That first game at the NHL level is a fantasy for every rising young hockey player, but for Noesen (whose name is pronounced STEH-fan NAY-sehn), it was the payoff of two years of incredibly arduous work. The 22-year-old Texas native had to fight back from not one, but two devastating injuries that limited him to just 25 AHL games the past two seasons.
In October of 2013, he underwent major knee surgery to repair a torn ACL and MCL and came back to play just four playoff games at the end of the Norfolk Admirals' season. The following October, Noesen was cut with a skate in a game against Manchester and lacerated his Achilles tendon (commence cringing now), keeping him out another four months.
“My mental game has been pretty strong,” understates Noesen. “Going through this, it was a different type of development. It was more of a maturing development. It was more focused on my overall strength and trying to get my mental game strong. I feel like I’ve accomplished that.”
The connection between Noesen and Anaheim is an interesting one. The Ducks had their eye on the winger going into the 2011 NHL Draft and were all set to take him with the 22nd pick when Ottawa snatched him one pick earlier. Anaheim ultimately traded down and got center Rickard Rakell, who was actually a linemate of Noesen's with the Plymouth Whalers, who are set to become the Flint (Mich.) Firebirds.
The Ducks ultimately got their man two summers later, when Anaheim traded Bobby Ryan to the Senators for Noesen, Jakob Silfverberg and a 2014 first round pick that became Nick Ritchie.
Fast-forward two years -- and countless hours of rehab -- later, and there was Noesen making his long-awaited debut at Honda Center, just missing on a scoring chance in the second period of a 4-2 defeat to the Avs.
"I definitely had a little bit of jitters in the beginning," Noesen said afterward. "As the game went on, it’s starts to be hockey and those feelings go away. It really was a dream come true."
Here's a little more on Noesen:
Favorite NHL player growing up
Mike Modano. I’m from Texas, and he did a lot for our community in Dallas. Brett Hull was also a guy everybody looked up to as well.
Favorite hockey moment of your career
Probably getting drafted. It was kind of a surprise where I went, so it was fun. I had an idea that I was going to go pretty early, but I wasn’t really sure. You never really know. I got a text from my agency saying I was going to be the next pick, and I got really excited. My family started getting really pumped up too, so it was fun.
I have a lot. I like being myself before games, but there are too many too list. I always put my left stuff on before my right stuff. That’s one I can share.
Sports you’ve played besides hockey
I played a little bit of football growing up. I was a quarterback, but I broke my finger one too many times.
Miracle. That’s everyone’s favorite. Slap Shot too.
Favorite TV shows
I’m really into Sons of Anarchy right now. I’m really into Breaking Bad now. I like Friday Night Lights, being from Texas.
I’m a big country music guy. I’m big into hip hop too.
Someone on your iPod you’re ashamed of
I’ve got to admit I’ve got a little “Barbie Girl” by Aqua on there.
Anything chicken. I’m a steak and potatoes kind of guy.
Favorite Orange County restaurants
I like Saddle Ranch. Lazy Dog is good too. It’s got a modern, laid-back sort of feel.
Favorite vacation spot
Last summer I went to the British Virgin Islands with my family and one of my buddies, and that was pretty cool.
Fans who tweeted with that hashtag had their tweets and photos displayed at Honda Center and on the Fox Sports West broadcast. Meanwhile, fans submitted questions to Fox Sports West analyst Guy Hebert using the hashtag #AskGuy, and he answered several of them on air. During the first intermission, George Parros took part in a Twitter Q&A answering questions submitted by fans using #AskGeorge, and you can see that chat here.
One unique aspect of the night was the Ducks players wearing jerseys during warmups that listed their Twitter handles on the backs, and the Ducks were the first NHL team ever to do that. Those who aren't on Twitter had either @AnaheimDucks or #NHLDucks on their backs, though Corey Perry (#ScoreyPerry) and Sami Vatanen (#TheVatman) had their own unique hashtags that are used often by fans on Twitter. Here are some photos, and here is a mention of it on last night's SportsCenter. Cam Fowler wore the lone #DucksSocial jersey, and we held a contest in which we awarded the jersey to the fan who tweeted the best photo of Fowler wearing it. Here is the nicely done winning entry.
The jerseys, by the way, were autographed by the player who wore them and put on sale in the Ducks Team Store (there are some still remaining).
And oh yeah, it certainly didn't hurt that the Ducks routed the visiting Oilers 5-1 to claim a third straight Pacific Division title.
During the first intermission, we ran a segment on the video board in which the Ducks read harsh tweets about themselves. In case you missed it, here it is (and it's spectacular).
UPDATE: There has been some negative reaction on social media to the video because of an accusation that the tweets we used were fake. Full disclosure: Some of the tweets we used were edited, enhanced, changed a little bit or two tweets were combined into one -- all so we could get the best reactions possible from the players. That’s the reason why if you searched on Twitter for each tweet, you may not have seen them pop up. The point of the whole thing was to provide entertainment, let's not forget.
When he was granted a wish by the Make-A-Wish foundation, he knew immediately he wanted to go to Anaheim and see the Ducks play in person.
The 14- year-old from Beverly, Mass. (about 20 minutes outside Boston) was set to go in October to see a Ducks game and meet the team. Unfortunately, that week a couple Ducks players were diagnosed with the mumps, and he was unable to visit the Ducks locker room (the rest of the trip went ahead as planned). When his two favorite players -- Cam Fowler and Corey Perry -- heard the news, they wanted to make sure that the team made it up to Shaelin when the Ducks played the Bruins in March in Boston.
This morning at TD Garden, Shaelin received the royal treatment. He rode to the morning skate with Fowler and Perry, received his own locker in the Ducks locker-room, went to the gameday team meeting and watched the skate, followed by lunch with the team. Shaelin will be back at TD Garden to watch the Ducks take on the Bruins tonight.
Earlier this month I made my annual visit to Oak Grove Elementary School, whose principal, Jill O’Connell-Bogle, is a longtime family friend. There I spoke in front of approximately 275 fourth- and fifth-graders about what I do for the Ducks, and I spent most of the time answering questions from the kids, some harder to answer than others.
The Oak Grove visit is always made even more fun by the fact that one of the teachers, Mr. Elliott, is a massive Kings fan who encourages his students to pass on that passion with their questions. This was of course much easier to take before the Kings won two Stanley Cups in two seasons, and just so happened to knock off the Ducks on their way to the second one.
As is custom in the days following my visit to the school, I receive fantastic thank-you notes from each and every student. And I read every one.
Once again, this year's batch was incredibly entertaining, creative and of course heartfelt, except from those from Mr. Elliott's class, which mixed in just the right touch of mean spiritedness.
Here are some of my favorites, with my comments below each:
This kid has good instincts, although I want to believe the word "outstanding" is underneath the Wite-Out.
Alyssa really loves Capture the Flag.
Mad, but never that mad.
Well that came out of nowhere. But yes, I do. Who wouldn't love Buffalo Wild Wings?
Did my boss tell you to write that?
Annnd here come Mr. Elliott's students.
Yes, I do know all of that.
Can't say I approve of this one.
Something fishy's going on here...
... and there it is.
You know, I never thought to ask him.
Another thing I never thought to ask.
I'm thinking Sophia's a cat person.
Daisy is nothing if not blunt.
The 23-year-old defenseman had little indication he would be dealt, and certainly thought he was in the clear when he noticed the NHL trade deadline had passed at 3 p.m. Eastern.
“It was by the end of the deadline, so I wasn’t expecting it whatsoever,” said Despres this morning following his first morning skate as a Duck at Honda Center. “Then my phone blew up. I’ve never gotten traded in my life, so it was definitely a shock.”
Despres, who is soft-spoken but looks you right in the eye when he speaks, admits he was a bit upset when he first heard the news. “I was definitely [ticked] off a little bit at the beginning,” he says. “I was with the organization for six years, so it was definitely tough on me. Some of my friends, I’m leaving them behind. But I’ll make new friends here, and it looks like a really good team to be with.
“So far, I like what I’ve seen in the room,” Despres says. “The guys are really nice, they have good team chemistry, and it’s a really good team. So I’m excited about the opportunity to be with the Ducks.
While the realization of being traded sunk in, Despres’ focus inevitably had to turn toward getting to Phoenix to meet up with his new team, who were playing the Coyotes the following night.
“I found out about the trade around 3:30 Pittsburgh time, and at 4 my agent told me I should leave that night,” But the paperwork wasn’t done, so they couldn’t book my flight yet. When they finally called me about getting a flight that night, I had like 15 minutes to pack. I got on the plane, got to Phoenix and I landed around 1 a.m., which was 3 a.m. Pittsburgh time. So, I was definitely a little tired when I got to the hotel.”
He didn’t run into his new Ducks teammates until the following morning over breakfast at the hotel, when he ran into Andrew Cogliano, Kyle Palmieri and another player picked up by Anaheim at the deadline – former Panther Tomas Fleischmann. “They were of course very welcoming,” Despres says. “It’s a small world in hockey, so we all know a little bit of everyone.”
Despres took part in the morning skate at Gila River Arena in Glendale, and he was thrust into the Ducks lineup back there last night, wearing No. 24 and playing a major role in a 4-1 Anaheim victory. In just over 20 minutes of ice time, Despres had an assist and a plus-3 rating with a game-high five hits. Ducks fans can expect more of that physicality this season and beyond.
“I’m a physical defenseman,” Despres says. “I make a good first pass. I’m a strong skater, and I get the shots through to the net.”
Oh, and the name of the French-Canadian from Laval, Quebec? According to him, it’s pronounced see-MONE de-PREE, and here is audio of him saying it, for good measure.
Click here if audio won't play
Despres will temporarily reside in a nearby hotel until he finds something permanent in Orange County (and Ariane is joining him out here soon). And now that he’s had time to digest his sudden and unexpected change in locale, he’s relishing it.
“This is very good team in a nice city with warm weather,” Despres says. “I’m really excited about the opportunity.”
Chris Wagner is expected to be in the Anaheim lineup tonight after being recalled by the Ducks from Norfolk of the AHL yesterday morning. After enduring the lengthy cross-country flight from Virginia to SoCal, the native of Walpole, Massachussetts was on the ice for today’s morning skate in anticipation for what’s to come tonight at Honda Center.
Wagner, who was taken by Anaheim in the fifth round (122nd overall) of the 2010 Draft, made his NHL debut last October 17 at Minnesota. He was soon sent down and brought back up again to play one game in mid-November, coincidentally a clash with the Kings at Staples Center.
Wagner, still looking for his first NHL point, racked up 26 (including 13 goals) in 41 games for Norfolk this season. At the time of his recall, the 6-0, 202-pounder co-led the Admirals in scoring and goals.
After this morning’s skate, the normally babyfaced Wagner -- who is sporting a little bit of facial hair -- talked about the process of being called up to the big club.
How are you told by the team when you get recalled?
Usually our assistant GM down there [Bob Ferguson] calls me, tells me the flight, and everything else. It’s usually an eight-hour process to get across the country. This time I found out yesterday morning, first thing. We were at home, since we were supposed to play Providence this weekend. I had about three hours to get ready, which is probably the most time I’ve had when I’ve been called up. The last time, I was ready to play a game that night, and they called me in the afternoon and told me to get on a plane. It was a little more relaxed this time. It was around 8:30 or 9 in the morning, and I was actually half-asleep when they called me, so that woke me up real quick. We weren’t supposed to be at the rink until 2:00 yesterday because of snow, so I was trying to sleep in. But that’s okay.
It’s been cold back there, so along with everything else, it’s a nice change of pace weather-wise.
It’s awesome. It’s why you come to Cali. They’ve had a lot of snow back there recently, which is unusual for them, but this is great.
What is your focus when you’re on the way out here?
You kind of hope when you get called up that you’re going to play right away, so you mentally prepare that way. Especially this game, one of the biggest games of the year, I’m pretty excited. It’s going to be an intense, physical game.
What’s your evaluation of your season so far?
I obviously wanted to get games in the NHL this year, which is my main goal. Hopefully I’ll get a few more down the road here. It’s been a decently successful year, but you can always do better. It’s been the most positive so far in my pro career.
For fans who haven’t seen you much this year, what can they except you to bring?
I just try to be physical as much as I can, try to be defensively smart. I pitched in offensively down there, and hopefully I get more comfortable and that translates down here.
What is the feeling among the guys about the team moving to San Diego next season?
Norfolk has been great, but we’re excited. It’s tough when you’re going up and down and going through those long plane rides. We’re definitely excited, and we’ve only heard great things about San Diego. Of course you hope you’re up here, but if you’re down there, it’s not a bad spot to be.
Monday night, Ducks goalie John Gibson saved 35 of 38 shots and turned away two of three attempts in the shootout (the first of his NHL career) to help the Ducks to a dramatic 4-3 win over the visiting Red Wings.
That performance -- not to mention what he has done the last several games with Frederik Andersen out with an injury -- are what Ducks fans have come to expect of Gibson after he was drafted in the second round in 2011 and made a splash last regular season and playoffs.
But this season hasn't gone quite as planned for the 21-year-old Gibson, who had a tough start by giving up six goals to the Penguins in the season opener in his native Pittsburgh. He was sent to Norfolk to get some playing time while the Ducks leaned heavily on Frederik Andersen, then came back up to Anaheim and played well before suffering a groin injury in early November.
Andersen's injury (he was hit in the back of the head by the falling net on February 8 in Tampa) coupled with Ilya Bryzgalov's ineffective play has Gibson playing a starring role for the Ducks yet again.
And he's responded as expected, with wins in his last three games, including that one last night vs. Detroit.
While Gibson isn't the most gregarious of Ducks, he has the flat-lined temperament ideal for a goalie expected to endure the ups and downs of the professional game.
Here's a little more about Gibson:Nickname
Baldwin HS in Pittsburgh [he was actually cut from the school's hockey team as a freshman]
Favorite NHL player growing up
Probably Mario Lemieux, just from growing up in Pittsburgh and watching him. That’s why I got into hockey.
Favorite hockey moment of your career
It would probably be winning the World Juniors and my first NHL game, in Vancouver [an 18-save shutout win].
Favorite TV shows
I watch all the stuff on Netflix, like Breaking Bad and Prison Break, and I like classic shows like Friends.
I listen to a lot of rap and techno, but I don’t really have a favorite necessarily. I like Drake.
I always liked Friends, so I’ll go with Jennifer Aniston
Who would play you in a movie about your life?
I’ve been told I look like that guy from Friday Night Lights with the long hair [Taylor Kitsch], so I’ll go with that.
I like sushi, chicken and pasta, all that stuff.
Favorite vacation spot
Anywhere there is nice water and sun.
Unfortunately, there is no photo available of Matt Beleskey when he, according to him, "Rode my stick in a AAA tournament when I was younger, after scoring in a game."
Here's the video:
You see, not only is Lovejoy an Anaheim Ducks defenseman, he’s also a die hard and passionate Patriots fan. The native New Englander (born and raised in New Hampshire) watched yesterday’s Super Bowl at home with his 1-year-old daughter Lila (more on that below), and endured the highs and lows of yesterday’s thrilling game. He talked about it after practice at Honda Center.
First of all, where did you watch the game?
We had a team Super Bowl party, which I did not attend. I would have been there had any of the other 31 teams be in the game instead of the Patriots. The last two Super Bowls the Patriots have been in, I’ve attended my professional team’s party, and the guys want to jab me in the ribs anytime a play went wrong. And I’m not an obnoxious fan. I sit there and want to concentrate, and the guys want to take a shot at me. So I did not attend the Anaheim Ducks party. My wife [Avery] did, and I stayed home and focused on the game on my couch with my daughter. She was asleep for awhile, then we hung out and cheered. She had her Tom Brady jersey on.
What were you going through during those final minutes?
I was so emotional. I have so much respect for passionate fans of teams. I don’t know how hockey fans do that 82 games, plus playoffs. The [16+] Patriots games, I’m a wreck for. It’s just so much stress, yet so fun.
What was your reaction to that interception at the end?
I thought the Patriots had a very good chance of winning, and then [Jermaine Kearse] made that ridiculous catch with about a minute left, and it just had shades of Mario Manningham and David Tyree from past Super Bowls. So, I was just crushed. I thought, Here we go again. I was 98 percent sure that Marshawn Lynch was gonna pound it in, and if not, Russell Wilson was gonna run it in himself. I couldn’t believe they threw that pass in that situation. What a defensive play that was. As a defensive player, it’s a play I dream about making.
Did you yell and scream?
Well, during the Baltimore [playoff] game, I was yelling loudly after lots of plays, and every time I yelled, my daughter would cry. So I started cheering silently because I didn’t want that to happen. It was more of a sense of relief than incredible excitement. I just took a deep breath, and was so happy.
I had texts going with friends from New England. I go out of my way to not talk trash. I don’t want to rub it in if we win, and I don’t want to eat it if we lose. I was quietly so satisfied and excited. I had a couple friends who went to the game, and brothers and family members who were just as excited as I was.
We’ve talked about this before, but tell us again about your roots as a Patriots fan.
I grew up in New Hampshire, which of course is part of New England. In 1996, I was 12 years old and the Patriots went to the Super Bowl and lost to Brett Favre’s Green Bay Packers, and I was hooked after that. I was a casual fan as a little kid, but when Drew Bledsoe and Bill Parcells led them to the Super Bowl, I was so excited. When Belichick came in 2000 and Tom Brady arrived in 2001, those were some of the most fun teams to be a fan of. They’re consistently good, they’re always fun to watch and they’re always in contention to go to the Super Bowl. I can understand why people aren’t fans of them. I don’t blame you. They’re arrogant and hateable, but they’re my team. These are the best days to be a Patriots fan. They’ll never be better than this.
You happen to be a professional athlete, but are you a typical New Englander who’s in love with Tom Brady?
Absolutely. In past situations, where you have to put your celebrity crush up on the Jumbotron, I have written that my crush was Tom Brady. He’s still up there. The level of excellence he’s maintained forever, how he lives his life, four Super Bowl wins, six opportunities, I think he’s just such a special athlete. I’ve never met him, and I don’t think I want to. I just want to live in awe of him.
The one we received this morning ... I'll let it speak for itself:
Hello Anaheim Ducks!
I was watching TV the other day, and saw a show called "My 600 Pound Life," about extraordinarily obese people trying to lose weight. These are the type of people that can't fit through regular doors, need special beds and equipment, and the like.
I am not a huge hockey fan, but am familiar with the sport, though not all the rules, regulations, and nuances. Is there anything in the rulebook that would prevent a hockey team from employing one of these mega-obese people as a goalie? Some of them are so huge that, especially once they are wearing pads and a uniform, pretty much the entire goal, if not the entire goal, would be blocked if you just plopped one of these guys down on the ice in front of the net!
Admittedly, it would look silly, and this extremely overweight person would need help getting on and off the ice, but if the end result is wins, then so what if the goalie looks a bit ridiculous?
Have the Ducks ever considered getting an extremely oversized person to do this? Is it allowed by the rules? I figured this would have been attempted by someone at some point if it was allowed, much like Bill Veeck put a midget up to bat at one point, knowing there was no way the opposing pitcher could throw him strikes. But, perhaps hockey owners are a more serious bunch, and there's never been a renegade owner willing to do this.
Please let me know your thoughts on this idea, and the feasibility of its implementation. Thank you!