It’s a Great Day for Hockey…in California

I’ve only been to Dodger Stadium a few times in my life.

That may sound odd coming from a California native who loves baseball. But as a lifelong Angels fan who lives only 15 minutes from the Big A, I just haven’t made that 40-mile drive up the 5 freeway very often.

But on a Saturday in January, I did. And it wasn’t to watch America’s pastime, but another sport that has more recently captured my heart and the hearts of residents all over the Golden State.

Hockey.

Yes, adjacent to downtown Los Angeles, in the middle of a baseball diamond, sat a hockey rink, as iconic Dodger Stadium played host to one of six 2014 NHL Stadium Series Outdoor Games. The nighttime tilt featured the Los Angeles Kings taking on the Anaheim Ducks. Two of the top teams in the Western Conference, and the league, both of whom have raised Lord Stanley’s Cup within the last seven years.

An outdoor hockey game. In California. For the first time. Ever. History was made. And it was incredible to witness.

Late in the afternoon while the sun was still bright and shadows began to creep over the infield, I stood on the top deck of this beloved LA landmark and took in that now familiar scene of an outdoor rink surrounded by palm trees and the San Gabriel Mountains. And I decided that it was perfect.

What made it perfect wasn’t the fact that it was exactly how the sport of hockey is typically experienced outdoors. For hockey purists, this scene was missing some important elements like gently falling snow, frigid temps, and teams from cities like New York, or Boston, or Toronto.

But what made it perfect was that it was exactly how the sport of hockey is experienced in California. With daily highs of 75 degrees, sunshine, clear, cool nights, and expansion teams with connections to Hollywood and Disneyland.

When it was first announced that Los Angeles was on the Stadium Series schedule, it wasn’t an idea that was readily accepted.

An outdoor game in LA? What about the ice? There was so much angst and hand-wringing by skeptics over what the ice conditions would be like in this setting that you would have thought the entire ice surface was going to melt into a huge puddle right underneath the players’ skates.

I was never worried. And neither were Dan Craig and his team of ice magicians, the crew assembled by the NHL to build an ice rink where few thought an ice rink could be built. It was 60 degrees at puck drop that night and according to the players, the ice surface wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t much different than the ice they typically play on indoors in this region.

As the sun set, I stood in that same spot on the top deck, perched high above all of the arriving fans in their respective jerseys, and watched as the crew slowly removed the insulated thermal blankets that covered the ice surface to reveal the familiar painted lines and circles. There was a hockey game to be played here. This was really going to happen.

The atmosphere created by the league that night went far beyond just an ice rink on the infield grass. There was a beach volleyball court in left field. There were fans throwing footballs and tossing Frisbees. The outfield was home to a group of women doing yoga. A smaller rink sat near home plate, where local kids played street hockey, the way most kids in this region are introduced to the game. There was a red carpet entrance. The rock band KISS was in right field with their face paint and pyrotechnics. There was even the USC Marching Band.

It was an absolute spectacle. And it was awesome.

Legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully welcomed the crowd and introduced the teams to a standing ovation from the crowd as the players walked through a palm tree lined entrance created in center field. It had to be Scully, as no other voice in that setting would have been appropriate other than his.

And then entered Wayne Gretzky, The Great One, the one person who has had the largest influence on the state of hockey in California. Kings fans and Ducks fans alike agree that without “The Trade”, there would not be, among other things, an outdoor hockey game happening in Los Angeles.

Gretzky stood between Kings captain Dustin Brown and Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf and dropped the ceremonial puck that represented the culmination of 25 years of unprecedented growth in the sport in California. This was clearly more than just a regular season game for this region, these teams and their fans. It was the recognition that California hockey has truly become a force to be reckoned with.

All of the production and flash aside, there was a game to be played and two points on the line. The Ducks entered this contest at the top of the league standings, having defeated the Kings at Honda Center just two nights before. The Kings came in trying to reverse their recent losing woes and find their scoring touch.

The Ducks got on the board early in the first period with a goal by Corey Perry and never looked back. They added a tally by Matt Beleskey and a late empty net goal by Andrew Cogliano as the boys in bright orange defeated the Kings 3-0. Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller was an absolute wall, pitching a shut out in front of the announced 54,099 in attendance (an obvious nod to 99 himself). The Ducks raised their sticks in salute to their fans as fireworks shot into the night sky.

After the game, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was peppered with questions about future outdoor games such as this, and while he was hesitant to give any insight into the league’s plans, it’s apparent that this format can work well, in most any region. While some feel that too much of a good thing could take away from the uniqueness of this type of event, I think that each market should get the chance to experience this in some form. The players loved it. The fans loved it. And no matter how many outdoor games were played prior to the one in Dodger Stadium, there was nothing that compared to seeing an outdoor game happen in our own SoCal backyard.

As I left the ballpark that night, I lingered a bit on the top deck, looking down again on the memorable night that was, grateful for the opportunity to be a part of history.

It was 25 years ago that I graduated high school, just a few months before Gretzky arrived in Los Angeles and changed the face of California hockey forever. Looking back, I never would have imagined that this is where hockey would be today in the state I call home. But it is a beautiful sight to see.

At every level, from youth to pro, the sport is the strongest it has ever been. And it’s continuing to grow. Kids from California are getting their start in hockey here and are not only going on to play in NCAA Div 1 programs, but are being drafted by NHL teams. The future of the sport here is bright.

I’m glad my home state finally got its moment in the hockey spotlight. Maybe this will put us one step closer to dropping the idea that California is “not a viable hockey market.” It most certainly is.

The history of hockey here may not be as storied or as celebrated or have as many years in the books as in some other regions. And that’s okay.

I think that hockey fans in California realize that while there’s something special about having history in the sport that you love, there may be something even more special about being a part of making history in that sport.

And those at Dodger Stadium that night got to do just that.

Well done, California. I’ve never been more proud to be a native, and a hockey fan, than I am today.

 

 

In case you missed Five for Fighting’s performance during the second intermission, you’ll want to check out this unique version of their song “100 Years” and the emotional tribute video that accompanied it. Be sure to listen for the shout out to Teemu. Awesome.

Anaheim Ducks Launch Top Flight Street Hockey League

We here at When Girls Love Hockey enjoy shining the spotlight on all the fantastic grass roots programs and education initiatives that the Anaheim Ducks provide for our community in an effort to grow the sport of hockey. Their commitment to this effort has introduced the game to thousands of local kids and adults and has drastically changed the landscape of hockey in Southern California.

And now, through THE RINKS program, they’ve added a new experience to their already comprehensive offering with the introduction of the Top Flight Street Hockey League, a hockey league designed specifically for players with special needs.

This eight-week program is for participants of all ages and abilities, and will teach the fundamentals of the sport, like shooting, passing and stick handling, through weekly group clinics and games. The program will take place on Fridays beginning Friday, January 10, 2014, from 5:30–6:30pm at THE RINKS – Huntington Beach Inline.

Now in its second season, the league got its start last fall through a three-week Learn to Play clinic held for special needs participants that focused on introducing the fundamentals of street hockey. The response to the clinic was so great that it was determined that there was a real need for a program like this to serve the local special needs community.

“After the completion of our Learn to Play clinic, we received an enormous amount of positive feedback, with parents and players asking, ‘What’s next?’ That’s how the Top Flight League was born,” says Marketing Manager for THE RINKS, Jesse Chatfield. “We then offered an eight-week fall season and the response has been tremendous.”

The fall season saw 25 participants, and Chatfield says that he expects 30-40 participants for the winter season. He went on to say that the goal is to offer the eight-week sessions four times a year, and depending on demand, possibly additional nights and locations.

With support and funding from the Anaheim Ducks Foundation, the $89 registration fee for the eight-week season includes a stick that the participants can keep, as well as a jersey, a team photo, and a trophy.

The rink used at the Huntington Beach Inline location is fully accessible for all players requiring a wheelchair or other mobility assistance. The approach includes segmenting the players into teams by age, ability and functioning level. There is typically one coach for each four or five participants, and parents or other family members who typically assist those who need one-on-one attention are welcome on the rink.

So if you have a family member or friend you think might be interested in this new street hockey program, pass the information along. There aren’t many things better than giving kids, no matter their ability, the chance to learn how to play this great sport.

For more information on the Top Flight Street Hockey League, click here or visit the-rinks.com/topflight.

And to register for the eight-week session beginning January 10, 2014, click here.

**Images courtesy of THE RINKS

Reflection

As December quickly comes to a close, I find myself, as most people do, reflecting back on the on the moments and memories that defined the year for me.

And as my mind carefully rolled over each piece of my 2013 story, I realized that this year was the first year in a long while that was filled with both extremely intense highs and lows.

There were so many positive things that happened for me, both personally and professionally. And it seemed that for each of those wonderful days I experienced, there were other days that were equally as difficult. It made for one very dynamic and emotional year.

One of the moments that stands out for me happened just a few weeks ago when I flew east to the city of Boston to watch the Ducks play as they visited the Bruins at TD Garden.

But in all honesty, my trip there had less to do with hockey and much more to do with keeping my emotional sanity.

The months leading up to that October trip were hard months. I spent most of my summer dealing health issues, and for those of you who live with chronic disease of any kind, you know the struggles that can accompany that battle.

At the same time, I came alongside my friend as she and her family dealt with some news that both broke our hearts and stretched our faith in ways I could have never imagined.

So during a time when I am typically recharging my batteries on the sand and under the sun of our beautiful Orange County beaches, I was instead riding an emotional rollercoaster that about gave me whiplash with its twists and turns.

It was exhausting.

When September and the new school year arrived, instead of being refreshed and rejuvenated, I was depleted and dry.

And as the calendar crept closer to Halloween and I stared down that quickly approaching tunnel of holiday chaos, it felt like a vice grip on my head, tightening with each day.

A friend recently referenced it as “living on the very edge of the envelope.” And I had been living on the edge of that envelope for far too long. I knew I needed to do something.

At about that same time, the opportunity came up for me to go to Boston and attend the Ducks/Bruins game with full media access.

So it took it.

At a time when I was weary, and craved some time away, I did something I had never done—I took a trip, by myself, doing something that I love, so that I could take care of me.

It was amazing. And it did wonders for my soul.

The Boston air was clear and crisp and cool. I caught the very end of the glorious colors that blanket that part of the country during the fall season, and for this California girl, it was captivating.

I filled my days there with experiences unique to the city and its love for the sport of hockey. I rode the subway to North Station. I had lunch at one of the most popular sports bars in the country, The Fours, where I ate a “Bobby Orr” steak and cheese sandwich. And then I visited the defenseman’s famous statue that sits out in front of the arena, capturing the moment of his game-winning overtime goal against the St. Louis Blues to clinch the 1970 Stanley Cup.

I sat in the black and gold seats of the lower bowl for the Ducks morning skate, and spoke with head coach Bruce Boudreau and some of the players in the dressing room following their practice.

A huge, impressive space, TD Garden may be a newer arena, but it is filled from end to end with countless reminders of the Bruins rich 90-year history and the club’s undeniable contribution to the NHL. And the entire organization was welcoming.

That night, I watched the October 31 tilt between two of the best teams in the league seated next to one of my dearest friends, Shawn Hutcheon, who covers the Bruins for The Fourth Period. There isn’t anyone I know personally who knows more about the game of hockey than Shawn. Despite the Ducks’ shootout loss, it was an honor to watch our teams play alongside him.

I tried my best to take it all in, grateful for every moment. And being able to have a short break from my typical responsibilities at home brought some healing to my body, heart and mind that I desperately needed.

When I arrived home to the hugs of my husband and daughters, I was thankful for the time away, but I knew this is where I needed to be. I had a few tinges of “mommy guilt” during those four days, but you know what? My girls were fine. They enjoyed Halloween with their friends, just like they do each year. They got extra helpings of “daddy/daughter” time. And their eyes were opened just a bit to “all that mommy does around here.” I call that a win.

As I think back over that adventure, with a much clearer head, I’m grateful for all I experienced and how it changed me for the better.

I’m thankful for friends who are even more wonderful in person than they are over the miles, and for those same friends who get me and my love for the sport of hockey.

I’m thankful for my husband, who understands me well enough to know that I needed to make that trip, and for family and friends who graciously stepped in to help with my girls. I couldn’t have (and wouldn’t have) done it without their support.

I think taking time to reflect back on what has happened over the course of a year is a good thing. I learned that it is often in the difficult times that we do the most growing, something I already knew, but lived out in a very real way this year. I learned that solitude is not a bad thing, and neither is setting aside some time to take care of ourselves.

And most of all, I discovered that for each dark day, there is a bright day ahead. I’m grateful for all of them, every moment—the good days and the hard days—for it is in the weaving together of these moments that we make a life.

Anaheim Ducks, Lady Ducks Host Shopping Sprees for Students from The Wooden Floor

‘Tis the season for giving and the Anaheim Ducks take these words seriously when it comes to the holidays in Orange County.

A couple of weeks ago they made their annual visit to CHOC Children’s where they handed out Wild Wingers Kids Club Kits and put smiles on the faces of some very brave kids.

And this past week, the Ducks organization hosted not one, but TWO shopping sprees for the students at The Wooden Floor.

The Wooden Floor is an after-school program located in Santa Ana that uses the art of dance to break the cycle of poverty for local, low-income youth. With 375 students enrolled annually, they have found that dance education and performance can transform the way these students see themselves, leading to higher academic success, better self-esteem and an improved family life.

And most importantly, the doors open for them to attend college, something that is just a dream for many of these kids. But through The Wooden Floor, it becomes a reality. Since 2005, 100 percent of their graduates have completed high school and gone on to college, something achieved by only 35 percent of their socioeconomic peers.

To say that The Wooden Floor changes lives is an understatement. I’m a huge supporter of the arts and the impact it can have on our lives. This program reinforces my belief. I’m a big fan.

Last week, Ducks players Dustin Penner and Andrew Cogliano took 10 of these students to Toys “R” Us in Tustin to give them a Christmas they otherwise would not have.

The idea came from Penner, who has done this sort of giving in the past, and he asked Cogliano to join him. Penner showed up in the best ugliest Christmas sweater and hat ever, complete with music and lights. He and Cogliano grabbed a couple of carts and took the kids around the store as they picked out toys and presents not only for themselves, but also for their families. The $1,500 price tag for the day was completely paid for by the two players.

For 10-year-old, Jose Rea it was an opportunity of a lifetime.

“This is fantastic,” said the 4th grader. “I picked out some clothes and a Nerf gun. One for me and one for my brother.”

And for Jose’s mother, Angeles Castro, the shopping spree was a true blessing during what has been a hard time for them financially.

“I almost didn’t believe my husband when he told me Jose had been chosen for this event,” said Castro. “I wasn’t sure I’d have enough gas money to get here today. We didn’t have a way to buy presents this year. But we are blessed and so grateful for The Wooden Floor and the Anaheim Ducks.”

Cogliano was happy to be able to join Penner this year in the giving.

“Penner asked me if I wanted to help and this is the perfect way to give back,” said Cogliano. “I enjoyed Christmas as a kid, and I know that this shopping spree is important for these kids. It’s a good way to put a smile on their faces.”

And Penner knows that giving like this has a huge impact on these families.

“I do different things at 31 than I did at 21,” said Penner. “I know that an event like this is a big deal for these families. I’m happy to help give them a Christmas. This is what it’s all about.”

Director of Communications and Marketing at The Wooden Floor, Payal Kumar Avellan, spoke to some of the long-term effects on the students that can come from attending an event like this.

“It definitely plays into the long-term mentoring for these kids,” said Kumar Avellan. “The fact that these professional hockey players spent their own time and money on them shows them that they matter and are important.

“These kids rarely get the best. But today, they got two of the best hockey players, the best toys and the best experience. It goes a long way toward building their self-esteem. And it means they can have a Christmas.”

These 10 students walked out of the store with some gifts for under the tree, a Wild Wingers Kids Club kit, and the knowledge that they are special.

The following week, it was the Lady Ducks turn, as wives and girlfriends of the players and broadcasters had a ‘girls day” with some of the female students from The Wooden Floor and took them on a shopping spree at Wal-Mart in Irvine.

Ten girls, ages eight to 17, spent some quality time alongside the ladies, including Paige Getzlaf, Avery Lovejoy and Angela Hayward, picking out clothes and shoes for school, beauty supplies, and Christmas gifts for their friends and families.

Vanessa Mendez, a high school freshman who is in her sixth year at The Wooden Floor, was very happy for the opportunity.

“It’s exciting meeting the Lady Ducks,” said Mendez. “They’ve all been so nice and helpful as we’re trying to find gifts for our family and friends.”

Vanessa’s mother, Teresa, said she knows Vanessa was thrilled to be chosen for the shopping spree.

“I know Vanessa could hardly sleep the night before. She could use some more clothes and considers herself very blessed to be here. We couldn’t be more thankful.”

The girls each picked out several clothing items and took turns at the dressing rooms to make sure everything was a perfect fit. Overwhelmed at times with what they were being given, it was evident in their eyes that this generosity came at just the right time for them. The $2,500 spent that day on the students was funded by both the Anaheim Ducks and the Lady Ducks.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to work with and connect with the community,” said Paige Getzlaf, wife of Ducks captain, Ryan Getzlaf. “We all love to shop, but even more, we know that this event is really helping these girls.”

Much like the visits to CHOC, it’s these moments of connection with local kids that leave the most impact, not only on these students and their families, but on the fans who appreciate seeing their team support these worthy causes.

Thank you again, Anaheim Ducks, for your dedication and time spent off the ice supporting our community.

I’ve said it before; I think hockey people are some of the best people out there.

 

 

Bottom photo courtesy of Edie Layland

Anaheim Ducks ‘Reading is the Goal’ Day

At Arovista Elementary in Brea, each week starts off with a “Monday Message”, a concept that the students and staff can focus on for that week that helps not only with learning but also with building character.

This week’s “Monday Message” for the Arovista Allstars was about gratitude, and the kids had the perfect opportunity to show their gratitude this week as their school was selected for the seventh annual Ducks S.C.O.R.E. Reading is the Goal Day.

Over 20 Ducks Power Players and staff members visited the classrooms on the Pre-K through 6th grade campus to read to the kids, answer questions and show how important reading and literacy is for all ages and career paths.

“Having the Ducks organization come into the classroom and read to the kids shows them that reading continues throughout their lives,” said early elementary teacher, Mrs. Worthington. “It teaches them that reading a big part of lifelong learning.”

And what’s an Anaheim Ducks event without a little hockey, right? So during lunch recess, the kids had the opportunity to play some street hockey out on the playground. For some of these kids, it was the first time they’d picked up a stick. And from the way they clamored for their turn on the blacktop, it was evident that this was unique experience for them.

After lunch, the 4th, 5th and 6th graders gathered in the school’s multi-purpose room for an assembly hosted by Ducks television host Kent French that featured Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin and forward Nick Bonino reading Brady Brady and the Twirlin’ Torpedo to the more than 250 kids.

The title is from a set of children’s books by Mary Shaw that follows the hockey-playing adventures of Brady and his team, the Icehogs.

In this story, Brady’s friend Tes joins the team, but not without some teasing from opponents who don’t think a girl should be out on the ice playing hockey. Brady and the rest of her teammates came to her defense, proving that no matter who you are, you should be able to pursue what you love.

After reading, Beauchemin and Bonino took some questions from the kids and spoke to everything from their love for hockey at a young age, to what it feels like to be slammed into the boards, to the influence their family, especially their fathers, have had on their careers.

Arovista Principal Karen VanDine could not have been more grateful for the Ducks, their time at the school and their support of literacy.

“For the kids to see these athletes come out and read to them shows how much the Ducks support literacy and reading,” said VanDine. “The message to the students is just huge.”

As a participating school in the Ducks S.C.O.R.E Program since its inception in 2005, 4th grade teacher Tammi O’Rourke knows how much the 30-day Reading is the Goal incentive program motivates the kids.

“We are kicking off the [Reading is the Goal] program here next week, and I know that after seeing the Ducks here today, the kids will be motivated,” said O’Rourke.

And as for the players who came to the school after morning practice, they were pleased to be able to help spread the word about literacy.

“I started devouring books at a young age,” said Bonino, who is an avid reader and reads at least two books a week. “I’ll read everything; fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, whatever sounds interesting. I have my Nook that I keep in my suit pocket when we’re on the road. I’ve read for so long, I love it.”

“I think it’s a great event for us to come here and show that reading is important,” said Beauchemin, who says he’s often reading to his own kids. “Maybe some of them see us play on television, but for them to see hockey players here reading to them, hopefully they will see how important it is.”

As the day came to a close, the Ducks presented Arovista Elementary with a full set of street hockey equipment, a basket of hockey-themed books for the school’s library and a framed jersey signed by the team.

So the Arovista Allstars came away that day with not only an appreciation for the Ducks and for how reading and literacy can open doors for their future, but also with the opportunity to live out their “Monday Message” of gratitude.

“We’ve been so excited to have the Ducks here today. They’ve been so generous and this event aligns perfectly with our ‘Monday Message’ to the student about gratitude,” said VanDine. “What a wonderful example to set for the kids when it comes to literacy.”

 

For more information on Reading is the Goal and the Anaheim Ducks S.C.O.R.E. Program, visit ducksscore.com

Anaheim Ducks Spread Some Holiday Cheer at CHOC Children’s

It’s the “most wonderful time of the year,” right?

And it can also be the busiest…

And the craziest…

And the most stressful.

And without fail, just when I begin to feel overwhelmed by the holidays and all of the stressful madness, I get knocked back into reality with a healthy dose of perspective.

That perspective came my way this week when I joined the Anaheim Ducks for their annual visit to CHOC Children’s, a time when the players take a few moments out of their hockey-playing schedules to spread some holiday cheer and put smiles on the faces of some brave and inspiring kids.

For many of the players, it was their first time inside CHOC’s new $560 million, 426,000 square foot Bill Holmes Tower and they were duly impressed. The seven-story addition houses critical patient services dedicated exclusively to pediatrics, such as emergency services, radiology/imaging, lab services and the CHOC Children’s Heart Institute. It makes an already fantastic facility that provides crucial services to our community even better.

Before the players headed up to see the kids, Ducks players Ben Lovejoy, Jonas Hiller and Cam Fowler stepped inside Seacrest Studios to do a segment for the hospital’s in-house radio station.

Then the team broke up into groups, and with Wild Wingers Kids Club kits in hand, they went to visit some of the kids who are spending at least part of their holiday season in the hospital.

I joined Ducks players Teemu Selanne, Corey Perry, Dustin Penner, Sheldon Souray, Nick Bonino, Andrew Cogliano and Daniel Winnik as they donned their Santa hats and made their way to the 3rd Floor of the tower.

This was my third time attending this event and I’m always emotionally overwhelmed at how gracious and thankful the kids and families are who get a few minutes with these local hockey heroes.

Some of the kids couldn’t wait to put on their Viktor Fasth t-shirts and goalie masks from the kits. Some of the kids just enjoyed chatting with the players. And the players, especially Teemu Selanne, Sheldon Souray and Dustin Penner, were so great about engaging not only with the patients, but also with the parents, siblings and other family members who are there each day with the kids.

And even if the kids weren’t die-hard hockey fans, it didn’t matter. They were still excited to have some visitors and receive some Ducks gear. For many of these kids, the Kids Club kits provide their first exposure to hockey and the chance to attend their first game. For all of them, it was a bright spot in an otherwise challenging and isolating day.

The duration of stay for these patients ranges from just a few days to several weeks. And while they all hope to be home in time for Christmas, it was clear that their parents’ only hope this holiday was for health for their child. And if that means staying at CHOC a little longer than expected, then so be it.

I always walk away from this event with a renewed sense of perspective that is much needed during this holiday season. And it hit a little closer to home for me, as not even 48 hours after I left the hospital, the son of one of my dearest friends was admitted to CHOC for an unexpected surgery.

Within a couple of hours of his arrival, he had a Wild Wingers Kids Club kit in his hands. For a four-year-old who is about to face some pretty scary things, it was a welcomed gift that made him smile. And I know it calmed the hearts of his parents as well, even if for a moment.

So it may be a very stressful time of the year, but it’s also a time where I thankfully am forced into some moments that take my focus off of the frenzy and put it back on what matters. I have much to be grateful for, and I’m proud of the Ducks, their longstanding relationship with CHOC and all they do for the kids there who could use some extra joy this holiday season.

You can join the Anaheim Ducks during the month of December in their giving to CHOC by participating in the club’s 8th annual Kits for Kids Donation Drive. Help share the great sport of hockey and put a smile on a child’s face by donating a Wild Wingers Kids Club kit.

Visit anaheimducks.com/choc for more details and to donate online.

Anaheim Ducks Holiday Toy Drive

Looking for a way to do some giving this holiday season?

Then consider joining the Anaheim Ducks as they celebrate the holiday season by putting smiles on the faces of local kids.

At each Ducks home game before Christmas, the club will hold their annual Anaheim Ducks Toy Drive where the Lady Ducks (wives and significant others) will be collecting new and unwrapped toys, games and books to support the Spark of Love Toy Drive with the Anaheim Fire Department and ABC7.

Toy collections will take place beginning Tuesday, December 3 as the Ducks host their cross-town rivals, the Los Angeles Kings, at Honda Center, and also at home games on December 9, December 11 and December 15.

Each person that donates a toy at a game will receive a raffle ticket for the chance to win a 2013-14 Ducks team autographed stick that will be given away at each of the four Toy Drive games.

Not able to make any of the games before Christmas? Fans will also have the opportunity to donate toys at all RINKS locations or the new Ducks Team Store.

Just bring your new and unwrapped toy, book or game to any of the seven RINKS locations (Anaheim ICE, Corona Inline, Huntington Beach Inline, Irvine Inline, Lakewood ICE, Westminster ICE, Yorba Linda ICE) or the Ducks Team Store at Honda Center and receive a 2-for-1 public skating pass good at any of the RINKS locations.

Also, head over to Anaheim ICE on Wednesday, December 18 as the Ducks alumni will be on hand to host a Holiday Toy Drive Skate Party.

So if you’re headed out to Honda Center or the RINKS over the next few weeks, bring along a toy and help brighten the season for children in our community. It’s also a great way to involve your own kids in the giving process.

During a time that is often too busy and filled with too much stuff, taking some time to shift the focus can be as rewarding for the giver as it is for the receiver.

Honda Center’s New Grand Terrace

As the Anaheim Ducks celebrate their 20th anniversary this season, Honda Center too is celebrating their 20th year, and with that, the unveiling of a new $20 million, 15,000 square foot expansion, the first of its kind since the building opened its doors in 1993.

With two enormous state-of-the-art screens, Wolfgang Puck’s new restaurant (set to open later this fall), and the new Ducks Team Store Powered by Reebok, fans will have a completely new experience as they approach the entrance to the building.

Above the entrance plaza is the Grand Terrace, a restaurant/bar/patio area that fans, and concertgoers, can enjoy before they attend their event.

I’ve been able to visit the Grand Terrace restaurant and patio a couple of times this season, and while it’s accessible only to season ticket holders who purchase access, it’s a fantastic space that makes for a unique hockey-going experience.

On Opening Night, I sampled some of the food inside the restaurant alongside Juan Flores with the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor and Convention Bureau. (You can read his thorough review of the restaurant here.)

I was particularly fond of the Bourbon Glazed Pork Tenderloin, one of the many “Big Share” items on the menu that is large enough for a couple of people to enjoy. And the mac ‘n cheese that came with the smoked BBQ ribs was amazing. There’s a sushi bar as well, and while I’m not a fan of sushi, Juan said he really enjoyed the Honda Center Rolls.

I visited the Grand Terrace again last week when the Ducks took on Vancouver, and this time, my husband and I sat out on the patio. We tried the fry basket (with bacon salt and truffle crème fraiche) and the margherita stone fired pizza. Both were delicious.

The finishes and furnishings are high-end, and the serving staff was great. The Ducks Live team from Fox Sports West has even taken a permanent spot out on the patio where they will broadcast before and after each Ducks home game.

But my favorite part about this addition is the space itself. I’m a firm believer in the concept that the built environment has a huge influence on how we process experiences, and that how a space is designed can influence whether we have positive or negative reactions.

And I don’t think you can have a more positive experience before a hockey game than to sit on the Grand Terrace patio, with its couches, fire pits, bar and great food and watch the sun set over Orange County in the background.

The new Team Store is just as impressive, over three times the size of the old store, and with plenty of great items, including several throwback products celebrating the club’s 20th anniversary.

It was so crowded on Opening Night that I had to come back another time to be able to take it all in without the crowds. And I can see why it’s been so popular, as this shiny new space is a merchandise dream for fans of the Ducks.

In addition to all of the unique products for sale, the store features graphics and images in a timeline format along the ceiling space that highlight the many milestones of the team over the past 20 years. There’s also a Stanley Cup replica engraved with the names of the 2007 championship team and interactive video touch screens where fans can watch and listen to highlight clips of the Cup celebration.

As I typically do, I enjoyed the details of the space, things like the player-used sticks that line the ceiling, pointing to the Stanley Cup replica. And the Anaheim Ducks Foundation Wall that features personalized pucks that fans had the opportunity to purchase last spring. It didn’t take me long to spot the puck my mom had purchased and it’s a great feeling to have my family represented there.

In spite of their rough road trip, the Ducks are still near the top of the Pacific Division and Western Conference, so you won’t want to miss their upcoming home games, starting Wednesday night when they host the New Jersey Devils.

I think the upgrades to Honda Center are successful (and much needed) in that they provide an inviting, comfortable way to expand the game experience beyond the arena seats. If you have the opportunity to visit the Grand Terrace, take it, and enjoy a unique way of experiencing hockey in SoCal.

And with the holidays upon us, you’ll want to stop by the new Team Store to do some of your holiday shopping. I know I will. And maybe I’ll pick up a few things for myself as well…..

For upcoming schedule and ticket information and promotions, visit anaheimducks.com/tickets

Go Ducks!!

Giveaway: Anaheim Ducks Die Hards Membership Kit

The Anaheim Ducks return tonight to Honda Center following their longest road trip of the season, an eight-game, 15-day East Coast swing that saw them visit two countries as they played eight different contests against Eastern Conference teams.

Injuries aside, it was highly successful, as the Ducks come home with a 5-2-1 record on the trip and an overall record of 12-3-1 and 25 points, good enough for the top spot in both the Pacific Division and the league.

Yes, you read that right. Tops in the league. Just wait until this team gets healthy….

As they return for a quick three-game homestand before hitting the road again, what better way to support this team than to join the Anaheim Ducks Die Hards?

The team’s Official Booster Club, the Die Hards are back with membership kits for the Anaheim Ducks “super fan” in your house. Led by the Die Hards Advisory Committee of Terri Ticer (Events Liaison), Ann Marie Hull (Game Day Liaison), Jennie Schueller (Treasurer) and Karen Sheffield (VIP Liaison), this year’s kit offers some awesome items commemorating the club’s 20th Anniversary, as well as invitations to exclusive events.

Your $50 membership includes:

20th Anniversary Jersey Sleeve Blanket

20th Anniversary Mighty Ducks/Anaheim Ducks Reversible Beanie

Captain’s Series Bobblehead Set, featuring Ryan Getzlaf and Paul Kariya Bobbleheads (a third Scott Niedermayer Bobblehead is available for purchase at the Team Store to complete your Captain’s Series)

Die Hards Keychain made from 2012-13 Honda Center Playoff Glass

Ducks Third Jersey Mouse pad

Die Hards Membership Card

Invitation to Two Die Hards Road Trips
—Thursday, December 5 – Sunday December 8 to Chicago and St. Louis as the Ducks take on the Blackhawks and the Blues
—Saturday, January 25 as the Ducks take on the Los Angeles Kings at Dodger Stadium at part of the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series

Invitation to Exclusive Die Hards Skate Party, Sunday, December 29 at Honda Center

Invitation to Watch Parties, Volunteer Events and the End of the Year Party

Membership Benefits to places such as Hockey Giant, Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor, Knott’s Berry Farm, SpeedZone and more.

In addition, at each Ducks home game you can find the Die Hards outside Section 214, where they offer “Puck for a Buck”, a chance for fans to purchase raffle tickets for $1 towards the opportunity to win a puck autographed by a Ducks player. All proceeds from this and all sales and fundraising activities benefit the Anaheim Ducks Foundation.

The Die Hards also offer some great volunteer opportunities and loyalty rewards with the chance to earn points towards great prizes, such as Ducks team signed jerseys and sticks, through their VIP Program.

And my favorite part about this group is their outreach to our community, specifically their support of CHOC Children’s. I joined them for the third time last month as the Die Hards participated in the 23rd Annual CHOC Walk in the Park at the Disneyland Resort.

Behind the great work of Die Hards Treasurer Jennie Schueller, close to 50 dedicated Ducks fans raised almost $9,000 and got up before the sun to join 16,000 walkers in raising $1.8 million to support the care, family services, education and research that CHOC provides for the children in our region. Even though it’s an early day, I’m always so touched by this event and am proud to join my fellow Ducks fans in supporting such a vital part of our community.

These memberships are sure to sell out, so order yours today by either visiting ducksdiehards.com to purchase and pick up at Section 214 at Honda Center during any Ducks home game, or just stop by Section 214 and purchase your kit on the spot. And be sure to connect with the Die Hards through social media via their Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Even better, how about entering here to win a membership? The Ducks have been generous enough to provide us here at When Girls Love Hockey with one (1) Die Hards Membership Kit for a lucky winner. Just leave a comment below to enter by Monday, November 11, 2013 at 9:00pm and I’ll pick a winner via random.org.

And don’t forget to plan a visit to Honda Center this week to cheer on our 1st place Ducks! Click here to purchase tickets.

Good Luck and Go Ducks!!

This contest is now closed.

Congratulations to Pierre and thank you all for entering!

Go Ducks!!

 

Anaheim Ducks Die Hards 2013 CHOC Walk

One of my favorite things about the arrival of fall, besides all things pumpkin and the start of the Anaheim Ducks hockey season, is participating in the CHOC Walk in the Park.

This will be my third year participating and I can’t wait to get out there and join my fellow Ducks fans with the team’s booster club, the Die Hards, for the 5K walk through Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Parks this Sunday, October 13.

Last year, more than 16,000 people gathered to walk the route at the crack of dawn and raising over $1.8 million in support of Orange County’s only freestanding Children’s Hospital.

The Anaheim Ducks have had a longstanding relationship of support with CHOC Children’s, through events and fundraisers each season like CHOC Night at Honda Center and the Lady Ducks Fashion Show along with a presence at the hospital at the Anaheim Ducks Wing in the 3rd Floor Oncology Unit.

This year, the Ducks Die Hards have a goal of raising $15,000 to support CHOC and help ensure that the kids in our community and beyond continue to get the best healthcare treatment possible.

And personally, this year I will be walking in honor of a neighbor of mine, 3 month old Emilee Rose.

She was born in July with a severe heart condition, a coarctation of the aorta, which required her to undergo open-heart surgery at just three days old.

It was a terrifying and faith-stretching time for Emilee’s family, as procedures like this at such a young age come with many risks. They were surrounded in prayer and support by their extended family, friends and neighbors, and even those who didn’t know the family personally, but had heard of Emilee’s story.

The amazing surgeons and staff at CHOC operated on her tiny heart, no bigger than the size of a walnut, corrected the issue with her aorta and saved her life. Nothing short of a miracle from God, I am absolutely certain.

I know the family has a hard time finding the words to express how grateful they are to CHOC for their part in giving their sweet baby girl another chance at life.

And their story is just one of many, as witnessed by the signs, t-shirts and balloons that make their way through the Disneyland Park each year in honor of the children, families and lives that CHOC has touched.

If you’d like to support me as I walk for Emilee in this year’s CHOC Walk and feel led to make a donation to our Anaheim Ducks Die Hards team, click here for my personal page and select “Donate Now”.

Thank you!! Go CHOC!! Go Ducks!!