|Thompson getting ready for a photo shoot on camp's first day.
It was the annual day of physicals, photo shoots and media sessions -- a day that has a "first day of school" feel to it each season. It's a chance to revisit with familiar faces that you haven't seen all summer, one of which -- Corey Perry -- had a perpetual smile on his as he moved from station to station (remarkable considering Perry isn't normally much of a smiler.)
It's also a chance to get to know some of the newer faces who have become Ducks over the summer, one of whom this camp is likeable (and amply bearded) center Nate Thompson.
While the trade with Vancouver for center Ryan Kesler was Anaheim's biggest splash of the offseason, the move to acquire the veteran Thompson (for a 4th-round and 7th-round pick) was a key depth acquisition for the Ducks. Thompson is a workhorse who chipped in nine goals and 16 points in 81 games for the Lightning last season, and while that's interesting enough, Ducks fans obviously know very little about the personal side of him. (Here's a video interview with him from yesterday as well.)
Thompson actually hails from Anchorage, Alaska, and still heads back there a bit in the offseason. Here is his take on growing up there, as well as a few other personal preferences, which includes fly fishing (at left is a photo of a pretty decent catch, which is his Twitter profile photo):
It’s about 250,000 to 300,000 people, but it’s kind of spread out and has a smaller feel to it. It was a great place to grow up because it’s all about hockey there, but there is so much to do in the winter and summer, especially if you’re an outdoors person. I grew up fishing all the time and all of that stuff. I still have a lot of close friends up there, and I still call it home.
On the hockey in Alaska,
It’s definitely the No. 1 sport up there. There are a good amount of guys in the NHL from Alaska. Scott Gomez is the one who put us on the map, but you’ve got Matt Carle, Brandon Dubinsky, Joey Crabb, Tim Wallace, Ty Conklin, to name a few. There are definitely some good players from there.
On the biggest misconception about Alaska,
Everyone thinks we’re Eskimos and we ride our dogsleds to school and around town. That’s definitely not the case.
Favorite NHL player growing up
I was a big Steve Yzerman fan, just for how he played and what he did for the Detroit organization.
Favorite hockey moment of your career
There are a couple. My first NHL goal was a pretty special one. It was in New York and on [Henrik] Lundqvist. I scored two goals in a game last year, and the second one was an overtime winner, so that was pretty special too.
I put all my equipment on left side first.
A River Runs Through It
Favorite TV shows
Modern Family, Sons of Anarchy and Game of Thrones
Someone on your iPod you’re ashamed of
Kate Beckinsale. “Cogs” [Andrew Cogliano] said that too? That’s my man right there. I like that. [Cogliano walks by and gets a fist bump from Thompson.]
Who would play you in a movie about your life?
Let’s go with Christian Bale.
Favorite Orange County restaurants
I’ve been to a few so far, and I’ve liked them all. Bear Flag Fish Co. is really good.
Favorite vacation spot
How you spent the summer
I went home to Alaska for a fishing trip and saw some family. I went on another fishing trip in Northern Ontario for some walleye. Other than that, I spent my summer with my wife in Minneapolis, where she’s from. We went to her parents' cabin. That’s where we spend most of our summers.
New center Ryan Kesler, goalie John Gibson and defenseman Hampus Lindholm were "hired" as a security guard, elevator operator and receptionist, respectively. They were positioned one evening to greet a group of 10 randomly picked season ticket holders (and their families), who were only told to come to Honda Center and pick up their tickets for 2014-15.
The reactions of the fans to seeing the likes of Kesler in full gear, peaking around a newspaper as he sat at his security post, were priceless. I remained in the locker room with coach Bruce Boudreau, a few Power Players and Wild Wing to enjoy the looks on their faces as Bruce led them to their own stall, where a personalized new Ducks jersey hung from a hook.
Here's a group photo of everybody, and here's a look at a video recapping the whole thing:
This season the Ducks added something new to the process, holding a social media scavenger hunt-themed contest in which one fan was given the chance to help paint the ice. That fan, whose name is Kimberly, got a nice surprise when she showed up to Honda Center and Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen was there to help paint the surface.
Meanwhile, we have this Vine video of Freddie painting the crease that he will soon man when games get started later this month. If you stare at this long enough, it's oddly mesmerizing.
And here is the finished product (with a couple of sponsor logos still to be painted):
Of course, they can always dump the water over their heads and donate to ALS research if they so choose. The ALS Association is a national non-profit fighting Lou Gehrig’s Disease through global research and providing assistance and care for people with ALS.
Admirably, a number of Ducks have gotten into the spirit, dousing themselves in ice water and challenging teammates and other NHLers to do the same. Not surprisingly, Ben Lovejoy had probably the best one, sitting on a dock and getting his baby daughter Lila involved, with warm water poured only over her leg (she cried anyway). You can't really hear what he says at the end, but ...
Ryan Getzlaf, Emerson Etem, Cam Fowler, new Duck Dany Heatley and others have taken part. Take a look at all of the videos here.
The Ducks staff, led by Executive Vice President/COO Tim Ryan, got into the spirit today too (see below), after being challenged by the staff of the Nashville Predators. The Ducks and Honda Center are also making a donation to the ALS Association.
If you'd like to get involved, simply post your own video on your Facebook or Twitter and use the hashtag #IceBucketChallenge.
Every once in awhile, I'll see emails that bring a smile to my face, like this one we received today from a Will Grant:
To the Ducks,
On Sunday, April 13 2014, I attended the Ducks vs. Avalanche game, and it was quite a magical experience! Not only did the Ducks pull out a tough 3-2 victory in OT, but the fans were truly treated above and beyond. The generosity and good spirits of the Ducks organization were contagious throughout the evening. I just had to write to say how thankful I am for that experience.
I am new to hockey fandom. Originally from Arkansas, there wasn’t a whole lot of hockey coverage growing up. It wasn’t until I decided to attend a Ducks game on February 28 that I realized I had found a new love. I was instantly hooked. The positive atmosphere and beauty of the Honda Center, the warmth of the crowd behind me while feeling the cold of the rink below, the speed and intensity of the game. I could see droves of happy fans, whether it be a single person with a Teemu jersey, or complete families decked out in classic Ducks gear. That night I bought a hockey jersey and knew I was a Ducks fan.
I bought a number of tickets in advance, so I already had tickets to that April 13th game. However, my roommate recently returned from Afghanistan and he wanted to splurge. We ended up with glass seats that night, and it was completely amazing. Since it was Fan Appreciation Night, ticket numbers were being called out all night for various prizes.
I had been chatting with the gentleman next to me and his granddaughter, and he mentioned one of the giveaways being displayed. I looked up and it was the seats that I had previously purchased! I was totally amazed, but was doubtful I would be able to receive the prize since I had left the tickets at home. The gentleman next to me convinced me to at least give it a shot.
I remembered that I had taken a picture of the tickets earlier, as I was trying to give them away to friends. Nobody had taken them, mainly because I live in San Diego county, so not too many of my friends want to make that journey. I walked up to the prize table and explained the situation. The staff member was very patient with my situation, and decided the best course of action would be to reprint my ticket. She was able to reprint the ticket, and in no time I was given 10 $50 American Express gift cards! I have never won anything in my life, so $500 was already something else for me.
I went back to my seat and talked to that gentleman again, and decided to give his granddaughter one of the gift cards. If it wasn’t for them I would have never noticed that my ticket was announced. Also, he had mentioned how charitable his granddaughter was, and had been telling me all night about his immense love for the Ducks.
The Ducks played an amazing game, and won in a dramatic finish. Afterwards, I saw the most amazing thing of all. Teemu Selanne’s last home game, and everyone was so emotional. Teemu actually came up and gave his stick to that gentleman’s granddaughter! I was witnessing all of this from only a few feet away, and saw how much it meant to them. The fans throughout the Honda Center showed their love for Selanne, and he returned the favor.
The Ducks organization, from top to bottom, is one of the most friendly and inspiring groups I have ever encountered. The ability to create moments like the previous mentioned is an opportunity this organization capitalizes on time and time again. I realize my experience is only a drop in the bucket compared to what goes on throughout the year in the Honda Center. I have decided that I want to be in a career that is so rewarding. To be able to give so much in such a professional way while still enjoying being part of such an incredible team. That is my new goal.
I know this has been a rather lengthy thank you, but I just had to attempt to convey the magnitude of my thanks to everyone working with the Ducks. I have not had a negative experience thus far, and will always be a Ducks fan after this past season.
|Photo courtesy of @artofdave
The mask is the brainchild of airbrush artist and custom mask painter David Gunnarsson of Sweden, who has created several incredible designs, including some of Andersen's. One of those is the Stadium Series mask that Andersen didn't get a chance to wear in the game at Dodger Stadium, since Jonas Hiller started and finished that 3-0 shutout of the Kings. (Andersen did sport the mask in practice and warmups.)
Inspired by the incredibly popular The Lego Movie, the new mask depicts the character Emmet wearing a Ducks jersey that looks similar to the one worn in the Stadium Series game, with a retro Mighty Ducks logo shield on the front. Emmet, with a goalie mask on his head, is shown building what looks like a brick wall made out of Legos.
I talked to Andersen this afternoon about the mask and its painter:
"I’ve been working with David for three years, I think. He’s really creative, and he’ll throw some ideas at me and I’ll tell him what I like. I think it was originally meant for the Stadium Series game, but at the last second he went with a different design for that and decided to save the Lego idea for later. He came up with the idea because Lego is from Denmark and only an hour from where I grew up. I liked the idea, and I think it’s really good-looking with the orange on the jersey, since we have some orange on the jersey that we wore in the playoffs.
"When I was a kid, I had Legos and David told me that he still likes to help his kids build with Legos. I remember when my brothers and sister would get Legos at Christmas and all the kids would want to help them build with them. It’s kind of fun. I actually just saw the pictures today of the final mask, and I think it’s going to look really good."
Andersen said he has already seen photos of the finished product, which will be ready by the start of next season.
CLICK HERE for the full Q&A with Freddy.
As anniversaries go, this one will always be a little bittersweet for me.
Eight 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 (looking 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:
Seven 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. So 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.
We were going through photos of Ducks winger Patrick Maroon and realized that in true Jordanesque fashion, he's frequently caught with his tongue hanging out, even in the most intense moments of a game.
It's especially the case in these playoffs. When I asked him about it today, he said it's because he's subconciously feeling around for the mustache that has grown with his playoff beard, which he's not quite used to yet. "I kind of like playing with it though," he said of the facial growth.
When I mentioned all the photos, he said, "Is it bad? Do I look like a creeper?"
Certainly not, but here is a sampling of tongue-out photos:
"I don't know," said the man of few words. "Just seemed like the thing to do at the time."
Here it is, if you haven't seen it:
After almost two weeks of playoffs, the beard has grown into a significant presence on my face -- although, it currently leans more toward “unemployed and lazy” rather than the “rugged and virile” look I’m going for. (Not to mention, there is an alarming amount of salt in that pepper.)
A number of friends – and more importantly, my fiancée – have recommended I clean it up in certain spots, namely the neck and upper cheek areas. I, however, have always been under the impression that you never touch a playoff beard, that is until your team has played its final playoff game. (Plus, one of the joys of growing out the beard is that it takes me approximately 45 seconds to get ready in the morning.)
I’ve gotten conflicting opinions, so I decided to take the matter into the Ducks locker room and ask some of the more fertile beard growers their opinions.
I started, of course, with the guy who has unanimously been deemed Hairiest Duck – young Kyle Palmieri. Out of pure necessity, he sides on the “trim it” side of the spectrum.
“I have to, or else my beard will connect to my chest hair,” he said. “So, I need to keep it trimmed a little bit on the neck and under the eyes. I know Winny [Daniel Winnik] has the same issues, so you kind of need to take care of it or it will become a problem.”
Winnik confirmed that. “I trim the cheeks, or else it will grow into my eyes,” he said. “I don’t trim the neck, just touch it up a bit.”
He happened to be walking down the hallway next to another guy who has sprouted an admirable beard, Patrick Maroon. “I don’t do anything with the neck,” he said, then pointed to his upper cheek. “I just trim it right here. You have to.”
I checked with Teemu Selanne, a guy who had a pretty decent growth during that ’07 Cup run. “I shave my neck a little bit. I hate when I go like that and I can feel it,” he said, while looking down to the ground and touching his chin to his chest.
“It’s up to you though. If it doesn’t bother you, don’t do it.”
Francois Beauchemin is having his beard growth photographed day-by-day throughout the postseason by one of our Ducks publicists (here is today's). Also, he’s one of the manliest men I've ever known, so I figured he’d be good to ask. He said he hasn’t started cleaning up his beard yet, but he will soon.
“I think it looks a little cleaner,” he said. “Some guys let it go, and it starts to grow into the chest."
He continued, “When the neck and the chest get together, it gets a little ugly.”
That quote alone is pretty awesome.
I decided there was one man in this building whose opinion on this topic I trust the most, the man who has grown one of the most prolific playoff beards in the history of this great game.
I’m talking about this one:
Scott Niedermayer, it turned out, thought I was joking at first. But when he saw the severity of my face, he turned serious.
(Okay, not really. He was laughing pretty much the whole time.)
I could have sworn I remembered the beard pictured above as growing boundless, without being touched by human hand over those magical eight weeks in 2007. But Scotty shot that down.
“I trimmed it,” he said, as my shoulders slumped in disappointment. “I had to. It was going to get really ugly if I didn’t.”
Having won four Stanley Cups, he’s been around his share of abundant playoff beards, and he said each man treats his whiskers differently.
“There is always sort of a nice middle ground,” he said. “Some guys can’t afford to trim anything, and some guys really need to. At least that was always my opinion. Maybe some guys are brave enough not to.”
Bottom line: Scotty trims it. I’m trimming it. Case closed.