It was a hot Saturday morning in Southern California, not the type of day most folks would want to spend inside an even hotter inline skating rink with no air conditioning, but they came anyway... and they were heavily rewarded.
The Huntington Beach Inline was the location of the second annual Shoot for the Cure. Former Ducks defenseman Joe DiPenta (of the infamous lasagna) helped found the event last year, which raises money for the Children's Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) Oncology Floor and the Anaheim Ducks Foundation, Inc. Kids in a number of age groups can enter to compete against each other in skill competitions such as fastest shot, best shootout, and accuracy categories.
Some of our favorite Duck players graciously donated their time to help coach the competitions and interact with the kids. For this year's event, Andrew Ebbett, my boy Bobby Ryan, Mike Brown, Brendan Mikkleson, and James Wisniewski were on hand.
There's just something amusing about a group of big guys in hockey jerseys, shorts, and flip flops...
Even if you didn't enter the competitions, general admission tickets would get you into the event to watch the competitions, enjoy a lunch provided by sponsor Chick-Fil-A, and the opportunity to win a number of raffle prizes and/or silent auctions. By the way, wear your Ducks gear into a Chick-Fil-A on Labor Day and get a free chicken sandwich.
The Chick-Fil-A cow garnered more enthusiasm from the younger crowd than the players did.
Yours truly arrived on scene with Rebel just before the players did. I ran into fellow Ducks blogger and friend Suz Broughton and her adorable kids.
Andrew Ebbett poses for a shot with Suz's kids... and some dude's shoulder that messed up my shot.
Sometimes I wish I had kids just so I could get famous hockey players to pose with them in pictures. That's not selfish, right?
The competitions were fun to watch, and you could tell the players were having just as much fun, if not more fun, than the kids!
Wiz trying to balance a rolling "puck" on his stick.
Andrew Ebbett coaching kids in one of the accuracy competitions.
Brendan Mikkleson: "Oh crap, you just hit that kid in the face!" (not really)
Bobby winds up as the guys goofed off competing with each other for the fastest shot.
Between the players, I think it was Wiz who won the fastest shot. He rocketed one of those orange rubber balls upwards of 75 mph... not easy to do when you're wearing flip flops! He raised his arms in victory while fans in the crowd cheered him. Then he raced off the rink...
When he returned, he was met by a small group of fans shyly asking for pictures and autographs. Yours truly has never had the opportunity to talk to Wiz and was pleasantly surprised as he stayed behind to chit chat, take pictures with, and sign autographs for every last fan that was waiting. Great guy, and I told him I was happy he managed to work something out with the Ducks despite the arbitration.
I've never met a Ducks player who wasn't the nicest guy in person. I love that about our Ducks!
Before the end of the event, I found out that Bobby does indeed remember me and has read these pages. I guess now he knows I expect a 40-goal season from him. Pressure's on! If this wasn't enough Duck to whet appetites for the upcoming season, the Fedorin Cup held later that afternoon would do the trick. Stay tuned!
"The biggest thing is just his poise and his hands are unbelievable. I played with [Evgeni] Malkin and [Sidney] Crosby, and those guys are probably the two best in the league. Bobby's hands are right with those guys... He's a superstar in the making, it seems."
---Ryan Whitney, former Ducks defenseman