|Souray: "When this opportunity presented itself, it was really a dream come true so to speak. It worked on so many different levels that I couldn’t be happier with."|
The Ducks did all of that during a flurry of activity yesterday afternoon, as Bob Murray's phone likely had smoke coming out of it by the end of the day. Anaheim brought in no less than four players and saw two free agents sign with other teams.
First the additions, which included three veteran defensemen -- Bryan Allen (formerly of Carolina), Jordan Hendry (Chicago) and Sheldon Souray (who played last season in Dallas). The Ducks also brought in some forward depth in locking up 27-year-old former Montreal Canadien and Minnesota Wild (Wild man? Wild player?) Brad Staubitz with a two-year deal.
Let's start with Souray, the 35-year-old vet with a big body and an atomic bomb of a shot that was once measured at an unofficial record speed of 106.7 mph (at a skills competition in Edmonton in '09). Bob Murray indicated going into free agency that he wanted to get bigger on the blue line, and he has that in Souray at 6-4, 237 pounds. He'll also be huge on the power play, having once scored 26 goals for Montreal and 23 for Edmonton. He had six goals and 15 assists last year in Dallas to go along with a +11 rating.
Before making the deal for Souray, Murray got endorsements from a number of Ducks vets, including Saku Koivu, who played with him in Montreal. "Quite honestly, I talked to a few veterans on our hockey team and they definitely said go forward and get this guy if you can, so I did."
Along with his other attributes, one thing Souray can do is talk, as evidenced in this lengthy conference call with reporters yesterday afternoon. A few snippets:
On coming to Southern California, where his kids live: "I was always hoping. In an ideal situation, this would have been it. Sometimes you just never know. When this opportunity presented itself, it was really a dream come true so to speak. It worked on so many different levels that I couldn’t be happier with."
"I don’t think it’s been any secret how important my family is to me and the decisions I’ve made in the past regarding my family. I’ve been out in Southern California since 2001. To be able to come home and be this close, I’ve always played my best hockey when I’ve been around my family, when they’ve come in to visit and when I’ve been able to spend time with them. There are some things that are probably a little bit more important than hockey. To be able to combine those two things, I really truly feel that I have my best years ahead."
Here's a look at some of the reaction on Twitter to the Souray signing, including a tweet from Souray himself.
We'll have much more to say about Souray, who brings a ton of character to the room, in the coming month. Along with him, even more size and experience on the back end came to the Ducks in Allen (a gritty defensive defenseman with a ton of leadership attributes) and Hendry. “We’ve got a number of young defensemen on our team,” Murray said. ”I don’t feel we’ve supported our younger defensemen with enough size and oomph in the last couple of years. I said at the middle of last year, it wasn’t going to happen again.
“We were going to go and surround them with some bigger veteran guys. You can never have enough defenseman, especially in the Western Conference. It’s the decision we made and we moved forward today.”
We also move forward without a couple of guys who have been staples of the Ducks the past few seasons -- George Parros and Sheldon Brookbank. First Brookbank, who had his best year as a Duck last year and decided to test the free agency market, getting rewarded with a nice two-year deal from the Blackhawks.
And of course it's tough to say goodbye to Parros (who signed a two-year deal with Florida), a fan favorite pretty much from the moment he joined the Ducks in the beginning of that 2006-07 Stanley Cup season. He was beloved not just for the way he threw fists on the ice, but what he did off it. He was always friendly with fans, oftentimes funny and an enthusiastic participant in a number of charity efforts, including his own annual donation of his long hair in his Cut for the Kids, which benefited the Childhood Leukemia Foundation.
Behind-the-scenes, he was always willing to do what he could to help, realizing the importance of marketing the game in Southern California. That included this iconic video with the line, "Papers down, ladies. It's game time!"
Letting Parros go was something we all saw as a possibility, however, especially after Murray said at Select-a-Seat, . “George wants to play every night and every game, and we don't know if that can be the case."
Parros himself had a nice message of goodbye to the fans on Twitter: I would like to say thanks to the Samueli's, the ducks organization and especially the fans, I leave ANA with a heavy heart...I am forever grateful to my teammates and fans who I have forged relationships with that will be with me always! ... That being said, I am excited to start a new career in FLA and am looking forward to bringing the stache to the sunshine state!!!
So we say goodbye to George, say goodbye to Sheldon (becoming possibly the first team in NHL history to lose a Sheldon and gain one in the same day) and look forward to what the Ducks did bring in for 2012-13 and beyond.
Meanwhile, there is another piece of free agency news that Ducks fans are all waiting for with baited breath, and we will likely have something to report on that this week.
On his first career goal:
That was a pretty special day, especially scoring it in Joe Louis Arena in that. I tend to score a lot of goals against Detroit for some reason. I was at the point for some reason, probably shouldn't have been there. I took a slap shot from the point and it went in over the shoulder. It was just one of those pucks that found a way in.
On people saying he should shoot more:
I always answer, "What would Corey Perry do if I was shooting all the time?”
On his brother Chris, a wide receiver for the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League:
Rider Nation is pretty strong, so when I go back home, people know my brother more than me. We had competition growing up, but he helped push me when I was young. I always wanted to be involved in what he was doing. My brother is like my best friend, and he took a back seat to a lot when I got attention at a younger age. He developed into a football player at like 22 or 23. By that time, I was already in the NHL for a little while. When he went through it, I got to sit back and support him, and show up at his games and help him through the process I already went through.”
On playing baseball as a kid (when host Jeff Marek said he heard he was a great catcher with a gun behind the plate, Getzlaf said, "That must have come from my mom."):
Growing up, I always believed in playing different sports, and so did my family. We didn't want to focus on one thing. I played baseball, volleyball, football and all that stuff. As you get older, you kind of have to pick a route and that's when I leaned toward hockey.
I was very involved and I loved baseball. I loved being outside. I was a catcher, so I got to be in control a little bit, which is a good thing for me. I loved football, but I think I was better at baseball.
On making those sketches with Bobby Ryan for the NHL Awards:
I'm sure it was a lot more fun for me than Bobby. We had a good time with it. We were skeptical about it, and I was worried about it because I didn't want to put out a thing where we think we're better than the States. We had a lot of fun with it, and it's something you don't experience a lot as a player as far as all that goes into it.
On seeing the game grow in Southern California:
It has a lot. When the Samuelis came in, they took a lot of interest in the team and building it to where it is now. They've bought and refurbished a lot of rinks in the area and built things up that way as well. It's been very encouraging.
On wearing shorts to the rink:
It's unbelievable. It's a different feeling, that’s for sure. I drove a convertible to the rink every day for the first couple of years. It's a little easier to get up and go to the car when you don't have to remote start it from the house first.
On pregame rituals:
I'm not superstitious at all. I try not to worry about things I can't control. The problem with superstitions is when they don't go your way, suddenly you have a problem. Anyone who's played with me will tell you I'm pretty relaxed before the games.
On tinkering with equipment:
I'm more of an old-fashioned guy when it comes to the equipment. When I find something I like, I don't change it. That's tough in our league because people want you to use the newest equipment. There are guys who struggle with that. But as Teemu Selanne says, "You're either a stick guy or a skate guy, and if you're both, you're in trouble."
On Selanne retiring:
I have five hockey sticks in my garage signed by him saying it's his last year, and "Thanks for everything.” This year I was convinced he was retiring and he gave me another stick. It's now in that pile.
On Selanne playing at this level at his age:
It doesn't amaze me because I know him and see him every day and see what kind of shape he's in. I'm surprised he hasn't stepped away, but at no time has he shown he can't play anymore. He's still young at heart and wants to be around the guys and keep playing. Other guys step away when it's time for them to leave, but he just hasn't reached that level.
On his summer plans:
I like to relax as much as possible. We try not to travel too much. We live in Kelowna, BC in the offseason, and we love being on the water. I have a gym at my house that I work out in until August, and then I go into town and skate with the guys.
On next season:
We're looking forward to going into camp and having our coach set and we're expecting good things. We're excited about going into camp with this group. I know Bob [Murray] has some work to do, but we're excited and ready to go.
In Lubo's 2 1/2 seasons here, Ducks fans had grown fond of his sunny demeanor off the ice, as well as a rocket of a shot on it. But while Visnovsky had a career year two seasons ago, he was plagued by shoulder injuries last year and struggled. He's going to be 36 years old, and with the Ducks looking to get younger on the back end, it was a deal they felt they had to make.
"He’s an offensive defenseman," Bob Murray said. "We have some younger players who are offensive. It’s a hockey move. We’re attempting to change a little bit of the look of the defense. It’s one step at a time. This is the first step in trying to change the look on that back end."
Meanwhile, Visnovsky's cap hit of $5.6 million (cash hit of $3 million) this season -- the last year of his contract -- was also a factor. "In no way, shape or form is this an attempt to move money," Murray said. "It’s an opportunity to spend that money elsewhere."
Not long after that trade, the Ducks bolstered their corps of defensive prospects when they took Swedish d-man Hampus Lindholm with the sixth overall selection in the Draft.
It was a pick that came as a surprise initially, until you examine Lindholm a little more closely. He's a big kid at 6-2, 196 pounds (and getting bigger) and by all accounts is a strong skater who blew scouts away during his VO2Max test at the NHL Combine. His time of 14:40 was more than a minute better than the next-best guy -- second overall pick Ryan Murray. During the Draft broacast on NBC Sports Network, Pierre McGuire called him a "steal" at No. 6. Here's what Ducks Director of Amateur Scouting Martin Madden said about him:
"Overall, nobody is as strong in every aspect of the game at this point and projecting forward. What we like the most about Hampus is his poise and the fact that he can still play with passion. He can push the pace while a poised game. He’s a very mature kid and he’s still growing, still getting bigger.
"He comes from a very good family. He’s been put in positions of responsibility for the last few years. He’s played with men. He’s just a very even-keeled, quietly confident individual. That is what impressed us."
Here is what Madden said about the possibility of the Ducks trading down in that first round, as was speculated by some before the Draft: "We did our homework and figured that (Lindholm) was probably the guy who we were going to get. He was a guy who we wanted. Even though the outside perception is that we might be able to trade back, through the due diligence we did, we couldn’t afford that luxury.
"We were going to lose him and going to lose the two other options that were alongside of him in order to drop back to the options that ended up being available on draft day. It would have taken another first round pick for us to move back and that didn’t come, so we weren’t going to risk losing him for a second round pick. That is how that came down."
On Saturday, before a lot of Ducks fans on the West Coast had gotten out of bed, Anaheim made a popular pick in Nicolas Kerdiles (pronounced Kuhr-dee-less). The 6-2, 201-pound left winger was born in Texas but grew up in Irvine, and becomes the first Ducks draft selection raised in Orange County. And he can play. He led the U.S. National Under-18 team with 20-22=42 points in 50 games last year and won gold as a member of Team USA both the 2011 and 2012 IIHF Under-18 World Junior Championships. Kerdiles, who will be at this week's conditioning camp at The Rinks - Anaheim Ice, has committed to play at the University of Wisconsin in the fall. He grew up going to Ducks games, including the '07 Cup clincher, and compares his game to Ryan Kesler's -- definitely a good sign.
"He’s just a smart, hard-working player," Madden said of Kerdiles. "He’s a two-way player and has a big shot. I really like the release on his wrist shot. It allows him to score goals at this level and I think it will allow him to score at the next level as well. He should be able to work his way up the lineup. His versatility was very enticing."
Here's a lot more on Kerdiles, including a Q&A with him from Saturday and this feature story on him by Scott Burnside of ESPN.com.
The Ducks took 22-year-old goalie Frederik Andersen in the third round (87th overall), who played in 39 games with Frolunda of the Swedish Elite League last season and put up these garish numbers: a 1.67 goals-against average with seven shutouts and a .941 save percentage. He's a a native of Denmark who played for his national team at the last four IIHF World Championships.
Here's a little bit more on him and the Ducks' next five picks on Saturday.
First the schedule, which rolls out with four straight games at home against San Jose, Dallas, Carolina and Edmonton. Unlike last year, there are no mammoth eight-game road trips, the longest being four different five-gamers. The first of those is an intriguing one in late October/early November, when the Ducks hit Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Philly and Ottawa. The latter two being back-to-back weekend games with 10 a.m. Pacific puck drop times (love that). That's followed by the longest homestand of the season, a six-gamer against Vancouver, NYI, Buffalo, Columbus, Tampa and LA.
Speaking of LA, the Ducks end the season against them at Staples Center on April 13 and host them here at Honda Center on November 18, January 2 and March 6. Meanwhile, we have the traditional day-after-Thanksgiving matinee against Chicago on November 23 and the now-traditional New Year's Eve game against Colorado on ... you know when New Year's Eve is.
Here's the rest of the schedule, which includes a link for downloading it to your Outlook calendar, iPhone and more.
Now, the AHL affiliation. The Admirals were admitted to the AHL as an expansion franchise for the 2000-01 season, and they were affiliated with the Blackhawks until 2007. They were the Lightning's affiliate the last five years, including this season when they went a ridiculous 43-3 in their last 46 games (including 28 in a row) and rolled to the Calder Cup championship.
And they have some great fans as well, as attested to in this Puck Daddy piece as well as this video in which the crowd helps an 8-year-old anthem singer when the sound in the arena failed during the song.
Trent Yawney, who took over as associate head coach of the Ducks' affiliate in Syracuse in January last season, led the Crunch to a 15-3-1-1 record in the last 20 games and a berth in the playoffs. Yawney will be the coach in Norfolk, where he previously helmed the Admirals from 2000-05. His 24 years of experience in pro hockey include serving as a Ducks scout in 2007-08 and part of last season. Marty Wilford, who was an assistant coach with Syracuse last season, will serve that same role in Norfolk.
The Admirals play in a pretty cool-looking arena called Norfolk Scope, which happens to feature the world's largest concrete dome.
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Those who are still fans of Sammy Pahlsson will be interested to know that the 34-year-old who last played with Vancouver has signed a three-year deal to play with Modo of the Swedish Elite League. Pahlsson, who was with the Ducks from 2000 through 2009, played previously for Modo from 1994 through 2000.
I've told this story before: I was always a big Sammy Pahlsson fan when he was with the Ducks, so much so that when he was traded away in '09, someone dropped on my desk an autographed photo of him that had "Goodbye Brady, My Love" scribbled on it (here's the photo). It's still on my bulletin board and to this day, I don't know who did it.
I just know it wasn't Sammy.
The NHL Draft is coming up on Friday and Saturday, with the Ducks owning the sixth overall pick in this thing.
In the lead-up to the Draft, we've got lots of content to tide you over, including some cool flashback videos covering some pretty popular recent Ducks draftees:
- Behind the scenes of Devante Smith-Pelly's draft day in 2010
- Emerson Etem looks back on his 2010 draft day for TSN
- Cam Fowler goes through an emotional ride of falling to the Ducks at No. 12 in 2010
Meanwhile, I did a Q&A with Ducks Director of Amateur Scouting Martin Madden, in which he discusses the preparation by him and the scouting staff going into the Draft. Good stuff.
And if you're wondering what kind of player the Ducks might get at No. 6, here are some videos of the top prospects.
For more on this draft and past ones for the Ducks, check out the Draft Guide we put up last week.
The panel spoke on a number of topics, and then opened things up to questions from fans. A few highlights:
Check out the videos from the panel Q&A
Murray opened by talking about Teemu Selanne: “Bruce and I happened to see Teemu yesterday or the day before. He looks great and is actually training already, which is a very positive sign. He's heading home next week, and he's coming in to see me Monday morning. This is all very positive, because it's the way we've done it the last four or five years. I'm very hopeful in Teemu coming back. I'm not positive, but at least he's thinking about it.”
Murray indicated that he is currently in talks with free agent Sheldon Brookbank (to whom he’s offered a contract) and will talk with fellow free agent George Parros next week. “George wants to play every night and every game, and we don't know if that can be the case,” he said. “We're committed to playing four lines. We're no longer going to be a team that plays 2 1/2 lines. We did win a Cup playing three lines, but I don't think you can do it anymore. Certain people are going to play some nights, and certain people are not. We want people who buy into that program. If they don’t buy into it, they’re not going be here.”
Added Boudreau, “We all love George. But if you look at the beginning of the season, the physical players are needed an awful lot more than at the end of the season. That’s just the way it worked this year. When you start the season, you’ve got to establish your physicality and protection of stars and all of that. But if you look at the rest of the league, come January and February, a lot of enforcers are being sent to the minor leagues or not dressing.
“As a team that needed to win almost every game in the second half, we had to go with four lines so we wouldn’t exhaust everybody. So there are going to be games where George didn’t play. He has to understand that, and if he does, then great. If he doesn’t and he wants to play a lot of minutes every night, then he’s a free agent and he has the ability to do so. It doesn’t take away from the fact that we really like George."
Murray also said that free agents Jason Blake and Niklas Hagman will most likely not be back with Anaheim next season. “I’ve already told Jason that I don’t think he’s coming back,” he said. “Nick Hagman is not coming back. In an attempt to get a little bit faster … we got smaller, and we need to get bigger again. You can’t do that unless somebody goes and somebody new comes in. So that’s the situation with a few of those guys."
Murray on the Justin Schultz situation: “We’ve offered him everything we could have. This is not a money situation, because we actually offered Justin, before our last game of the year, we offered him absolutely everything we could to have him play for us. This is a situation where a young man wants to check out all 29 teams before he signs. It’s especially frustrating for us because last December when we were in Chicago, he sat with me and we discussed the rest of his career and him playing for us as soon as his season at Wisconsin was done. It would have been a great chance for him to come in and play 10 to 15 games for us and jumpstart his rookie season. He said to me, ‘Mr. Murray, I can’t wait.’ So it’s extremely frustrating, but we haven’t given up. We’re going to continue to try and sign him, and if we get to that 30-day point, we’re going to send another offer. We’ll just see where it goes. I’m not giving up on Mr. Schultz yet. If Justin doesn’t want to be here, we’ll move on.”
Murray on the upcoming draft: "Right now, centers are at a premium as much as defensemen are. If we stay at the sixth pick, we’ll get a defenseman or a centerman, one of the two, which is very good because you build your team from those guys. But if you want to make changes to your hockey team, this is the point in time you do it. The next couple of weeks could be interesting.”
Murray On Emerson Etem: “Emerson had a great year this year in juniors. But the most impressive thing he did this year was when he went to Syracuse and joined them at the end of the year and in the playoffs. He came in as a 19-year-old kid taking a professional’s spot because somebody has to go out of the lineup for him to play. He got better, not just game by game, but shift by shift, and the night we got beat out he had two goals and an assist and was our best player. He has grown as a professional very quickly and he has a chance to make our hockey team next year. The plan is not to add many more than one young player at the beginning of next year, because we want to get off to a good start and it’s time to start moving forward. Emerson will have a crack at a top-six spot, and if he’s not in the top six, I don’t see him anywhere else in the lineup. He’s not going to stay here to play three or four minutes a night."
Murray on the Ducks signing goalie Viktor Fasth last month: “The last couple of years have been tough for our goaltenders, with Jonas going down two seasons ago and Dan Ellis getting hurt last year. Fasth had an unbelievable record in Sweden and he’s not a kid, he’s a veteran who has played. Jonas won’t have to play as many games and our goaltending is in a good situation."
The speaking sessions weren’t all business. The always-engaging Boudreau talked about how much he loves the show Storage Wars and spoke at length about that show and another favorite, Pawn Stars. At one point, Luca Sbisa said into his mic, “You definitely watch too much TV.” Boudreau responded, “I could be watching game video instead, and saying things like, ‘Luca, you’ve got to protect the middle of the ice…’”
Boudreau continued, “It’s either that or get on the treadmill” and after getting a laugh from the crowd, he turned to Sbisa and said, “I knew you wouldn’t have the guts to say that one.”
“I can’t say what I’m thinking right now,” Sbisa replied.
Fans who updgraded their seats during the event were invited down to the Honda Center "ice" (which is just a concrete floor right now). They got to take a shot from center ice at a goal that was covered by a wood panel, and had three small cutouts along the bottom that were just large enough for a puck to slide through. (Here's a photo.) Anyone who made it through one of the holes got to pick from a number of great prizes (one guy chose a round of golf with Boudreau).
When Getzlaf was finished on the panel, he headed down there with his wife Paige and 1-year-old Ryder. After a few tries, he made it through one of the little openings, throwing his hands in the air as if he'd just scored a game-winning goal. He then got a mini stick in Ryder's hands and they messed around for a bit.
While still on the panel, here’s what Getzlaf said about the frustration of watching the Kings in the Stanley Cup Final: “It’s hard because you want to be back there, especially when we’ve been there and won the Cup before. I know what those guys are going through right now, and I want to be back in that position. It’s hard, especially when they’re just up the road, and knowing the start we had last year took us out of that. LA snuck into eighth, and if we could have just gotten there, we could have been in the same position. It’s motivation for next year. They’re where we want to be right now. We want to be the elite team in Southern California, and that’s part of the mindset going into next season.”
As we get closer to the possibility of having to share this date with another team up the road, it's more appropriate than ever to commemorate a very special anniversary for Ducks fans and for me personally, I'm re-posting this piece (with a slight adjustment) that originally ran June 6, 2008:
As anniversaries go, this one will always be a little bittersweet for me.
Six years ago on this day, my mom passed away after a year-long battle with lung cancer. One of my reasons for moving down here and taking this job in 2005 was to be closer to her and my dad in her final months. And I know she would have loved to see what I experienced in this building on the night of June 6, 2007.
So you can imagine that when I watched Chris Pronger carrying the puck from behind the net with the seconds ticking down to zero, Ryan Getzlaf shaking his gloves off his hands like an excited little boy and jumping into J.S. Giguere's arms, the crowd noise reaching a level like none I'd ever heard before, fireworks popping, black and orange confetti falling from the sky and the victory song from "Rocky" coming on ... well, you can imagine it was a little emotional for me.
And my father -- the guy who grew up on the East Coast rooting for Gump Worsley, Rocket Richard and the New York Rangers, who played hockey through high school, who went to some of the first Mighty Ducks games in 1993 and remembers thinking the Pond was too pretty for a hockey arena -- was here that night. He's been here for almost all of the home games since then.
He was part of that roaring crowd, he saw the fireworks, picked confetti out of his hair (and still has some of it under glass at home over a team photo), saw the Stanley Cup being passed around by the players on his favorite team -- his son's team. When all of it finally died down that night and he was heading out of the arena, I called him on his cell phone. He answered it with one word:
Five years later, I can still remember it well. It really was unbelievable.
One more thing:
The final horn that night sounded at 7:35 p.m. Pacific time -- the exact moment the Ducks officially became Stanley Cup champions. That's about the time that tonight's Game 4 might be ending too. But no matter what happens in that game, when the clock strikes 7:35 tonight, maybe call a friend, turn to a loved one, someone who shared that magical night with you -- and propose a toast.
I know I will.
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For a nice reminder of that night and all that led up to it, take a look at this video below, and some of these awesome photos.
The Ducks announced earlier today that they signed 25-year-old winger Ryan Lasch, who last year led the Finnish Elite League in scoring while helping his Lahti Pelicans to the league finals.
But here's why this is such a big deal: Lasch, a speedy scorer who played four seasons at St. Cloud State before heading to Europe, is the first Orange County-born player in the history of the Ducks organization.
I spoke to Lasch from his home in Lake Forest earlier today and here's the Q&A.
The Kings had 95 points in the regular season to earn the eighth seed in the West, although they've looked like anything but an 8 seed as they've steamrolled through the postseason with a 12-2 record and an unprecedented eight straight playoff road wins. They dispatched the No. 1-seeded Canucks in five games, the 2-seeded Blues in four and the 3-seeded Coyotes in five.
The 2003 Mighty Ducks of Anaheim also had 95 points, but earned the seventh seed in the West. They went on to sweep the 2-seeded Red Wings, edge the 1-seeded Stars in six (including an epic five-overtime Game 1) and down 6-seeded Wild in a sweep.
Meanwhile, both teams were riding an incredibly hot goaltender, though Jonathan Quick's outstanding postseason (1.54 GAA and .946 SV%) doesn't quite compare to the all-time great playoff run J.S. Giguere put together in '03 (1.62 goals-against average and five shutouts, including a perfect 7-0 in overtime and a Conn Smythe).
Want more similarities? How about celebs in the stands?
Further, when the Mighty Ducks won the West in '03, captain Paul Kariya didn't touch the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl, out of traditional superstition....
... nor did Kings captain Dustin Brown when LA won the West on Tuesday night.
Depending on what happens in tonight's Eastern Conference Finals Game 6 (or a possible Sunday Game 7), both the '03 Mighty Ducks and '12 Kings could be facing the New Jersey Devils in the Final. We know what happened to those Mighty Ducks -- a crushing 3-0 defeat in Game 7 in New Jersey. What happens with these Kings remains to be seen -- but you know we'll all be watching.
I want to know, Ducks fans, who would you rather see the Kings face in the Final? The Devils can clinch a trip to the Final with a win in over the Rangers in tonight's Game 6 in New Jersey (5 p.m. Pacific on NBC Sports Network). Based on what we've seen in this Devils-Rangers series, New Jersey appears to be playing slightly better hockey and would appear to have the edge on knocking off the Kings. But an LA-New York Final (featuring a Rangers team America got to know during HBO's 24/7 series) has a little more flair than an LA-New Jersey one.
If you're a reader of this blog or my live game logs, you may have seen mention of the The Tennis Balls. They're Dawn and Lewis, a husband-and-wife duo of diehard Ducks fans and season tickets holders who wear neon yellow sweatshirts to every home game. They sit a few rows behind the net in section 215 at Honda Center, and certainly stand out in a crowd. They were even more conspicuous when they attended Game 5 of Coyotes-Predators in Phoenix, when they were two very noticeable blips among the otherwise whited-out crowd at Jobing.com Arena.
Jenelyn Russo, who writes a very good blog for OC Family called When Girls Love Hockey, just put together a very nice piece on The Tennis Balls, including this insight into the history of their sweatshirts:
Dawn doesn’t recall the year exactly, maybe 2005, but she and Lewis were on their way back from a trip to Mammoth and had to rush home and get changed before heading to the Ducks game that night (totally committed fans, of course). They ran out of the house, wearing only Ducks t-shirts. When they got to Honda Center, Dawn knew she would be freezing inside without a sweater or a jacket. So they grabbed the only thing available to wear—bright neon yellow sweatshirts that Lewis had in the back of their car. A custom home builder, Lewis had purchased several of the sweatshirts for his employees and sub-contractors. They had no idea that wearing those sweatshirts that night would have such an effect on their lives as hockey fans.
In the midst of a frustrating multiple-game losing streak, Anaheim won that night and all of their fellow Ducks fans who sit around them declared the day-glo sweatshirts the reason for the win. And they insisted that Dawn and Lewis wear them to every game going forward. So for the most part, they have.
As expected, the Tennis Balls (who have "adopted" the Coyotes as their playoff team), are at Game 5 between the Yotes and Kings at Jobing.com Arena tonight.