Before the puck is dropped for the first NHL regular season game, season ticket holders gathered at the Ponda for the annual Face-Off Fest. There's free food to eat, games to play, locker room tours to take, discounted Ducks memorabilia to buy, Ponda ice to skate on and, what's probably the highlight for most fans, opportunities to meet and get autographs with the players.
I'm not a season ticket holder (maybe someday I'll be able to afford it!), but I have wonderful friends who were able to score a pair of tickets for me and my other half. By the way, no locker room tour for me this year, but if you're interested in pictures, I took some last year.
There were a few guys I was looking forward to talking with and getting autographs from. Both Danny Syvret and Brett Festerling were put on waivers that morning and would not be attending that evening's festivities. I wanted to be sure I got a chance to talk to Bobby Ryan, Saku Koivu, Curtis McElhinney, Luca Sbisa, and newcomer Andy Sutton. Maybe there would be enough time for Ryan Getzlaf too.
There's a strategy to standing in these lines. If I waited in Teemu Selanne's line, chances are I wouldn't be able to see anyone else. Selanne is almost always the most popular player every year, and especially this year, as it could be his last. We started off in Bobby's line and, considering how long it stayed throughout the entire event, I'm glad we got there early!
Brendan Mikkleson and Joffrey Lupul heading to their tent for autograph signing
Kyle Chipchura and Matt Beleskey signing autographs
Rookie Maxime Macenauer, who was showing some promise by the end of this season's training camp
I'm happy to hear that Maxime might be one of the first rookies called back up should there be a need for him on the roster during the regular season. If anything, the kid has good energy and grit.
Bobby Ryan and Maxime Macenauer
I had a few items to give Bobby, including a copy of a picture I'd taken of him stealing the puck from a fallen Corey Perry at training camp. He laughed as he took it, "That one will be going up in the locker room!"
Lubomir Visnovsky and Curtis McElhinney
Saku Koivu and fellow countryman Toni Lydman
This was probably the first time Ducks fans got a chance to see Lydman as he's been out of training camp with vision issues. The Ducks D could use a lot of work, and I'm sure I'm not the only one hoping Lydman turns out to be a valuable asset.
Ryan Getzlaf signing photographs
Troy Bodie and Andy Sutton
For a big bruiser of a guy, Sutton was incredibly gracious and sweet to the kids that came up to him for autographs. He beamed as I told him I felt it was fitting he'd wear #25 after Chris Pronger.
I got to see the players I was hoping to see and talk to some of my Ducks friends, many of which I haven't seen since last season. It's been a long summer! And, I picked up a Jiggy-signed puck for 10 bucks. Not bad!
"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
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Labels: special events
Friday, September 24, 2010
Thanks to last-minute tickets from my friend J, I was able to attend my Ducks first preseason game against the San Jose
Chokes Sharks. (Sorry, just a little trash talk there!)
We could only watch the 2nd period and the first half of the 3rd, but we were treated to four Duck goals and enough line chemistry to leave happy!
Again, it's a preseason game, and we had big names on the ice. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Jonas Hiller had a lot to do with the 5-2 win. Hiller stopped all 19 of the shots he faced in the first half of the game. Ex-Sharks prospect Timo Pielmeier also did well, finishing the game by stopping all but 2 of his 21 shots. I'm not sure if the Sharks were rookie-heavy on this game roster, but I did notice scorers Joe Thornton, Devin Setoguchi, and Torey Mitchell out there. So there wasn't a complete imbalance of talent!
Perry and Lilja battle along the boards as Antero Niittymaki watches.
I was very curious to see how Niittymaki would do in the Sharks net. Having let perennial goaltender Evgeni Nabokov go in the offseason, Sharks picked up Niittymaki and Anti Niemi. Impressive on paper, but not so much in the net, Niittymaki would let in 4 of the 12 shots he faced.
Parros, Getzlaf, and Perry wore the As that night.
Matt Beleskey and Corey Perry, two-thirds of an awesome scoring line.
I was so happy to see Beleskey on the top line again with Perry and Getzlaf. I loved this line combination last season, and really believe Beleskey should stay there. He has the grit and the drive to crowd the crease and battle for pucks in the corners--an effective compliment to the "twins."
How strange yet somewhat familiar, seeing #25 up there for the Ducks.
I had hoped to see more of Andy Sutton's performance on the ice, although I have to admit that seeing his #25 up on the penalty board made me smile.
Also curious about how Danny Syvret would do (I've liked his play so far in training camp), I was happy to see him combine good defense and a willingness to shoot the puck, even though his goal during the game fortuitously knocked in off the back of a Shark skate.
The boys congratulate Syvret on his first preseason Duck goal.
Getzlaf would go on to score off a Beleskey assist, 18 seconds after Syvret's goal.
Syvret giving Luca Sbisa a few d-man pointers.
Sbisa and 2010 draftee Cam Fowler both played in this game too, having also played in last night's contest against the Phoenix Coyotes. Fowler did well, keeping a calm presence much beyond his years. He got his second assist in as many games. I thought Sbisa was a bit soft, but maybe he was just tired?
Big Joe Thornton, sitting in the sin bin and thinking about what he'd done (clumsily tripping over Pielmeier in the crease and earning himself a goaltender interference call).
It will be interesting to see who makes it out of camp for a spot on the starting roster and who gets sent back down to the minors or juniors. After last season's slow start, I'm hoping we can put together a much better product right out of the gate. This was a great comeback game for our Ducks going into their preseason roadtrip. Yes, just a preseason game, but it sure does feel nice to win!
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
What a sight for sore eyes! The Ponda!
There was a feeling of calm familiarity as I walked across the North Ponda Parking Lot. In the distance, an old friend. I was home!
I know I wasn't the only Duck fan anticipating the return to the Ponda for Wednesday night's preseason opener against the Phoenix Coyotes. The offseason was much too long for us, we were more than ready for our hockey fix, even if only a preseason game.
Preseason games aren't about winning and losing. They are an opportunity for rookies and new acquisitions to prove to their new teams that they belong on the opening night roster. Coaches get a chance to see the players in action, to try out different lines of forwards, different defense pairings, and to test what works and what doesn't. The preseason is also an opportunity for the players to get a feel for each other, to develop the chemistry and communication necessary to make them formidable competitors once the season actually starts and the games count.
Notables like Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu, and Jonas Hiller wouldn't be playing tonight, but would be stationed at various areas of the Ponda to mingle with fans. Personally, I love that they do this! It's so amusing to watch how ticket holders will order their pizzas and beers without even recognizing the young man behind the counter without his game jersey.
The diehard fans know who those nicely-dressed boys are and we made a point of taking advantage of their accessibility before the game.
Hiller signing autographs and selling Kids Club kits.
Troy Bodie serving chicken.
Fan: Hey, can we get sushi here?
Brookbank: Aw man, I don't even remember how to make my roll!
Corey Perry behind the Oggi's pizza counter.
Ryan Getzlaf sold us a pepsi and a pretzel. I also congratulated him on his recent nuptials.
Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu signing autographs at the fan relations desk.
The game itself wasn't a good one for the Ducks overall. Granted, we had a lot of our less-seasoned players on the ice, I think the coaches learned a good deal about what works and what doesn't. Bobby Ryan was the lone scorer (on the power play), looking comfortable in his new position as center. I saw Bobby set up a number of plays, trying to feed the puck to wingers near the net. Unfortunately, none of them were able to convert.
I miss Andrew Ebbett. He's a Yote now, and scored a goal against his former team. Mixed feelings there.
Our defense didn't seem to have a lot going for them either. They allowed way too much space between themselves and the oncoming Yote forwards, and paid the price. I felt they were also much too soft with how they held up the blue line. Of course then, the Coyotes had some of their best forwards out there, so that didn't help matters.
It looked a lot like the guys were playing too individually, not focusing on how to work together as a team. They were trying too hard to be the guy that wins the day, and in the end, the Ducks appeared sloppy and disjointed.
The Coyotes, on the other hand, played a more cooperative, seamless game. Being my boyfriend team, I also enjoyed seeing my Yotes back on the ice. Scottie Upshall hasn't laced up since the middle of last season, after going out with ACL/MCL injuries. I think I can safely say the knee isn't much of an issue now. It was also nice seeing Paul Bissonette, Petr Prucha, and Sami Lepisto again.
Keep in mind, it's a preseason game so winning and losing don't mean much. Even so, I'll be looking forward to tomorrow night's game, when our Ducks will have more seasoned guys like Getzlaf and Perry (and Hiller in net) to help out our rookies.
Heck, I'm just happy to see my boys back on the ice!
Sunday, September 19, 2010
You can literally smell hockey season starting... or maybe that's just the locker rooms. But either way, hockey fans came in droves to watch old favorites and new rookies alike don their skates at Anaheim Ice.
With Bobby Ryan safely signed to a five-year contract, Paul Mara most recently added on a one-year, and Toni Lydman out indefinitely with migraines and double vision, the roster is roughly that which will be seen at the Ducks' first preseason game (against the Phoenix Coyotes) Tuesday night.
There were a few "new" players I was anxious to check out (Andy Sutton, Danny Syvret, Cam Fowler) so I started off my morning on the larger, and arguably colder, Olympic rink and worked my way over to the NHL rink to visit perennial favorites (Bobby, Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu, Jonas Hiller, etc.) later. Oh, and to be in place for the scrimmage, of course.
I'm no hockey expert, so my observations are simply that: observations. I thought our boys, for the most part, looked good. Ryan Getzlaf's ankle injury appears to be well behind him, as are Hiller's back spasms. Saku, Teemu, and Bobby look great, as always. There's plenty of fight in guys like Stephane Veilleux (on a pro-tryout) and 2010 draftee Devante Smith-Pelly. Our passing could use some work, and I'm not talking about stretch passes, just ordinary passing!
Coach Carlyle has mentioned that Bobby will try his hand at playing center, and while I'm confident he'll do well (he hasn't floundered in that position in the past), I hesitate to put up any goal expectations in the sidebar for him this season! Maybe 30? Maybe 35?
Anyway, let's check out some pictures!
The Olympic rink boys watching a diagrammed play.
Jason Blake getting ready to fire one at Igor Bobkov while Sutton looks on.
I like what I'm seeing with Sutton. The guy is HUGE, for one, standing at 6'6" and 245 lbs. He's got great defensive presence, and I can't wait to see him in action at the Ponda. Personally, I don't think I'd want anyone else wearing #25 after Chris Pronger besides Sutton. Big shoes to fill, buddy, but I know you can do it.
Timo Pielmeier in the net.
I still like this kid, but I think he could use another year or two in the minors before he comes up.
Corey Perry and Jason Blake.
Aaron Voros and Kyle Chipchura, who's turning into a scoring machine at this year's training camp!
Curtis McElhinney watching Fowler, who's watching the puck.
Syvret, newly acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers.
Also liking what I'm seeing from Syvret: a close-covering defenseman who can put a few in the back of the net as well.
Local draftee Emerson Etem, Selanne, and Koivu.
Didn't see too much from Etem on day one, but I'm hoping he warms up in exhibition games.
Hiller, with a new black mask, between the pipes.
You can definitely see a comfort level with Hiller, who himself has said that it feels better knowing he's our number one goaltender and he won't have to prove himself every night to get the start.
The scrimmage was strenuous, I felt tired for our boys on the ice! As the days of training camp progressed, guys would get more physical and aggressive.
Voros and Bodie breaking up Carter and Sutton as tempers flare.
(I managed to bring Rebel XL for one day for better pictures, hence the two different sizes of pics. My apologies.)
Sutton giving Luca Sbisa a few words of advice, d-man to d-man.
Koivu and Veilleux battling for the puck while Selanne watches.
Ryan Getzlaf and Matt Beleskey race for the puck.
Getzlaf and Peter Holland in the faceoff.
Bobby and Perry took off after the puck, but Perry tripped and fell while Bobby gained possession.
The boys stretch after an exhausting scrimmage.
It's so good seeing our Ducks back out on the ice. The summer really has been too long. The first preseason game is tomorrow night against the Phoenix Coyotes. Can't wait!
Ladies and gentlemen, hockey is back!
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
One of my most favorite Ducks events from last season was the "Ducks in a Roll" sushi rolling contest for charity. I was more than excited to find that my Ducks were reprising the event for this season AND that it was going to be held on an evening I wasn't scheduled for work.
Fans of the Anaheim Ducks and sushi alike waiting for the event to begin
On hand this year, Ducks defenseman Sheldon Brookbank, and forwards Corey Perry and Troy Bodie. Ryan Getzlaf was originally scheduled to attend, but he didn't show. Todd Marchant minimally filled in, introducing the roll, but not getting his hands rice-covered in the process.
He left that to the sushi chef who made Getzy's roll sans Duck.
I noticed big differences between this year's event and last year's, most notably the lack of any seating! There were considerably more people in attendance too, and standing room only appeared to be the rule of the evening.
For once, I arrived early, and was glad I did. My friends and I had one of the few tables.
There also wasn't a roped off "lane" at the sushi bar which, last year, had allowed the fans to taste along a moving line of sushi roll samples. This time, the area in front of each player was open and you could talk to him and watch him roll.
Troy Bodie receiving instructions on how to make his roll, The "Bodie"licious Roll
Sheldon Brookbank learning the technique behind his roll, The "Bank" Roll
Corey Perry named his creation The "Perry"dise Roll
Kent French returned this year as Master of Ceremonies
As before, purchased rolls donated $2 to the Anaheim Ducks Foundation and a vote towards that player for his creation as the "fan-favorite." My boyfriend ordered one of each roll early on in the competition, so we were one of the first tables to get our food. The ensuing attention from reporters and cameras was a little startling!
The "Perry"dise Roll
The Great "Getz"by Roll
I decided to pester the players.
Brookbank adding what I thought was his tastiest ingredient, wasabi tobiko. (That's wasabi-infused fish roe)
According to Brooksie, Getzy was MIA because he was recovering from wisdom teeth extraction. I think the boys were just trying to eliminate some competition.
Brooksie proudly showing off his completed masterpiece
Troy Bodie pretending to taste his ingredients
A finished "Bodie"licious Roll
Tim Marchant (he wants to be called Tim instead of Timmy) collecting a sample of "Perry"dise for the Team Marchant judges
Perry scooping spicy crab meat on top of his roll
Me, as I took a bite of "Perry"dise: Wait, did you spit in this?
Perry, with a smirk: No, not that one.
In my opinion, Getzy's roll was best. But that's because I'm not a fan of jalapenos and spicy sushi. Every roll had some sort of spiciness to it, but Getzy's was easily altered. Brookbank's roll was also really good, and it was the most pleasing to the eye.
The judging panel
Brookbank's roll sold the most, winning him the fan-favorite vote
But it was Bodie's roll that got the most votes from the judges. It will be available on RA Sushi's menu for the rest of the season
Corey Perry: "Whaddya mean I got the least votes?!"
Actually, Getzy's roll had the least votes, but I think that might have had something to do with the fact that he wasn't even there! People tend to like food more when it comes with a personality.
I said it last year and I'll say it again, if you didn't get a chance to go to this incredible event, make sure you do next year!