounds of awesomeness, including 30 scoops of ice cream.

And if you have anyone in your group with nut allergies, not to worry. We had one in our group that night and Farrell’s was great about accommodating this very common issue. They keep nut-free ice cream (like chocolate, strawberry, vanilla) and utensils in a separate area, so no worries about cross-contamination during preparation of the sundaes. This gave our friends peace of mind.

And for all of my Angels Family readers, this is the second season that Farrell’s is the official sponsor of the Jr. Angels Kids Club. All SoCal Farrell’s locations are selling a limited number of the kits that include:

- 2 Angels Game Ticket Vouchers
- Official Membership Passport
- Exclusive Jr. Angels Kids Club shirt (youth L only) featuring MIKE TROUT
- Jr. Angels Sunglasses
- Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour Restaurants Gifts
- First in Line for “Kids Run the Bases” on select dates during the summer (June – August)
- Plus other exclusive gifts, including Farrell’s only offers valued at over $30 when purchased at a Farrell’s location

Safe to say we all ate more than we should have, but it was oh, so good. The kids loved it, and were engaged and entertained the entire time. Even the little birthday princess had a ball. We are grateful to Farrell’s for hosting us and allowing us to celebrate a special birthday with our friends.

Do you have something special coming up that you’d like to celebrate at Farrell’s? They have generously provided 2 Farrell’s Zoo Parties for me to giveaway here on the blog. Each Zoo Party includes a Farrell’s Zoo Sundae and soda for up to 10 people and can be used at any Orange County Farrell’s location. (Reservation for the party is required. Additional food and people can be added for charge.)

Just leave a comment below to enter. The giveaway will remain open until 9:00 pm Sunday, August 3. At that time, I’ll select two winners via random.org and will notify the winners via email.

Good luck! And whether you win or not, be sure to get yourself out to Farrell’s sometime this summer. Just make sure you arrive with an empty stomach.

This giveaway is now closed.

Congratulations to Sherri D. and Tirzah Lowe!!

And thanks to all who entered!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glorious and Heartbreaking

Game 7.

It can be glorious. And it can be heartbreaking.

I’m convinced that Game 7s are only “fun” if you don’t have a rooting interest in either team. Otherwise, “I’m too nervous to eat” and “I feel sick” are the words that come to my mind with these games.

I have a curious relationship with Game 7s, especially the ones that end in a loss. My devotion to hockey and the Ducks was born out of a Game 7 loss, the one that occurred on June 9, 2003 to the New Jersey Devils. The one where they lost the Stanley Cup.

I remember it vividly. I was standing (not sitting) in front of my television. The Devils were ahead 3-0. The clock ticked down. And it was over.

Just like that. So abrupt. No celebration. No Cup. Season done.

That spring was the first time in my life that I had ever watched the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I had never followed the Mighty Ducks or hockey prior to that time, but this underdog team from Anaheim was having a Cinderella-type run, and I was completely captivated.

Against all odds, they made it all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. I was certain they were going to win. But they didn’t. And even though I had only been following this team for two months, I was completely and utterly heartbroken.

As I watched Mighty Ducks goaltender Jean-Sebastein Giguere accept the Conn Smythe trophy with tears streaming down his face, I had tears of my own.

It was an epiphany moment for me. I decided from that moment forward, I was a fan of hockey and the Mighty Ducks. Their playoff run and everything that team and the sport had shown me over those two months captured my sports-loving heart like nothing I had ever seen.

Out of a Game 7 heartbreak came something glorious.

Fast-forward 11 years and I’m sitting inside the Honda Center press box watching another Game 7. The playoff series that “everyone wanted” (but that I wanted absolutely nothing to do with) between the Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings had been a battle and had appropriately gone to Game 7 in Round 2.

But the game was over almost as soon as it started. By the end of the first period, the Kings were up 3-0. They had scored that all-important first goal, and a couple more for good measure. They then turned on their very predictable and very effective stifling defense, preventing the Ducks from mounting any sort of comeback. The final score was a humiliating 6-2.

“They were bigger, stronger, faster, and seemed more determined,” said Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau of the Kings in the first period. “I think we were individually and collectively blown away by what they were doing.”

Indeed they were. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. At all.

As the game slowly trudged on through the remaining two periods, I transitioned through different stages of emotion. Shock. Despair. Anger. Sadness. Tiny glimmer of hope. Disappointment. Heartbreak. I don’t recommend choking back tears for upwards of three hours. It’s exhausting.

After the Kings scored their sixth goal with about six minutes remaining in the third period, something shifted, at least in my mind. The night was no longer about the “Freeway Faceoff Playoff” or the #BattleforSoCal. The night became all about Teemu Selanne, and what was most likely his final NHL game.

For the last minutes of the game, nothing else mattered. One of the most talented and significant players to ever play the game, and without a doubt, the most beloved player to ever wear a Ducks sweater, took center stage. The opponent disappeared, as did the other players on the ice. Every move Teemu made was on the jumbotron. In an effort to try and soak in every last moment of this unwanted conclusion, my eyes were fixated on him.

As the clock ticked down, Boudreau very wisely put Anaheim’s favorite son back out on the ice for his final NHL shift. In that most heartbreaking moment, with the season slipping away, it was all I could focus on.

After the two teams made it through the handshake line, the Ducks raised their sticks in salute to the crowd, but it was still an emotional Teemu who was the center of attention. Even the Kings players remained on the ice to give a stick tap to the living legend.

The honor shown to Number 8 continued in the dressing room. A few media members trickled down the hall to the visitors’ room, but the majority of the media present that night waited outside the Ducks room so they could speak to Teemu.

That’s respect.

The Kings may have won the game and the series. But Teemu won the night. For me, it served as a small bit of consolation for having to endure such a brutal loss on home ice.

Inside the room, Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf took questions first. He had little explanation for what had happened out there. “Really tough emotions right now,” he said.

Corey Perry was still in his full gear, sitting on the bench, seemingly stunned at what had happened.

When asked about his future and possible retirement, Saku Koivu said he needed time before he could evaluate, “if there is enough left to come back and push for another year.”

A few of the other players spoke to the media as well, but when Teemu entered the room, he held court. He spoke with a smile. But he was clearly disappointed.

“It was very disappointing,” Selanne said. “I knew it was either going to be an unbelievable party or disappointment. This time it wasn’t the party. It’s very disappointing. It’s a funny game. We had our chances. We just couldn’t take advantage of them. That’s the way it goes.”

But when asked to reflect on his career, his words were filled with nothing but love for the game and for the region that welcomed him and his family with open arms.

“When I came here during the 1995-96 season, I didn’t really know what to expect. It turned out to be my home and a happy place for me and my family. The community and the people, the fans and the organization have really made us feel at home. There’s no better place.

“Not in my wildest dreams did I expect to have a career like this. I’m very thankful.”

Classy all the way to the end. Because he’s Teemu.

After he finished speaking, the media members put down their cameras, microphones and recorders to extend a hand to Teemu, offering him thanks and gratitude for being one of the most professional and gracious players in the league.

Again, respect.

For me personally, this game and the time in the room after the final horn were the some of the most difficult and emotional moments I’ve ever experienced in this sport, both as a fan and a writer. The devastating looks on the players’ faces following a loss of this magnitude are not anything I can accurately describe. Those images will never leave my mind. And as I watched Teemu shake everyone’s hand for the last time, I just couldn’t believe that this was how it was ending.

With the path the Ducks were on, Teemu’s final game would have either ended in a Cup win or a loss. In sports, sometimes the team you want to win doesn’t win. And sometimes the end of a legend’s brilliant career isn’t exactly what he deserves.

But as the curtain came down on Teemu’s brilliant career, it came down at home, on Honda Center ice. It could have happened on the road, in a different city, or even a different state. But thankfully, it didn’t. And I was there to witness it. I’m so grateful. As fans of this great game, we are very fortunate to have a player and a person like this in our midst for so many years. In these emotional days, this is what I’m holding on to.

The next day, my eight-year old daughter came up to me. I knew she had seen the game, but she had fallen asleep before I made it home. I could tell she wanted to talk about it.

“You saw the game, right?” I asked her.

“Yeah,” she said, staring at the floor. “The Ducks season is over, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is,” I said. “And that was Teemu’s final game.”

“That’s so sad,” she said, as she walked away.

It was the most visibly distraught I had ever seen her following a Ducks loss. Maybe this was her epiphany moment. Maybe this was the day that she will look back on as the day she became a true fan of hockey and the Ducks, born out of an emotional Game 7 loss. Just like her mama.

Welcome to being a hockey fan, my sweet girl. It’s glorious and heartbreaking, all at once.

 

 

 

One Final Thank You

Anaheim Ducks fans knew this day would come. Eventually.

They begged for “one more year”, more than once. And one more year they got. Seven times.

The knowledge of the impending arrival of April 13, 2014 didn’t make it any easier to process.

But maybe knowing it was coming, knowing the finality of it, would make it easier to celebrate the most important and most loved player the Anaheim Ducks franchise has ever known. Teemu Selanne.

And celebrate him they did, as the Ducks hosted the Colorado Avalanche in their final game of the regular season at Honda Center Sunday night.

As is customary to close out the season, it was Fan Appreciation Night. But this night was different. From the minute Selanne took the ice, it was #ThankYouTeemu Night, as he appeared in what would be the final NHL regular season game of his outstanding 21-year career.

This wasn’t a game I was going to miss. I decided to forgo my usual seat in the press box to sit in the arena so I could cheer and celebrate The Finnish Flash with the rest of the 17,000+ Ducks faithful.

But the real reason for making this choice was less about me and more about my two daughters. I wanted them to be there to witness history, to see this living legend play. One more time.

And I’m so glad they did.

In the car ride over to Honda Center, I tried to explain to my girls what they were going to see that night. I tried to explain what Teemu means to the Ducks and their fans. I tried to describe his passion for the game and how his contributions extend far beyond Orange County, how this future Hockey Hall of Famer is one of the kindest and best ambassadors the sport has ever known.

I told them that Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf would be sitting out this game and that Selanne would be wearing the “C” on his jersey, the ultimate level of respect given to the ultimate Ducks player.

“Everyone loves Teemu,” I told them. “You just can’t not like the guy. It’s impossible.”

Earlier that day, news had surfaced that it was going to be the final NHL regular season game appearance for another significant player that night, Colorado Avalanche goaltender and former Ducks goaltender, Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

The era of Jiggy as a Duck was a bit before my daughters’ time. They weren’t around for his 2003 heroics. They didn’t know how he carried an entire Mighty Ducks team on his back from obscurity all the way to Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Final.

They were too young to watch how he battled in 2007, how in the midst of dealing with complications in the birth of his firstborn son, he helped lead the Ducks to their first Stanley Cup title.

So I told them about Giguere, how the Ducks would most likely honor him as well, and how it was pretty special that he and Selanne would be sharing the ice this night.

And I told them that without Jiggy, I wouldn’t even be following hockey and the Ducks. And how because of that, he will always be my hockey hero.

We got to the game right before puck drop, and from start to finish, it was all about Teemu. From the team, to the organization, to the fans, the celebration was done right.

And my girls soaked it all up. They loved watching all of the video tributes to the Great 8. They joined the crowd and stood on their feet to cheer Teemu each time he took the ice in the third period. And they thought it was “awesome” that he was awarded all three stars of the game.

As expected, the Ducks honored Giguere during a television time out in the first period. Even if they didn’t know the whole story, my girls understood Jiggy’s salute to the crowd as the fans cheered for him.

The game was inconsequential, for both teams, but it was good to see the Ducks come back from trailing 0-2 to beat the Avs in overtime, 3-2. The fans remained on their feet as Selanne took his final victory lap around the arena.

And being the gentleman that he is, Teemu didn’t leave the ice without recognizing Giguere, his Cup-winning teammate, as he grabbed Jiggy to join him for one last tour on the Honda Center ice.

My girls looked at me, wide-eyed, just as my own eyes were filling up with tears. Even the fans behind us who had come to cheer on the Avs could appreciate what they were seeing.

On the way home, my younger daughter asked me, “All that stuff they did for Teemu tonight, would they do that for any other Ducks player?”

My answer was simple. “No,” I said. “There will never be another like him.”

As the team shifts their focus and prepares to take on the Dallas Stars in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, my mind is still lingering a bit on the history and the unforgettable images we were so fortunate to witness Sunday night.

I told my girls, “You may not fully understand the importance of what you saw tonight, but some day, it will make more sense, and I promise, you’ll be glad you were there.

“Thank you for buying the tickets and taking us,” they said. Maybe, in some ways, they already know.

Some players transcend the game they play. When it comes to hockey, that’s how you describe Teemu Selanne. How fortunate are we to be here in this place, at this time, to watch him play for this team. In Orange County, California. The “non-traditional” hockey market that became his “happy place.” By choice.

The night was about #ThankYouTeemu. But I think it’s safe to say, our thanks to him will never be enough.

 

 

**Photos 1, 2 and 4 via the Anaheim Ducks

 

 

Anaheim Ducks ‘Learn To Play’ Program Backed by Getzlaf and Perry Seeing Early Success

In September 2013, 60 fifth graders from Maranatha Christian Academy in Santa Ana joined Anaheim Ducks Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry on the Honda Center ice to kick off the Anaheim Ducks Learn to Play powered by Ryan Getzlaf & Corey Perry program.

The introductory inline and ice hockey program for kids age four to 10 that is offered by THE RINKS and funded by the Anaheim Ducks Foundation is now also being backed and supported by two of the Ducks star forwards. And it has seen tremendous success.

Over 1,700 participants have signed up and sold out the two sessions offered since last fall’s program launch (September – January and February – August). The first-time hockey participants start with learning the basics of skating and skills through a four-week session. And for each of the participants that continue in THE RINKS development program, Getzlaf and Perry will purchase Bauer hockey equipment for the kids to keep.

For Chris Banner, who has been playing hockey since he was a teen, the Learn to Play powered by Ryan Getzlaf & Corey Perry program has been the perfect way to introduce his 10-year-old son, Ben, to the sport.

“I’d always wanted my kids to try hockey, but they play other sports as well and I was concerned about the [equipment] costs,” says the Huntington Beach dad. “Ben tried the program and has loved it.

“The coaching staff has been great. They really connect with the kids. And having the equipment provided as a part of continuing on with the program makes it all a great value. This is the perfect way to keep hockey growing in Southern California.”

The program is currently offered for both ice and inline at six of THE RINKS locations (Westminster ICE, Yorba Linda ICE, Lakewood ICE, Irvine Inline, Corona Inline and Huntington Beach Inline). Equipment provided to the participants includes skates, shoulder and elbow pads, shin guards, a helmet, hockey pants, gloves and a jersey.

Both Getzlaf and Perry are thrilled to see the early success of the program.

“Corey and I are proud to be part of this program,” says the Ducks captain. “It’s another great sign of the growth of the sport in Southern California, which is what we are all striving for.”

“It’s fantastic to see the turnout for Learn to Play,” says Perry. “It’s exciting to see so many new skaters, especially amongst the youth in the area. We look forward to more of the same for years to come and are honored to be part of the program.”

 

For more information about the Anaheim Ducks Learn to Play powered by Ryan Getzlaf & Corey Perry program and to register, visit anaheimducks.com/learntoplay

**Photos courtesy of the Anaheim Ducks