In praise of Bobby Ryan

In praise of Bobby Ryan
"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

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Free agency begins

Wow, so did our Ducks do well with the draft and its headlining trades or what?? What do you make of the Pronger trade and our draft picks? Leave a comment, let me know your thoughts.

I've mentioned I'm sad to see Prongs go, but I think GM Bob Murray did an incredible job getting what could very likely be the better end of this trade. Pronger had only one more year on contract and, because he's Chris Pronger, he commands a pretty sizable chunk of cap space. We'd most likely lose him next year, after his contract ends and he becomes a free agent... and for absolutely nothing in return.

With this trade, we get ex-Duck Joffrey Lupul back, which is awesome because the guy has huge potential for second-line scoring. We get Luca Sbisa who sounds like he's going to be one helluva d-man, if not this upcoming season, then possibly the next. I kinda like the fact that he lived and trained in Switzerland. Reminds me of another Swiss Duck who turned out to be a huge find. *ahem*Hiller*ahem*

We also got another first round pick, which we traded for a slightly lower first round pick and a second round pick, which we didn't have before.

Damn, Murray, you rock!

Since the draft, I understand we've extended a year contract to Erik Christensen. I know he got a lot of flack last season, but I personally didn't think he did THAT bad. Once the kid's shoulder is healed, I'm looking to see some good play from him. I'm hearing we've also made James Wisniewski a good offer, and we're trying to re-sign Todd Marchant.

If we can get Wiz and Marchant, I won't feel as bad about losing Francois Beauchemin.

More likely than not, Beauch is going to get a great offer from another team. And, more likely than not, he's going to take that offer. So, I consider him gone.

This is what I would love our Ducks to look like going into training camp this September:
- Our Legion of Doom first line with Bobby Ryan, Corey Perry, and Ryan Getzlaf; and a good second scoring line with Teemu Selanne, Joffrey Lupul, and Andrew Ebbett/Ryan Carter/Drew Miller
- Excellent defensive pairings with Scotty/Sbisa, Wiz/Ryan Whitney, and Brett Festerling/Sheldon Brookbank
- A power killing line with Marchant
- An energy/shut down line with Mike Brown and George Parros

Looks like a team that might have a shot at the 2009-2010 Cup, don't you think?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

More breaking news...

This morning started off with a bang! More Duck news...

1) Teemu Selanne has decided to return to the Ducks for another season! Whoo, the Finnish Flash, back in a Ducks' jersey. How great is that?

2) So, with Selanne and Niedermayer, we're not looking too shabby. Yes, we've lost Pronger, and my heart goes out to him because I know he's gone on record numerous times to say he really wanted to stay in Anaheim, but I wish the big guy the best of luck in the Eastern Conference. You know he'll be put up against big guns like Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, and Evgeni Malkin. Hats off to ya, Prongs, and maybe we'll see you back with the Ducks in the future.

3) With their 2nd round pick, 37th overall, the Ducks went with defenseman Matt Clark. Stats-wise, the boy looks promising with 23 points and a +21 rating in 63 games.

4) In the 3rd round with the 76th pick, the Ducks took goaltender Igor Bobkov. He's a big guy at 6'4" and, with an impressive under-19 World Championship record, sounds like a promising future goalie.

5) The 4th round 106th pick went to defenseman Sami Vatanen from Finland. He calls the Ducks his favorite team and Scottie his favorite player. That kid must be pretty stoked.

6) For the 136th pick, in round 5, Anaheim went with center Radoslav Illo. At this point, I really don't know anything about these kids, but hears hoping Bob Murray does!

7) Lastly, in round 6 (Anaheim's round 7 pick went to Philly), 166th overall, the Ducks took Ottawa native d-man Scott Valentine.

So those boys are the Ducks future. Hopefully the next Scott Niedermayer or Ryan Getzlaf is in the heart of one of these diamonds in the rough?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Breaking news...

Oh my gosh... I knew something big was going to happen today, and here we go:

1) Scotty Niedermayer has told Bob Murray that he wants to return to play for the Ducks.

2) A trade has gone down between the Philly Flyers and the Ducks for Chris Pronger. Dunno who we are getting for him, but wow. Look out Eastern Conference, Pronger's playing on your ice.

3) For Pronger, we're getting Joffrey Lupul, defenseman Luca Sbisa (who was Philly's first round pick last year), this year's first round pick and next year's first round pick. Honestly, I think we got a very good deal. But it's imperative now that we re-sign James Wisniewski!

4) Okay, we also lost prospect Ryan Dingle in that Pronger trade. Hmm... Maybe Murray can get Frankie Beauchemin to put off his free agency exploration until next year with a good deal and a promise that Scotty will play?

5) Word has it that Lupul is stoked to come back to Anaheim. Interestingly enough, we traded him for Pronger way back when... and now he's coming back FOR Pronger. How ironic is that?

6) Ducks take center Peter Holland with their 15th place pick. Admittedly, I don't know anything about this boy except his basic stats. He's 6'2", 190 lbs... big guy, much in Duck-style. He also sounds very eloquent in his interview. Hopefully we got a good one with him, although realistically, he might not play until 2010.

7) Ducks take center/right wing Kyle Palmieri with their traded 26th place pick. He's headed for the college circuit next season, so we won't see him for a while.

More to come! Day two coverage tomorrow...

Draft Day 2009

The action is about to begin in less than an hour.

I've never really followed the draft that much. I mean, I always find it more amusing to see the draft coverage a few years later, once you know what has (or hasn't) happened with those touted draft picks.

But today, I'll be watching/listening just in case there's any word about Scott Niedermayer, Teemu Selanne, or Chris Pronger. I'm sensing there's going to be some big deals and trades going down with our Ducks roster and I'm anxious to see who we're going to look forward to seeing in training camp come September.

Bob Murray, I have faith in you. Make it good!

Go Ducks!!!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

NHL Awards 2009 (Part 1)

First, a warning. The following post is going to be really heavy on the photos, so if you're cursed with a slower internet connection, you might want to give it a few minutes to load.

When I wrote the second to last post, I had no idea the day would hold as many great surprises as it did. I navigated the shuttle and monorail systems of Las Vegas to get myself to the Rio casino, and then walked the rest of the way to the Palms, where this year's NHL Awards ceremony was taking place.

It was HOT out, but it's June and we're in the middle of the desert. What do you expect? There was a red carpet ceremony planned before the awards show. Fans were invited to show up to see their favorite players and give them some good old-fashioned star treatment and, since the red carpet wasn't an outrageous 500 bucks a head, yours truly intended to be there right up against the barricade.

I did get a great place to stand. I was in the shade (which made for some bad lighting photo-wise, but nothing a little Photoshop can't correct) and right across the red carpet from Frenchie, my blog buddy Adam Brady, and the Element "camera crew."

The Red Carpet before the stars/players arrived


Fans anxiously awaiting

Thank goodness there was a Master of Ceremonies. He announced the players and stars as they arrived. As much as I know and love my Ducks, some of the other hockey greats are a little less recognizable to me. After all, I'm from SoCali where there's practically no hockey coverage in the media... the average resident barely recognizes a hockey puck, more or less a hockey player.

For as close as I got to some of the players, I wished I had something for them to sign. A lot of these guys are current hockey greats. Especially living in SoCali, I'll probably never get a chance to see them up close like this ever again. I did what I could, and put Rebel to work. (I hate to say it, but I have to. Please don't use any of my pictures without my permission/giving credit, thanks!)

Pittsburgh Penguins Evgeni Malkin, Max Talbot, and coach Dan Bylsma - 2009 Stanley Cup winners!

These guys needed no introduction. Ex-Duck Dan Bylsma, now the coach for the Pittsburgh Pens, held the Stanley Cup out for the fans to see. This is the first time I've ever seen the cup in person, how awesome is that! I didn't get to touch it, but that's okay. I approached Bylsma, sans Cup, later in the day for an autograph. I congratulated him on doing such a great job with the Pens, and told him I'd liked him as a Duck too... it was icing on the cake that he'd get his name on the Cup. He laughed as he signed and gave my arm an affectionate nudge afterwards.

Penguins Coach Dan Bylsma and Lord Stanley

Penguins man of the moment, Max Talbot

Max was the nicest guy, jumping over velvet ropes and camera cables to sign autographs for the Pens fans standing next to me. There were two adorable little boys in Penguins t-shirts, which he signed as the boys were lifted over the barricade. Max is a little hard to recognize without his playoff beard, but this is the guy who scored the winning goal against the Detroit Red Wings in that final game 7. He snatched the Stanley Cup right out of their greasy mitts... and that makes Max all good in my book!

San Jose Sharks Jeremy Roenick

Roenick was high-exposure during this year's awards. He heavily promoted them beforehand, and even threw a pool party for fans and players after awards day. My Ducks stole what might have been his last chance at a Stanley Cup title, having knocked them out of the playoffs in the first round. I feel a little bad for Jeremy because a Cup would have been a nice way to end a 20-year NHL career, but if my Ducks hadn't knocked the Sharks out, someone else would have.

Columbus Blue Jackets hot rookie goaltender, Steve Mason

Who is the guy in front, anyone know? The guy behind him, in the purple tie, is Chicago Blackhawks rookie Kris Versteeg, and behind him, Boston Bruins goaltender Manny Fernandez

Both Mason and Versteeg were nominated along with my favorite boy Bobby Ryan for the Calder trophy (best rookie) this year. As much as I wanted Bobby to win it, I kinda knew Mason would take it home. Both Bobby and Versteeg knew this too, saying they didn't have speeches prepared. Mason, on the other hand, whipped his out.

Boston Bruins other goaltender, Tim Thomas

Tim and his counterpart Manny Fernandez were awarded the Jennings Trophy for letting in the fewest goals this season. I believe Tim also took home the Vezina, for best goalkeeper. He was super nice when I approached him for his autograph later in the day.

My favorite hockey player, Bobby Ryan

The jersey Bobby's signing has a little story... I'll get to it later. Nominated for the Calder, I noticed how friendly Bobby was, doing every interview asked of him and jumping over ropes and cables to sign things for the fans. I think it took the boy over fifteen minutes to walk the entire red carpet. Good job, Bobby, enjoy this moment. You earned every second of it!

New Jersey Devils left winger Zach Parise

Parise was nominated for the Lady Byng Memorial trophy, which goes to a player exhibiting "sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct." I always find this laughable. Gentlemanly conduct? We're talking about hockey, right?

Edmonton Oilers Ethan Moreau (left, in the grey suit)

Moreau took home the King Clancy Memorial trophy, awarded for leadership qualities and for being a huge contributor to the community. I don't know much about Moreau, but just the fact that he won this trophy speaks volumes about his character. A Duck has never won this one, but I'd love to see it happen.

Minnesota Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom

Nik Backstrom was nominated for the Vezina along with Mason. Another really nice guy, he went out of his way to sign an autograph for me later that evening. As I thanked him, he smiled and said it was neat to see so many fans come out. Too bad he didn't win. I love finding out just how down to earth some of these hockey players are. Here they are, incredibly talented athletes, and yet they are so humble and sweet when you meet them in person. I don't think any other sport can boast that about its players.

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Robert Luongo

Luongo was one of ten finalists, and the winner, for the Scotiabank/NHL Fan Fav award. This is the first-ever fan chosen award for the best overall player in the league. I'd love to see a Duck be at least one of the ten finalists for this one too.

Old-time hockey legend Stan Mikita

Calgary Flames captain Jerome Iginla

Taking home the Mark Messier NHL Leadership award, Iginla was another one of those nice guys who took a long time to get down the red carpet because he stopped for so many fans wanting autographs and media wanting interviews.

The back of Detroit Red Wings' captain Niklas Lidstrom

Like any other place, there were tons of Wings fans in attendance. They screamed mercilessly for Lidstrom's attention, but he quickly walked the red carpet with his family in tow. I was lucky to get this shot. Lidstrom's avoidant behavior stood out in stark contrast to that of the awesome players before him who had jumped over camera equipment to get to the fans. He was nominated for the best defenseman Norris trophy, but I believe Boston Bruins Zdeno Chara won, snapping Lidstrom's three-year reign.

Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara

Director Jerry Bruckheimer

Singer Michael Buble

Battlestar Galactica actress Tricia Helfer

There were a number of non-hockey stars in attendance as well. They justified their presence by claiming they were huge hockey fans. I don't know about you, but I just can't see Chaka Khan banging her fists against the glass at a hockey game.

Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien

San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan

McLellan and Julien, along with St. Louis Blues coach Andy Murray, were all nominees for the best coach Jack Adams award. Like Bylsma, I got a chance to talk to both McLellan and Murray later on in the day and, like Bylsma, both were simply awesome guys. McLellan put a conversation on hold to greet me, sign an autograph, and ask me if I was having a fun time. Murray, while signing autographs, thanked each of us fans personally for even asking him for an autograph! "It's an honor to be asked, thank you!" he smiled broadly.

Chicago Blackhawks Patrick Kane

Kane was on hand to help present the Calder trophy, which he won last year. He sang the praises of teammate Kris Versteeg, but we know Mason won that one. Even so, Versteeg, Mason, and Bobby Ryan all got places on the 2008-09 All-Rookie team.

Hockey legend Sergei Fedorov

Arguably Russia's greatest hockey player, Sergei Fedorov took plenty of time to sign autographs and do interviews. The red carpet ceremony had started to wrap up by the time Fedorov made it to my part of the carpet. I overheard a young boy and his father talking excitedly about possibly getting Fedorov's autograph while they stood behind me. I turned, "Hey, give me your book, I'll try to get him to sign it."

"Really?" the boy's eyes widened.

"That's awfully sweet of you, dear," his father said.

"No problem! We're all fans of these guys." After Fedorov finished a short interview with the camera crew closest to us, I started calling his name. Hearing me, he came over and started signing a t-shirt held out to him by a fan near me. He took the book I held out next. I thanked him, he smiled, and I returned the book to the boy. His father thanked me and asked who my team was. "Oh, I'm a Ducks fan, but I love hockey in general. This is totally awesome, to have all these players here." He wholeheartedly agreed and wished the Ducks luck next season.


Washington Capitals superstar Alexander Ovechkin

Bringing up the rear with much fanfare was Alex Ovechkin, who totally racked up at the awards. He ended up taking home the Lester B. Pearson award (most outstanding player), the Maurice "Rocket" Richard trophy (highest goal scorer), and the Hart trophy (MVP). Ovie was always surrounded by throngs of people, I never got close enough to even ask for an autograph.

After the red carpet ceremony, I spent some time inside the Palms casino loitering about the entrance to the Pearl Concert Theater where the awards show was taking place. Other loiterers were being rewarded with ticket opportunities, although I'm unsure of how they managed to get so lucky. I struck up a conversation with another loitering girl, and we agreed that they should at least sell the remaining tickets at a huge discount. Wouldn't the show look that much more successful with all of the seats filled?

I spied a Ducks jersey in her arms. This was the very jersey I caught Bobby signing on the red carpet. Turns out, my new friend Polka Dot is a Ducks fan living with Mr. Dot in Vegas. You don't often find Ducks fans outside of SoCali, not nearly as often as you'll find non-Duck fans living in SoCali. She and her husband are both super cool, and I spent most of my afternoon with them, waiting for the awards show to let out so we could go hockey star searching again.

Standing outside the Rain Nightclub, scene of the after party, Polka and I were approached by a guy in a suit. "Do you have tickets to the after party?" he asked us.

"No, and they're not selling them even though other people are saying they are," we answered.

"Do you want my tickets?" We looked at him, eyes wide and mouths open. "I have two tickets, you can both go," he continued.

"No way! Thank you so much!" We were stunned. Just like that, no strings attached, yours truly got into the after party.

To be continued...

Monday, June 22, 2009

What happens in Vegas...

... will end up in this blog!

I just got back home, and Rebel is busting with pictures to share. Little did I know that my NHL Award paparazzi endeavor on Thursday would yield such treasures. I got a great spot on the red carpet, right up against the barricade. I was able to see the Stanley Cup up close and personal, snap shots of hockey greats like Jarome Iginla, Mark Messier, Zdeno Chara, Alexander Ovechkin, and our 2009 Penguins cup winners Max Talbot, Coach Dan Bylsma, and Evgeni Malkin.

I met and hung out with some awesome Duck fans. I got autographs from super nice players like Tim Thomas and Niklas Backstrom. I totally lucked out and scored a free ticket into the after party, which ended up being a veritable smorgasbord of food, drink, and music. I can even say I "had dinner" with Sharks coach Todd McLellan.

Details and pictures, coming up!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Viva Las Vegas

I got into Vegas last night and spent my evening walking around, trying to get my bearings. I've been to Vegas before, but this place changes so quickly... it's like a new town every time I come. No NHL player sightings as of yet, but I got some awesome pictures on the Strip. Those, and any other pics I get, will be uploaded after I get back home.

The actual NHL Awards are today. If yours truly had 500 bucks lying around, I'd be in attendance at the awards show and the after party. But, yeah. No. I'll be perusing the red carpet with Rebel (my Canon SLR) beforehand, and hoping for some great shots to share. Maybe the Palms Casino will have some worthwhile photo opps too, for curiosity's sake.

My boy Bobby Ryan is here, having been nominated for the Calder Trophy. I really hope he wins although, realistically, I believe it will be Steve Mason that takes that bit of hardware home. I'm also hearing that George Parros and Chris Pronger might be roaming about. Other than that, Duck attendance might be on the lower end. Although, with the proximity to Orange County, hopefully more of our Ducks came out just to have a little fun.

Anyway, time to get a move on. I've got breakfast to take care of, and then the long coordinated trek to the Palms. I determined last night that I'd probably have to do a shuttle-monorail-taxi combo, with variable amounts of walking in substitution. But that depends on the heat, which is a sweltering 90+ degrees today. I debated on packing my Bobby Ryan Ducks jersey to wear out here, but I decided I didn't want to flirt with heat stroke.

Passing out on the red carpet might not be the smoothest move.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Pittsburg Pens, 2009 Stanley Cup champions

Wow. Just wow.

What a game! I could not have asked for a better game 7. Well, maybe an overtime or two, but otherwise, this one was perfect. Play was fast and gritty, Marc Andre Fleury was top-notch, ex-Duck Chris Kunitz got his second assist of the series, and the unsung hero emerged.

Watching double goal scorer Max Talbot beam as he described his feelings in the post game press conference, I felt that it couldn't have happened to a better guy. You deserve it, dude. Live the moment, it's yours.

I watched the Pens score twice against a Red Wing team that just couldn't get it together. It wasn't until the third period that they started connecting their passes, effectively penetrating the Pens' zone, and actually getting one into the net behind Fleury. The Wings had two periods to show up, but didn't. By the time they did, it was already too late.

Indeed, the better team did win this one.

And as I watched the clock strike triple zero, the Penguins collecting in a huge pile on top of Fleury in the crease, I was misty-eyed and reminiscent of our Ducks doing the exact same thing two years ago.

I wasn't at that game, but I was listening to the radio broadcast at work. As the Ducks were introduced as the 2007 Stanley Cup champions, I remember standing up and pumping my fists in the air. My coworkers thought I was crazy, but it didn't matter. My Ducks made history as the very first team to bring the cup home to the West Coast, before the Sharks, before the Kings.

I watched Evgeni Malkin win the Conn Smythe, and I watched as Bettman handed the cup over to Sid the Kid, youngest captain to ever win Hockey's Holy Grail. I watched Kuni pose in the group picture with the cup on the ice, the same huge smile on his face. Only this time, he's with the wrong team.

I saw the dejected looks on the faces of the losing Red Wing team. How horrible it must feel to lose a game 7 in the finals. I was just beginning to feel sorry for them, until the cameras cut to Marian Hossa, watching his jilted team get the better end as they skated away with the cup. I know it must suck to be Hossa, but I can't help but feel like karma kinda came back and bit him in the ass. You don't just jump teams at the last minute for a cup run that you don't even noticeably contribute to.

Phil Kocher puts the feeling into a picture quite nicely:

I don't know whose roster you're going to end up on for next season, Hossa, but if it happens to be the Duck roster, you'd better contribute to our cup run.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Last game of the year

The Cup goes home tonight.

How crazy, a game 7 in the Stanley Cup finals. They keep pointing out how rare this is, how the last one happened in 2003, with the Anaheim Ducks battling the New Jersey Devils.

On one hand, I could be a little miffed that it isn't my Ducks in this again, battling the Pittsburg Penguins for the Holy Grail of Hockey. But actually, I'm not too broken up about that. There has been some really entertaining hockey up to this point (save game 5 where the Pens completely unraveled before our very eyes), and I am greatly looking forward to tonight's game.

I can enjoy it so much more because I don't have a huge invested interest in who wins. I love my Ducks, don't get me wrong, but I practically had an aneurysm watching them in their game 7 against the Wings. There was no way I could enjoy that game. If they were in this final? Ack! So tonight, no aneurysm, no matter who's leading after the 1st... or 2nd... or with five minutes left in the 3rd. I'm rooting for ex-Duck Chris Kunitz and the Pens because hey, underdogs, I do like Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby (whiny brat behavior aside) as talented players, and I kinda don't want to see a Wing dynasty.

But really? This might be kinda mean, but I want to see the look on Marian Hossa's face when that cup is once again hoisted by his opponent. That, in itself, is its own mini drama.

Who do you want to win? Oh, and who are you predicting for the Conn Smythe?

I can't even say who I think will get that Conn Smythe. I stink at predictions as it is, but in this game? I don't think there is a clear cut MVP. Maybe a goaltender. But even then, I'm not sure. I'd like to say Chris Osgood has been more than excellent in these playoffs, but really? I think he hasn't had to face too many difficult shots. Detroit's D is just so strong, they don't allow many pucks to even get to Osgood. Maybe Fleury? Maybe.

Either way though, it's going to be one helluva game tonight. There is no clear cut winner right now, it could go to either team. And I am soooo looking forward to the season going out with a bang. Here's to great hockey!

Go Pens!!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Joe DiPenta Dinner/Fundraiser

In the race for the 2009 Stanley Cup, it looks like the Pens have leveled the playing field. The Red Wing defense, for what I could tell, was uncharacteristically tired and sloppy, allowing way too many turnovers.

For a second, I couldn't believe I was watching the Wings. The Pens mopped the ice with them, and trounced them in a 4-2 victory. And, my ex-Duck Chris Kunitz point count now reads 1.

So now, both teams have won their home games and the finals become a three-game series. Go Pens!

But Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals was not the highlight of my day. Nosiree. What I'd been looking forward to for the last couple of days was the Joe DiPenta 2nd annual lasagna dinner/fundraiser.

Just another prime example of how generous and how committed to the community our Ducks are, former Ducks d-man Joe DiPenta and his wife Jessica served up the family's lasagna recipe at the Anaheim White House to fans, humanitarians, and anyone else interested in supporting the cause. Seats went for $55 each with proceeds going to fund a program that the restaurant's founder developed which feeds hundreds of low-income-family children. This year, Joe would be joined by my favorite Duck, Bobby Ryan.



Joe DiPenta with a few words for the camera

Bobby Ryan and restaurant owner Bruno

Yours truly and Bobby Ryan (obviously, I'm the short one)

The crew from The Element was in attendance as well, and Skylar pulled me aside to get some words on camera. We'll see if and when that bit shows up on The Element program.

The Element reporting reactions to the infamous lasagna


Joe DiPenta, yours truly, and Bobby Ryan

What a great event. Hockey players are some of the most down to earth guys you'll ever meet. I think they are the most grounded of sports professionals. A lot of them are just farm boys from Canada, they don a pair of skates as early as the age of three or four and they are basically raised on the ice. They tend to come from good families because the parents need to be super-involved, taking the kids to early morning practices and investing in all of the gear and equipment. As teenagers, the boys are often sent to live with host homes so that they can be closer to minor league ice rinks and training programs. They get room and board from strangers, so they tend to be really polite and humble.

Hockey doesn't come with the same fame as say, basketball. A good player doesn't get nearly as much money as other pro athletes and, especially in SoCali, they don't get recognized on the street. They are just average joes, big guys who are skilled in balance and coordination that make them agile on the ice. Meeting Bobby, and knowing he's so talented in the game, and only 22 years of age... the boy has a huge, successful career ahead of him. When you find out just how nice and good-natured he is, you just want him to have that success even more.

You feel like he deserves it.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Flashback: Tuesday, May 12, 2009

This was an incredible day for myself, as well as my Ducks. Having spent about seven hours at the Ponda that day, I never got a chance to post about it, and there was some pretty cool stuff that went down. So, for the sake of documentation, here we go...

There was a little blurb on the Ducks official site announcing that a local television morning news show would be present at the Ponda on that early Tuesday morning, before Game 6 of the Ducks/Wings series. They wanted to have a fan showing and, as an incentive to get our butts out of bed and over to the Ponda decked out in our Duck garb by 6am, they would be raffling off tickets to that evening's game.

I already secured a ticket through one of my hockey buddies for the game but, given I didn't have to work and thinking it might be a fun little Duck event to partake in and blog about, I put on my Bobby Ryan jersey and my autographed Duck hat, and trucked over to the Ponda with my trusty Canon Rebel in tow.

There were only about 30 of us present. Made me think my odds would be pretty good at scoring one of the raffled pairs of tickets. We were led onto the Ponda ice, where four of us were chosen to be human pucks in a race for tickets. The rest of us sat in the player benches and provided a cheering soundtrack. At one point, we started up a rousing rendition of "Detroit sucks!" to which the reporter joked, "Oh, apparently they've been there."

That was pretty awesome. Hell, it was awesome just being on the ice, sitting on the benches and in the penalty box, feeling the chilly air.

The Ponda, awaiting another gripping playoff game

Duck championship banners shot from center ice

Human pucks racing for playoff tickets

Yours truly standing at center ice

After the Ponda ice clip had been shot, the television crew ushered us outside where we would do some fillers for the next two hours of morning show. The first would feature us whacking an octopus pinata with a hockey stick. There were tickets, candy, and Ducks keychains inside.

You are toast, Detroit octopus!

The second bit, which never actually aired, would feature the fans playing a tabletop hockey game. At this point, I was content to stand back and chat with the other fans who also had no desire to make any more cameo appearances on the morning news.

Delay of game penalty to anyone who pitches the puck onto the asphalt!

It was a fun rally and I met some great fellow Duck fans. Oh, and I'd managed to score one of those raffled ticket pairs. Now I just had to find someone who wanted to come with me at a moment's notice. After the filming was over, I joined a few of the other fans on the South side of the Ponda. We wanted to see who would show up for the morning's voluntary practice skate. It was mostly black aces, but hey, we were treated to one Bret Hedican showing up for treatment.

Bret wouldn't play this game, or any others in the series, as he's been day to day with back spasms

We asked him if he was feeling better. He answered, "Eh, some days are worse than others." He signed my hat and the jerseys of my new Duck friends before going into the Ponda.

We were also blessed with the presence of Petteri Nokelainen, also showing up for treatment. He was on his cell phone as he approached, talking in Finnish. He signed a shirt and my hat as he talked. I wished him luck in tonight's game and he paused his conversation to look at me, smile, and say "thank you" before heading inside.

After hanging out and chatting a bit longer, we Duck fans eventually decided to disperse. We'd spent nearly five hours of our morning at the Ponda, time to get a few things done before returning for the monumental game ahead!

This is Game 6 in the conference semifinals against the Detroit Red Wings, who lead in this series 3-2. Our boys MUST win this one, if they intend to take the series back to Detroit for a game seven. Luckily, our boys have a good record at winning game sixes at home.

The game opens with hard hits and no clear advantage for any team. Teemu Selanne has an extra spring to his step, an extra glint to his eye. Our boys make some great shots on net in the first period, even making Osgood cough up a few rebounds. The forechecking pressure is on, and our Legion of Doom line of Bobby Ryan/Corey Perry/Ryan Getzlaf is looking good tonight.

Our PK kills off the first Red Wing power play, after a stupid "too many men on the ice" call. Then, it's our boys' turn with the man advantage. Hudler knocks the puck over the glass and gets a delay of game call. We, too, cannot capitalize.

My boy Bobby Ryan leads the first period with shots on the Detroit net. None of them have gone in yet, but he's creating some good chances for himself. I'm just glad he's looking a lot better than he had earlier in the series. Whatever injury he's nursing must be healing.

We go into the first intermission on another Duck power play and still tied 0-0.

That power play goes empty, but it's followed quickly by another as Kronwall bails out a misplay by Osgood with a pitch over the glass. This one is good. Getzlaf takes the puck down deep into the Red Wing zone, fires back to Chris Pronger at the point, who shoots quickly across the slot to the Captain. He winds up and fires it at the net. Getzlaf is there to catch the rebound and knock it in.

First goal of the game goes to Anaheim. We fans shout our approval. I'm enjoying this game so much more than game 4, which I was also in attendance for. Of course, it helps when the tickets are free... but also, because there aren't three rows of disrespectful WingDing fans behind me. Instead, I'm surrounded on both sides by some of the Duck fans that I had the pleasure of spending the morning with. The few WingDingers in our section were couples. Respectful hockey fans that didn't scream obscenities about the Duck players when children were within earshot.

Good defensive plays too by our boys. One of the best ones was Ryan Whitney, who cut off the shooting lane of an odd-man rush by sliding on his belly a la Pronger and stripping away the puck with a perfect poke check. The boy is definitely picking up good pointers from his blue-line partner!

Geezus, and how impressed am I again by Jonas Hiller? He's sharp tonight, he's on his game. And he's as calm and as cool as a cucumber the whole time. MVP for the Ducks, no doubt about it.

Andrew Ebbett makes the big mistake of a retaliatory crosscheck, and our Ducks have to pay for it with another Red Wing power play. Luckily, no goals.

An amazing highlight reel play at the second period happened while our boys look like they were pushed back on their heels. Perry makes a diving play to intercept a shot on Hiller but ends up in the net himself. After the puck is cleared away and taken back down into the Detroit zone, Perry speeds back to his usual place in front of the opponent's goal crease. Getzlaf passes to Bobby, who passes it back to Getzy. He winds back and fires a slapshot from the blue line, which goes into the net off a shaft redirect from Perry's stick.

Ducks go into the second intermission up 2-0.

The third period sees a lot of play in the Anaheim zone. Our boys are having a hard time clearing. I'm praying we can just hold on to this lead. Hiller steps up his game too, as if the boy could do any better than he has already this game.

There's penalty after penalty, creating a couple of 4-on-4s, but no goals for either side. Until a tripping penalty against Ebbett puts the Wings on a power play that they're able to capitalize on, with only 2:25 left in the game.

Damn. Just like that, they steal away Hiller's shutout. Don't give up another goal, boys. No OT, we have to end this in regulation!

With less than a minute left, the Wings net is empty. The crowd is on their feet and screaming, "Let's go, Ducks!" There's one last bid by the Wings with Hiller making what would be his last beautiful save on home ice (*sniff!*). And, at the final horn, a big fat line brawl "reminiscent," as they say, "of old time hockey." Even the Captain threw fists with Datsyuk.

Now there's something you don't see everyday!

Unfortunately, it would be the last game of the season for our Ducks, but it was a good game, a great one to win for the fans at home, and a proud one to end an otherwise tumultuous season with. Go Ducks!!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Home ice advantage

I'm at work, listening to the Pittsburg radio feed of tonight's Game 3 between the Pens and the Red Wings...

Sounds like the Pens have come back a bit tonight. The third period is opening and the teams are tied 2-2. Ex-Duck Chris Kunitz, although not having scored any goals (neither has Sidney Crosby for that matter), has been putting tons of hits on the Wings. Attaboy, Kuni!

I do hope Sid the Kid gets on the board tonight, that would just be NICE, you know? It's a lot easier for me to root on a team that I'm less emotionally invested in. I mean, I don't have to hold my breath or grit my teeth... or feel like bashing a hole in the nearest wall when one of my guys turns the puck over in the defensive zone. I can just be simply entertained by pure hockey. So, as much as I enjoy keeping an eye on the Penguins for this Stanley Cup final, I don't really give a damn whether they win or not.

Two minutes stand between the Pens and their first series victory. The score is 3-2... empty netter from Talbot and now the Pens lead 4-2. And... win! What a treat for the Pen fans at home.

My Zimbio
Top Stories