If there ever was any indication for how hungry Ducks fans were for the return of hockey in Orange County, it was more than apparent this afternoon at Honda Center.
More than 2,500 fans flocked to the home of the Ducks for the long-awaited opening of training camp, and were treated to two spirited practice sessions followed by an entertaining 20-minute Q&A with coach Bruce Boudreau. And the Ducks threw in free hot dogs and sodas for everyone in attendance.
The presence of those fans – both in numbers and enthusiasm – didn’t go unnoticed by the guys on the ice.
“That was awesome,” said Teemu Selanne, who not surprisingly got the biggest ovation when he hit the ice for the start of practice. “We were talking earlier about how the fans have all the right to be angry and not to come out here. But to see so many people, especially here in California, it’s huge. It makes you feel very good.
“I’m so happy all of this is over, because the fans are so important for us. Especially for myself, I’ve always had a very special relationship with the fans, so it was awesome to see so many of them here today. “
Cam Fowler, the 21-year-old defenseman embarking on his third training camp in Anaheim, echoed Selanne’s sentiment.
“It’s great to have their support after everything they’ve gone through,” he said. “Just coming out here and hearing them cheer when you step on the ice is pretty exciting. It speaks to the loyalty of our fans and how much they support us. I just want to thank them for sticking around and they should know we will be giving 110 percent for them this year.”
Boudreau said that as a huge sports fan himself, he could empathize with the fans during the past few months. “If I wasn’t allowed to see Notre Dame … or the Yankees play because they were on strike, I’d be really bummed out. So I understand their pain. We’re just really grateful that as many of them did come out today. I think that’s really cool for a Sunday with two playoff football games on, and to see a few a few thousand people out there watching you practice, it’s really good.”
So much focus is on the players getting back on the ice, the coaches – who are clamoring for action just as much as the guys in uniform – almost go unnoticed. But Boudreau was elated to get out there barking orders again.
“I love it,” he said during a lengthy session with media after practice. “That's why I'm a little talkative today. I've got six months bottled up in me.
"It’s what we do. This is my 38th year, and to miss the first part of it, it was killing me. I can’t wait for the games to come on most days. And I can’t wait to get home tonight and read on the internet about how everyone did in camp instead of reading about the CBA. That’s put behind us, and let’s get excited about the game again.”
More from Selanne:
On the first day of camp,
“It was fun. It was a good way to start. Obviously we won’t have too much time to get ready, so every day is important right now. It was good to be out there with the boys. There is a lot of hard work ahead, but it’s fun.”
On dealing with the lockout,
It was like a rollercoaster. Once in awhile you thought things were getting close, and the next day it was not. Mentally, that was the hardest part because you didn’t know what was going to happen. The worst thing was not knowing what was going on and how long it would last. There were days when I’d drive to the rink and there were only three or four guys skating and you feel like you’re wasting your time. But certainly you try to stay positive and optimistic, and I’m so happy everything came together.
On last year’s tough start to the season,
We need to remind each other about what happened last year and try to get those feelings back. You don’t want to go through that experience again. It was just a nightmare at times. A lot of times early in the season you go to the east coast and don’t think those points are as important. Now, it’s not the case. We play against our conference only and every point is huge. It’s going to go all the way to the end, and you have to grind out every point. One point can be the difference in making the playoffs or not.
On the compacted schedule,
Hopefully this will be good for the old guy. But saying that, this schedule is going to be very challenging for everybody, because recovery time is going to be so short. But I still feel good, and I’m very excited about this team. Expectations are high.
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