05/14/2013 8:53 am
Sunday night I sat in my car, in the darkness of the Honda Center parking lot, for what seemed like 30 minutes.
It was probably only three.
I had a hard time bringing myself to put my key into the ignition.
Because if I did drive away from the arena, I would be forced to acknowledge that the Ducks season is actually over.
Truthfully, their season ended long before the final buzzer in their 3-2 Game 7 loss, and series loss, to the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Quarter Finals. In a “win or go home” situation, the Ducks were outplayed by the Wings from the drop of the puck. Another notoriously bad start saw them down 1-0 less than two minutes into the contest, and they spent the rest of the night chasing the game instead of playing it.
And although they showed a bit of life late in the final period, as Francois Beauchemin scored with just over three minutes remaining to bring the Ducks within one, I knew in my gut that we were not going to witness one of those miraculous comebacks that we had seen from this team all season.
As time expired, Corey Perry collapsed to his knees in a display of honest emotion rarely seen from the reserved winger.
And that was it. Season over.
The Ducks eventually gathered to make their way through the customary series-ending handshake line. And then they slowly raised their sticks, with the weight of the loss bearing down on them, to salute the home crowd who stayed to thank the team for their extraordinary season. Emotional doesn’t begin to describe the moment.
Standing in the dressing room after the game wasn’t any easier. One by one, as the players walked in to address the media, they didn’t have to say a word for me to know the disappointment that they were experiencing. I could see it on their faces.
But the professionals that they are, they kept their composure, didn’t make excuses and praised their teammates. They win as a team, and they lose as a team.
And Teemu. Oh, Teemu.
Many of us hung around, waiting for him, waiting to hear his reaction. Always the gentleman, he was (obviously) disappointed.
“We have to learn something from this,” Selanne said. “I think we deserved better than this, but that’s hockey. You never know. The playoffs are so much fun and very disappointing to be out of it right now, the first round. We were looking forward to going further and enjoying this more. That’s why it’s so tough. It’s too late now.”
And per the usual, he wouldn’t comment on his future, acknowledging that he needed time to clear his head before he could make such a decision.
Is this the way it ends for the Great 8? I won’t let my mind go there.
I’ve written before about this inherent need in sports to have a reason for why a game, series or season ends badly, as if there needs to be some explanation beyond the obvious.
I think for some fans, it helps them process the loss. There are plenty of well-written explanations as to why the Ducks lost this series to Detroit.
Whether you believe “Boudreau was outcoached” or “the Ducks’ best players weren’t their best players”, or that “they didn’t play with enough urgency”, it’s all out there.
But for me, the explanations do little to ease the heartbreak. And they never change the outcome.
I may be over simplifying this, but I will tell you that on Sunday night, I saw a Red Wings team that played better than the Ducks, and beat them.
That’s it. And that’s sports.
At the end of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, there are 29 teams and their fan bases who will be experiencing some level of disappointment. Only one team emerges as the winner. This year, it isn’t the Ducks.
And I will tell you that when you stand a few feet from the players’ faces after a gut-wrenching Game 7 playoff loss and see the raw emotion in their eyes, it doesn’t ever leave your mind. Do not think for a second that their hearts weren’t in this. Their disappointment will not fade quickly, I assure you.
As I finally drove out of the Honda Center parking lot, the emotions came flooding over me, the same emotions I had forcefully kept shoved down for the better part of three hours.
In all honesty, it felt like someone had ripped out my heart, stomped on it, then tossed it onto the ice, where someone else promptly emerged from the Zamboni tunnel with a cold, metal shovel, quickly scooped it up and threw it into a trash bin.
And I doubt I was alone in my reaction.
But as I drove home in silence, I decided it would be best to reflect back on what a success this Ducks season has been.
When a team goes from 13th in the Western Conference to 2nd, and from last place in the Pacific Division to first–in one year–I think that’s a season worth celebrating.
Not many picked this Ducks team to even make the playoffs, let alone finish as a number 2 seed. They had an incredible, record-setting start to this shortened season, with plenty of dramatic highlights. They signed Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry to long-term extensions. And the youth of this team (Bonino, Fowler, Etem, Palmieri, Cogliano, etc.) is looking strong.
So despite the early playoff exit, there is plenty to be excited about with this Ducks team going forward.
And despite the heartbreak, I fully believe they exceeded expectations. After what Ducks fans endured last season, and in a season this year that some didn’t even think would happen, I call that a major win.
As I walked into my house late Sunday night, I caught a glimpse of the flowers and handmade cards on our kitchen table, gifts from my sweet daughters for Mother’s Day.
And as the sun rose Monday morning, it brought with it the familiar weekday routine of making breakfast, packing lunches and shuttling my girls off to school.
The emotions are still there. They will be for a while. And I’m okay with that. They are there because I care about this team and this great sport. And I don’t want that to ever change.
But in the midst of feeling upside down, sometimes life has a way of turning you right side up and nudging you back into normalcy when you really need it.
Thank you, Anaheim Ducks, for an incredible season we won’t soon forget.
It may be a long wait until October, but I’m already looking forward to it.
**Bottom photo via Christina Chin
05/06/2013 4:33 pm
I’ve said many times before in this space that I love storytelling.
And I think some of the best stories out there are how people get to be where they are within the world of hockey. Whether it’s Ducks super fans The Tennis Balls or Honda Center national anthem singer Dawn Wright, I always find it so interesting how the love for hockey can lead fans down a very unexpected path. And sometimes, it’s the passionate love for this great game that can make dreams come true.
Such is the case for Josh Brewster.
The host of the radio show, “Duck Calls”, which can be heard on AM 830 following all Anaheim Ducks road games (including during the playoffs), Brewster is in his seventh season with the popular call-in show.
The format of the show includes recap and discussion of that night’s Ducks game, the chance for fans to call in and share their thoughts, and interviews with guests from all over the hockey world. Some of the names that Brewster has hosted on his show over the years include former Duck and current Ducks assistant coach Scott Niedermayer, Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf, NHL broadcast analyst Pierre McGuire, hockey broadcaster and author Stan Fishler, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Dennis Bernstein from The Fourth Period, and former NHL goaltender Bernie Parent.
Although a career in broadcasting in the NHL has been a dream of Brewster’s for some time, he didn’t envision his path to get there would be in Southern California.
Growing up in New York meant that hockey was an integral part of Brewster’s life. A devoted Buffalo Sabres fan, he and his family spent their Saturday nights watching Canadian broadcasts of Hockey Night in Canada.
At a young age, he had the experience of a lifetime that helped to formulate what he wanted to do with his life.
“It was 1982 when I got my first interview with a hockey player for my high school paper,” said Brewster. “It was with Wayne Gretzky. He was in Buffalo, the day before he passed Phil Esposito’s record for goals in a season. I was 15, he was 21.
“After the media interviews were finished, Wayne tapped me on the shoulder and asked me how to get out of the Sabres practice facility (in Wheatfield, NY). I escorted him to the exit as he was being mobbed by fans.”
When life led him to SoCal in 1998, his association with hockey did not come to a halt. It was here, in the land of sun, sand and surf, where Brewster would be able to continue to chase his dreams of being an NHL broadcaster.
He began following the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, and in 2000, Brewster started producing what he believes is the first known internet hockey show, the Western Hockey Radio Show. He did that for three years, and then in 2004, set up the website hockeytalk.biz where he produced a very successful series of shows called Hockeytalk Audio Features, which featured interviews with those in the hockey world.
It was 2006 when he got a phone call from current Anaheim Ducks Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Aaron Teats, whose role includes overseeing all of the Ducks broadcasting. The team was starting a new post-game radio show and he asked Brewster to host. This was an absolute dream come true for the kid from Buffalo.
The timing of the hire was also perfect, as Brewster was able to be along for the ride in 2007, as the Ducks became the first NHL team in California to win the Stanley Cup.
Brewster loves the game and loves what he does. Diligent in his preparation for each show, he usually spends three hours pouring over stacks of information because as he says, “You can never be too prepared.”
The interaction with fans over the years has been some of the most rewarding parts of the experience for Brewster. With “regular” callers such as “Stan from Tarzana” and “Gina from Alta Dena”, he is grateful for the many Ducks fans who listen and call into the show.
One of his favorite listeners is Gaby Martinez, whom he met when she was just 12 years old. A budding writer, Brewster worked with her over several years, giving her writing assignments. The 19-year-old is now on a full scholarship at California State University, Fullerton, in the broadcast department.
Brewster still has dreams of becoming a full time NHL broadcaster, but is thankful for the digital age, the Anaheim Ducks and the opportunities his love for hockey has brought his way.
Be sure to catch Josh Brewster on Duck Calls tonight on AM 830 after Game 4 of the Anaheim Ducks/Detroit Red Wings NHL Western Conference Quarter-Final series. His guest tonight will be Senior Vice President of the Detroit Red Wings, Jimmy Devellano. And stop by his website, hockeytalk.biz.
And check out a more in-depth profile of Brewster’s career in the book, “Living the Hockey Dream” by Brian Kennedy.
04/30/2013 8:40 am
I’ve always believed that some of the greatest professional sports rivalries are born out of a history of intense, significant playoff series. Not to take anything away from cross-town rivals, but there’s just something about the same teams meeting over and over again in postseason games where the players put it all out there and everything is on the line every single night.
It undoubtedly makes for some memorable moments.
So it seems fitting, I suppose, that the Anaheim Ducks open the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs against the team they have met in the postseason more than any other, a team I consider to be one of their biggest rivals.
The Detroit Red Wings.
This will be their sixth postseason meeting. Since the 1997 playoffs, no two teams have met more than these two.
And there have been more than just a few memorable moments between Anaheim and Detroit in the NHL’s second season.
After being swept by the Red Wings in both 1997 and 1999, the 7th seed 2003 Mighty Ducks of Anaheim met up with reigning Stanley Cup Champion Detroit in the first round, and behind the stellar play of goaltender J.S. Giguere, swept them in four games.
In 2007, it was J.S Giguere, Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne, “forehand, backhand, nothing but water bottle” in Game 5 at Joe Louis Arena, and Anaheim took the Western Conference Finals from #1 seed Detroit in six games. I remember knowing at the very moment that Teemu raised his stick that night that the Ducks would go on to win the Stanley Cup.
In 2009, it was a #8 seed Ducks team that had just ousted the #1 seed and President’s Trophy winning San Jose Sharks who pushed the Red Wings to seven games before losing to them in the closing minutes of that last Western Conference Semi-Final game.
Fast forward to 2013.
It’s been a long wait for Anaheim and their fans to get to this point. Everyone endured a four-month league lockout before this 48-game compressed schedule began in January.
But beyond that, Ducks fans have been waiting for two years to see their team back on the ice for the best, most grueling playoffs in all of sports.
The Ducks’ Pacific Division Championship, third place overall league finish and #2 seed in the Western Conference this season was a surprise to many, including myself.
It wasn’t that I didn’t think they had the ability to do well. It’s just I didn’t know what to expect from this team. A brutal season in recent memory will do that to you.
But the Ducks had a season for the record books, finishing with the best winning percentage in club history (66 points, .688). They came out flying, established their spot near the top and never gave it up, earning themselves home ice for at least the first two rounds of the playoffs. Led by head coach Bruce Boudreau, and with solid contributions from up and down the line-up, their accomplishments have been a true team effort. And coming off of the last few seasons, this was awesome to see.
Put in the position of having to win a number of games at the end of the season just to secure a playoff spot, this will be Detroit’s 22nd consecutive playoff appearance. That’s almost unbelievable. Even post-Nicklas Lidstrom, this team is well coached, full of talent and depth, and is always dangerous.
As it always seems with these two teams, this series has all the ingredients to become another classic. And it begins Tuesday night, with Game 1 at Honda Center. Opening face-off is at 7:30pmPT.
Fans are off-the-charts excited. Because honestly, the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs are unlike anything else out there. The heart stopping, edge-of-your-seat excitement, night after night in the world’s greatest sport is unmatched. It draws you in, and once you’re hooked, trust me, you’ll never look back.
The Ducks announced that they will be hosting “The Playoff Spot” in the north side of the Honda Center Parking lot prior to every home playoff game. All ticketed fans can arrive up to two hours before puck drop to enjoy food, drinks, live music and HD televisions for viewing other NHL Stanley Cup Playoff action.
And for those who remember this season’s home opener, glow sticks, in addition to playoff towels, will be given to all fans in attendance. I got chills when they turned down the lights on Opening Night and Honda Center was lit up orange. Chills. Get there early, fans. You won’t want to miss being a part of that.
The players and coaching staff are pumped too. And why not? With the regular season behind them, they can focus on the bigger goal. This is what they play for, the chance to win the most beloved trophy in all of sports. The chance to hoist the Cup. You can read and listen to some of the players’ thoughts on Detroit and the playoffs here.
My favorite quote is from Ryan Getzlaf:
“Have you listened to the media the past couple of days? We are not the favorites. Trust me.”
Don’t worry, Captain. Those are probably the same “experts” who had the Ducks missing the postseason altogether. I like Wahoo’s take on this series better. (“We had a meeting….”)
As formidable of an opponent as Detroit always is, I believe the Ducks can beat this Red Wings team in a best of seven series. I just think it will take them seven games to do it.
Back in January, as the lockout ended and the NHL season finally got ready to start, I wrote these words:
“I think more than anything, I just want the Ducks to go out there and play with passion and intensity, like every game matters. Because it does. No slow starts. Play like the best players in the world that you are. You say you’ve missed the game and the fans. Play like you mean that.”
The Ducks have done this, and more, completely exceeding my expectations. And now that they are back in playoffs, I say this:
Go out there and play with passion and intensity each night. This is the Stanley Cup Playoffs and every game matters. No slow starts. Play with a chip on your shoulder and prove to all those who doubt that no matter the opponent, this team is a force to be reckoned with. You say this is why you play the game, for the chance to win Lord Stanley’s Cup. Play like you mean that.
It’s time for Ducks to fly.
Because It’s the Cup.
Here are a couple more videos to get you ready for the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. (from NHL.com, from Ducks fan Matthew Rathbone)
Don’t miss a minute. There truly is nothing like it in all of sports.
All images via the Anaheim Ducks.
04/25/2013 11:07 am
Last week, the Anaheim Ducks played host to over 1000 local 5th graders as they descended on the Honda Center parking lot to take part in the first ever Captain’s Challenge Fit Finals.
A brand new initiative of the Anaheim Ducks S.C.O.R.E. Program (Scholastic Curriculum of Recreation and Education), Captain’s Challenge is a motivational program that looks to promote the ideals of leadership and living a healthy lifestyle, along with helping to prepare fifth grade students for the California Physical Fitness Test.
This program, two years in the making and offered for free through the Anaheim Ducks Foundation, begins with a workbook containing a month-long program for the classroom that is distributed to participating schools. The curriculum covers nutrition and leadership traits, in addition to promoting healthy physical fitness habits.
Students get the opportunity to experience being a leader in their classroom by becoming “Captain” for a day, wearing the “C” and leading workbook activities.
With a focus on the characteristics of a captain, the idea is to empower students by teaching them how to use these virtues in approaching health, fitness and other daily decisions.
After completing the in-class curriculum, the students then come to Honda Center for the Fit Finals, where they take part in physical fitness activities focused on preparing the students for their required State of California physical fitness assessments.
Anaheim Ducks Director of Fan Development, Matt Savant, said that with the Reading is the Goal program focused on students up through fourth grade, he and his team looked at how they could expand the S.C.O.R.E. Program offering to include fifth graders at local schools.
“In our research,” said Savant, “we found that only one in three students were passing the California Physical Fitness Test*. So we developed this program, incorporating the ideas of captain-like qualities, physical fitness and making healthy lifestyle choices, in hopes of getting those numbers to increase.”
The morning kicked off with Opening Ceremonies hosted by Ducks television host, Kent French, with appearances by Wild Wing and Ducks Captain, Ryan Getzlaf. The Captain encouraged the kids, telling them to always be themselves, work hard, make healthy choices and that the day was about doing their best.
Then it was time to get to work. Ducks staff members and volunteers from groups like the Anaheim Ducks Die Hards and local community sponsors such as Asics and Pepsi were there to assist with testing and recording results for each student.
During the Fit Finals, students participated in required physical fitness assessments, including running one-mile, doing push-ups and sit-ups, completing a trunk lift and testing flexibility through sit-and-reach.
The Orange County Board of Education was also on hand, observing the assessments and the process. Savant said that the goal for the program in coming years is to be able to use the Fit Finals as the actual California Physical Fitness testing site for participating students.
Upon completion of the assessments, the students grabbed their sack lunches and refueled after a morning of exercise. Then they were able to spend some time visiting with vendors at their Expo booths, including Whole Foods Tustin, Popchips, Ra Yoga and CrossFit ION, for even more information on making healthy food and lifestyle choices.
Michael Carlin, who was in attendance with his class of 31 fifth graders from Corona Ranch Elementary School, was overwhelmed by this new program and the generosity of the Ducks.
“Our district has been hit with several cuts in recent years, so for the Anaheim Ducks to come in and offer such a high quality program to us, free of charge, is something special.
“The kids have really connected with the curriculum,” said Carlin. “It’s got them excited about physical fitness on a daily basis, and they’re learning some leadership skills too. We couldn’t do this without the generosity of the Anaheim Ducks Foundation. Everything they do is first class.”
Closing Ceremonies featured Kent French and Wild Wing raffling off some fun Anaheim Ducks prizes. A few lucky kids walked away with Ducks hats, signed pucks or autographed Ducks jerseys and sticks.
But every student walked away with the tools to help them meet their personal health and fitness goals, and more importantly, some newfound confidence that will equip and prepare them to be leaders in the classroom and beyond.
*The California Department of Education Physical Fitness Test Results for 2012 cites that for the second year in a row, only 31 percent of students posted healthy scores in all six of the areas tested. Click here for more information on the results.
04/18/2013 11:09 am
With a rare break during this compressed 2013 NHL schedule, the Anaheim Ducks spent one of their off-days this week strutting their stuff and helping raise money for one of our community’s most important institutions, CHOC Children’s.
A sold out event held at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa, the Lady Ducks hosted their 6th annual Fashion Show Luncheon benefitting CHOC. Over the last five years, the Lady Ducks and this event have raised over $485,000 in support of this Orange County treasure.
This year, the money raised will be specifically designated to fund a new fitness center inside the hospital’s newly opened state-of-the-art Bill Holmes Tower. The Anaheim Ducks Fitness Center will be located on the expanded Pediatric Oncology floor and will house equipment that will be used by children for physical therapy as well as by family members who are at the facility for extended stays.
Guests were greeted upon arrival with a champagne reception and a silent auction, where prizes from golf rounds to hotel stays to autographed Ducks gear were all up for grabs to the highest bidder. And all of the Ducks players, coaching staff, management and broadcasters were on hand, interacting with fans and posing for countless photographs.
Inside the Grand Pacific Ballroom, Ducks television host, Kent French, and KTLA 5 Morning News Meteorologist and Orange County native, Henry DiCarlo, hosted the Fashion Show and Live Auction, which featured some fantastic prizes such as a dinner cruise around Newport Harbor with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, and a private dinner with Teemu Selanne and his wife, Sirpa, at Teemu’s new restaurant in Laguna Beach.
During the luncheon, I was seated with Ducks television color commentator, Brian Hayward, and Ducks players David Steckel and Toni Lydman, who all proved to be excellent company.
It was particularly great to chat with David. My first time meeting the center since he was traded to the Ducks from Toronto last month, he said he’s enjoying some newfound anonymity that I think is unique to playing NHL hockey in Orange County. Drafted by that team up the freeway back in 2001, David was already familiar with this area and is definitely happy to be back in SoCal and playing for the Ducks. (And he scored a one-of-a-kind goal the other night, his first of the season, which you can see here.)
A Wisconsin native who played hockey for the Ohio State Buckeyes, David and I chatted, what else? College football, of course. Anyone who knows the Horned Frog is TCU’s mascot without skipping a beat is a friend in my book.
While the guests moved on to the dessert course of the meal, the Fashion Show got rolling, featuring Ducks players Jonas Hiller, Sheldon Souray, Bryan Allen, Matt Beleskey, Viktor Fasth, Luca Sbisa, Bobby Ryan, Corey Perry, Francois Beauchemin, Ryan Getzlaf and their significant others as they all walked the catwalk in new fashions from Saks Fifth Avenue. My favorite hands down was Beauch in those crazy floral pants. He owned it.
Then the players came back out onto the runway, paired with some special boys and girls from CHOC Children’s who were dressed in summer threads from Quicksilver. Each of these amazing kids has a story of hope and triumph, and they all credit CHOC with giving them a chance to continue to live their lives today.
One of the most inspiring stories of the afternoon came from 11-year old Dean Hirsch, who was paired with Ryan Getzlaf. Serving as this year’s CHOC Children’s Ambassador, Dean loves soccer and is back on the field playing after being off of chemotherapy treatment for almost a year, all while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. I could see in his eyes that he loves life and is grateful for the chance to continue to live it, playing soccer and doing what any other 11-year boy should be doing.
CHOC Children’s President and CEO, Kim Cripe, thanked those in attendance, event Co-Chairs Paige Getzlaf and Caroline Marchant, and all of the Lady Ducks for their continued support of the hospital and their mission.
As a fan of both Ducks hockey and CHOC, and as a parent in Orange County, I’m grateful as well. Because investing in the health of children, our future and our most valuable resource, is one of the greatest gifts we can give our community.
I never get tired of seeing the big smiles on those brave kids’ faces.
04/09/2013 12:41 pm
The sun was bright, the temperature was perfect, and the fans came out in large numbers to see their favorite Anaheim Ducks last Saturday at the Wild Wingers Kids Club annual party at Knott’s Berry Farm.
As Ducks television play-by-play host John Ahlers and Wild Wing welcomed the players on the stage in Calico Square in front of about 1,500 Kids Club members and their families, the “Ducks in a row” lined up in a very unplanned but memorable way.
It was Kids Club Captain and long time Ducks defenseman, Francois Beauchemin in the center with Cam Fowler, Kyle Palmieri, Peter Holland and Emerson Etem on either side. The strong veteran presence and Stanley Cup winner surrounded by the youth, the future of this team. I found it fitting.
The mood was one of excitement, as fans are obviously pumped about the idea of not only a Ducks playoff appearance this season, but a very real Stanley Cup run.
Ahlers took questions from some kids in the crowd and when asked which team they’d like to face in the playoffs, the answer from the players was clear and confident.
“Bring on any team.”
The guys spoke a bit to their own love for hockey as fans of the game and each had their favorite team and player while growing up, with heavy influence on the player’s hometown.
Michigan native Cam Fowler followed Nicklas Lidstrom and the Detroit Red Wings as a kid, while New York native Kyle Palmieri was a fan of Mark Messier and the New York Rangers.
For Peter Holland, who is from Toronto, it was Mats Sundin and the Maple Leafs. Montreal native Francois Beauchemin followed the Canadiens and was a fan of both Ray Bourque and Chris Chelios.
For hometown hero Emerson Etem, who hails from Long Beach, he was a big fan of Pavel Bure and said, with much hesitation, that his favorite team as a kid was that team up the freeway. To help silence the boos from the crowd, Etem quickly said,
“Now, it’s all about the Ducks, baby.”
We’re cool with that, Emerson.
The difference in life stages between the hockey vet and the kids was never more apparent than when they were asked what they do in their spare time and on their off days. The kids golf, go to the beach, even surf, but mostly relax, while Beauch, the only dad in the group, spends his off days with his family and is at his son’s hockey practices and games. That brought plenty of cheers, as it should.
But regardless of age, these guys get along great and enjoy being teammates. They way they poked fun and gave each other a hard time on stage made that clear. They are friends off the ice, which translates into success on the ice. When it comes to sports, especially hockey, don’t ever underestimate the power of camaraderie in the dressing room and beyond.
And here’s a bonus: If you ever find yourself shopping for ice cream for these guys, pick up some rainbow sherbet for Etem, vanilla for Holland and Beauchemin (Beauch likes his ice cream with chocolate syrup) and mint chocolate chip for Palmieri and Fowler. Because you never know when you might need that information, right?
What I found the most interesting was the guys’ responses when asked by a young fan, “How did you get to be on the Ducks?” Beauchemin was traded to the team, twice. (I was happy to see him return.) The other four were drafted by Anaheim, Holland and Palmieri in 2009 and Fowler and Etem in 2010. All of them have contributed to the success of the Ducks this season. And that points to a very bright future for this team.
Following the Q&A, fans young and young-at-heart lined up for autographs and photos with the players. I bring my kids to this event each year, and each year they tell me that meeting the players is their favorite part, more than being at the park itself. I think it speaks volumes to the success of the Ducks’ programs such as the Kids Club and how critical player engagement is to the fan experience. Because hockey players are without a doubt some of the best people out there.
Don’t you agree?
04/03/2013 8:11 am
I’ve only been a fan of hockey for about a decade, but I’ve been a sports fan my entire life and I’m pretty sure there hasn’t been a more exciting time to follow sports than in this age of social media.
I joined Twitter four years ago this month, before I was on Facebook and before I started writing. It was the same month the Ducks squeaked into the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the 8 seed and proceeded to dominate the 1 seed, Pacific Division champions and President’s Trophy winning San Jose Sharks, defeating them in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, 4-2. The Ducks then took on their long-time playoff rival in the Western Conference Semifinals, the Detroit Red Wings, where they eventually lost, but not before they pushed the series to a thrilling seven games.
In my opinion, those were probably the most memorable playoff series the Ducks have played since the ’06-’07 Cup-winning season. And part of what made it so memorable for me was following the games on Twitter. It opened up a whole new sports fan experience. No longer was I limited to following the games at home by myself or with my family or on the phone with my hockey-loving brother (although I enjoy those as well). But I instantly could communicate, gripe and celebrate each moment with an expansive world of fans who loved hockey and the Ducks as much as I did.
A lot has changed and evolved with social media in the past four years. Today, it’s not just the fans who are active participants, but the professional sports teams and players themselves. From Twitter to Facebook, from Instagram to Pinterest, fans can follow, interact and keep up with their favorite teams and players all online and from their mobile devices.
In the spirit of this integration, the Anaheim Ducks are holding their first-ever Social Media Night at the game on Wednesday, April 3 vs. the Dallas Stars at Honda Center. All of the club’s social media vehicles will be highlighted throughout the evening, including the team’s Official Mobile App.
Whether you attend the game or not, fans are encouraged to interact using the hashtag #DucksSocial. Tweet or post photos on Instagram celebrating your love for the Ducks from wherever you are and watch for your posts to be displayed both in-arena or on the KDOC broadcast throughout the game. Those watching the game can also tweet requests for intermission guests and questions.
If you are at Honda Center that night, look for the photo kiosk on the concourse outside section 208, where you can post photos straight to your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Also for fans attending the game, a special “tweet your seat” promotion will be held, in which fans can post their seat locations to Twitter and winners will be chosen at random for a seat upgrade.
Ducks players who are active on Twitter (and there are several) will have their Twitter handles displayed on in-arena screens during the game. Fans will have the opportunity to guess which Ducks player will score the game’s first goal on social media to win autographed merchandise. And watch your Ducks Mobile App for alerts to exclusive discounts in the Ducks Team Store.
Looking for tickets to the game? The Ducks are offering a Social Media Night ticket package for $36 that includes:
- –A seat in a designated Terrace Main East sections (normally $37) near other Social Media Night ticket buyers
- –Hot dog and beer/soda
- –Ducks Social Media t-shirt
- –Ducks yearbook
Click here for more information and to purchase.
So whether you’ll be at Honda Center or elsewhere watching the Ducks take on the Stars for the second of a mini three-game set, be sure to join fellow Ducks fans everywhere by following the game via social media.
And don’t forget that #DucksSocial hashtag!
03/25/2013 11:48 am
It was a packed house at 300 Anaheim last week, as the Anaheim Ducks Die Hards hosted their End of the Year Party. With less than 20 games remaining in the Ducks’ regular season, this year’s compressed schedule is quickly coming to a close, even as it feels like the team is just getting started.
A night of bowling and Bonino, Nick Bonino that is, saw close to 300 members of the team’s booster club at the Garden Walk in Anaheim for some “bowling with a twist” and a Q & A session with the Ducks forward.
Ducks radio play-by-play voice, Steve Carroll, hosted the chat, as Bonino treated the fans to insightful, and even funny answers to questions from both Carroll and the fans in attendance.
Currently out with a lower body injury, Bonino hasn’t played since he left the March 10th game against the St. Louis Blues. So it came as no surprise that one of the first questions posed to him was about his health.
“It’s a process, and something you don’t want to rush,” said Bonino, not giving much insight into his injury. There is currently no timetable for his return to the ice.
He did admit that it was not easy being a spectator during Anaheim’s thrilling 4-2 victory over Chicago last Wednesday night. No player wants to miss what was probably one of the biggest games of the year. But Bonino was in the arena that night, along with the largest crowd Honda Center has ever seen for a Ducks game, to watch his teammates pull off their 14th come-from-behind victory this season in dramatic fashion.
When asked how the Ducks were able to keep up with a team known for their speed such as the Blackhawks, Bonino wasn’t surprised.
“I think as a team we’re able to adapt well to any style of play,” said Bonino.
As Carroll spoke of the seemingly “never give up” attitude of this group, Bonino said that he and his teammates believe they can win every night, no matter the opponent. And he attributes much of this approach to Ducks Head Coach, Bruce Boudreau.
“Bruce is such a positive coach,” said Bonino. “He doesn’t let any of the players stay down after a loss. We’ve bought into his system and we trust him and the coaching staff. I’m excited to play for him.”
Bonino agreed with Carroll that contributions from all parts of the roster have also been a big part of the team’s winning ways. From having two “#1” goaltenders in Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth, to Francois Beauchemin’s “undercover Norris season”, to Ducks Captain Ryan Getzlaf playing his best hockey yet, the Ducks have put together an incredible run in this shortened campaign.
And for all of the new faces in the dressing room this year, Bonino says they’ve fit in with the team seamlessly.
“We’re a very close team, and all of the new guys fit in great,” he said. “Each of them has contributed in some way to our success.”
After spending some time talking about his current team, Bonino gave fans a look into his time in the sport before he arrived in Anaheim.
Brought to the rink at a very young age, his parents soon discovered they couldn’t keep him away from the ice. The 24-year old Hartford, Connecticut native grew up a fan of the Whalers, specifically Brendan Shanahan, (which drew a smattering of boos from the crowd) who is currently the NHL’s Senior VP of Player Safety. His allegiance to the winger followed to Detroit when Shanahan was traded to the Red Wings in 1996. “I was a big fan of those 1997 and 1998 (Stanley Cup winning) teams,” Bonino said.
It wasn’t until he was in high school that he could see a real future for himself as a NHL player. Drafted by the San Jose Sharks in the 6th round, 173rd overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Bonino’s rights were traded to Anaheim in March of 2009. That same spring, he led his Boston University Terriers to a NCAA National Championship.
But this New England boy is enjoying his time in Orange County with this Ducks team. And without question, his favorite pro moment to date is his first NHL career hat trick which he scored on February 2 of this year.
“It’s hard to put into words,” said Bonino when trying to describe how that moment felt. “Scoring it against the Kings made it even better.”
As the Q & A session came to a close, some of the Die Hards tried to convince him to stay and do a little bowling with the fans. Due to his injury, Bonino had to respectfully decline.
“I used to be a pretty good bowler, though,” he said. “I had my own bowling ball and shoes in high school.”
The best game he’s ever bowled? 211. Not bad for a hockey player.
Being in the midst of a successful run such as the Ducks are having always prompts the question: How far can this team go?
Bonino stopped short from saying those magic “Stanley Cup” words, but just like his teammates, he has a ton of confidence that this team can go far in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. And despite being sidelined at the moment, he says the experience has been awesome.
“I couldn’t be happier.”
03/15/2013 12:16 pm
We here at When Girls Love Hockey have used this space in the past to shine the spotlight on our local college hockey scene, including USC Ice Hockey, who plays all of their home games here locally at Anaheim Ice.
Now they, and the hockey conference they are a part of, the PAC-8 Conference, are reaching out to the hockey community for help in supporting them with a unique opportunity this spring.
The West Coast based college hockey conference, which in addition to USC, includes UCLA, Cal, Arizona Sate, Oregon, Stanford, Utah, Washington and Washington State, have selected their 2013 PAC-8 All-Star Team that will travel to Philadelphia, PA on April 5-7, 2013 for the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) All-Star Challenge Tournament.
This is a fantastic honor and opportunity for these student athletes to represent their college and their conference as they face other All-Star teams from all over the country in this round-robin format tournament.
The reality is that these players are each responsible for their own cost of the trip, including airfare, lodging, uniforms, etc., a cost of about $700 per player. As a non-profit organization, the PAC-8 is looking for support from the community to help get these hockey players to Philadelphia next month.
Here’s how you can help. Click here to make a donation. There are various rewards and recognition available, depending on the level of support. Donations can even be specified for certain PAC-8 teams/players if the donor desires.
So let’s help make sure that each of these talented players, including four UCLA Bruins and three USC Trojans, are able to make this trip and don’t sit out because they can’t afford to go. With your support they will get the chance to take the trip of a lifetime!
For more information or to make a donation, visit PAC8Hockey.com/AllStars
03/13/2013 10:22 pm
The Anaheim Ducks closed out their three-game home stand on Sunday night by hosting both the St. Louis Blues and CHOC Night, a time to shine the spotlight on Orange County’s only freestanding children’s hospital, CHOC Children’s.
And the good guys continued their winning ways at Honda Center, defeating the Blues 4-2 for their 11th straight win at home.
If the opposing team scores first? No problem! Fueled by a shorthanded goal from forward Andrew Cogliano, the Ducks overcame a sluggish first period to come from behind, twice, and secure the victory and their hold on the top spot in the Pacific Division.
It was great to see the Ducks score a win on CHOC Night, a night set aside to raise money and awareness for the local pediatric state-of-the-art facility. All throughout the evening, fans were given a glimpse inside how CHOC serves our kids and a chance to donate to the hospital that has impacted so many families.
Out in front of Honda Center at the Hockey Spot, fans could purchase raffle tickets to win items like a Ducks team signed jersey, player autographed CHOC t-shirts and other prizes. A limited amount of 2012 “Choco Bears” with player signatures were also for sale.
Inside, the Ducks hosted a Silent Auction with prizes up for bid such as a Zamboni ride, a Teemu Selanne autographed package, and a post-game player meet-and-greet.
Even viewers watching the telecast from home were able to donate by texting “CHOC” to “90999” to make a $5 donation. Pepsi matched donations received that evening up to $2,000. And for every Ducks goal scored that night (there were four), Smile Generation made a donation to CHOC.
This year’s CHOC Night celebrated a seven-year partnership between CHOC Children’s and the Anaheim Ducks. CHOC’s beautiful new South Tower, The Bill Homes Tower, is now open and serving the community. The seven-story tower adds over 425,000 square feet of space to the campus and includes patient care services such as an advanced pediatric emergency department, operating rooms, laboratory, imaging and radiology services.
This new structure shows a commitment to pediatric healthcare excellence, not only for Orange County, but also for surrounding communities. I believe we are very fortunate to have such life-changing and life-giving care available to children and families right here in our own backyard. Even if you’ve never had to utilize their services, I’m sure you know a family who has.
As a fan of the Ducks, I’ve always been proud of their partnership with CHOC. It never gets old seeing the faces of those brave kids light up each time Wild Wing and the players visit and share the gift of hockey.
Thank you, Anaheim Ducks for your continued support of one of Orange County’s true treasures. And thank you, CHOC Children’s, for your continued commitment to providing excellence in pediatric care for our kids and families!