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(All times Pacific unless otherwise noted.)
Updated August 23 at 3:27 p.m.
Just wanted to write a quick note regarding the inactivity in the blog lately (as several people have inquired about it as of late). The lack of production can be blame on a lack of material to write about (August is always a slow month in the NHL world) and material that I really shouldn't write about (Bobby Ryan's negotiations, trade rumors, Kariya rumors, etc.)
And despite the fact that I'm tweeting on a consisent basis now, rest assured that it won't take the place of the blog. Once we get closer to the start of the season (a.k.a when there is more to write about) I'll be blogging on a consistent basis again.
And just in case you weren't excited enough about that season finally starting, the blog Anaheim Calling has a pretty cool montage video of Ducks highlights set to the theme from "Inception."
Updated August 9 at 3:14 p.m.
In the 11 seasons he's been in an Anaheim uniform, we've seen countless examples of just how much Teemu Selanne is adored by Ducks fans. Today, we saw it again via something that didn't even exist when Selanne first became a Duck -- Facebook.
Seemingly within seconds of the Ducks posting Selanne's statement that he would return next year on the team's Facebook page (as well as Twitter), the comments came flooding in from among the Ducks' more than 36,000 followers, and it happened again when the Ducks posted a press release confirming the one-year deal. Most of those comments came with more exclamation points, all caps and happy faces than a teenage girl's signed yearbook. Things like:
Yes!!!! We love you Teemu!!!!
THANK YOU TEEMU!!!!!!!!!!
I'm SOOO HAPPY!
Yahoo! Mr. 600 returns!
WOOOOO HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO We Love Teemu!!!
1 more Stanley Cup for Teemu!!!!!
Great Player and Great Person!!!!
When Selanne and the Ducks were able to make his return official this morning, it opened the floodgates for that lovefest. And, with Selanne emphasizing that he came back because he liked the way this team is shaping up ("I know this team can win, he said), it instilled a whole new optimism for next season.
Even at 40 years old (which he turned last July 3), Selanne can still bring it. It's amazing to realize he still had 27 goals last year while only playing 54 games, when a fractured hand and a broken jaw put a serious damper on his season (and let's face it, the Ducks' playoff hopes). Thankfully, Selanne enjoyed himself so much down the stretch after he was able to come back that he wanted to give it another whirl in 2010-11.
"The way last season ended, I was really enjoying hockey again after those two injuries," he said during a spirited conference call with reporters. "I thought I needed more time to think about it and go through the whole season. The longer I thought about it, the more I got the feeling that I’m not done yet."
Selanne said that while contemplating the decision, he trained back in Finland the entire summer as if he intended to play next year. And a Finnish journalist named Pekka Jalonen emailed me these shots of him training with nine other fellow Finnish NHLers in a town called Vantaa this morning (photos by Atte Kajova).
There's only so much to say to a guy when he decides to come back for one more year, so the conversation inevitably turned to the rumors that Paul Kariya might sign with the Ducks and rejoin Selanne for what was once a dynamic duo in the purple and jade days. Selanne responded with this: "I’ve talked to Paul a couple times and I know he would be very excited to come back and play with us. I’ve talked with Bob [Murray] a little bit about it too. That’s their call and I don’t know much more than that... It’s their decision to find something that works for both. Of course I’m supporting that idea."
Later in the day, when Murray was asked about it by reporters, Murray acknowledged that Kariya is one of several veterans the Ducks are looking at right now. "I have asked Teemu about Paul, I asked some of my other veterans about a bunch of players out there who they may have played with or been around in the last little while," he said. "Paul is one of them and there have been a few others."
Murray also touched briefly on the negotiations with the other No. 9, saying "There is the Bobby Ryan issue still sitting out there and we’re attempting to go at that in a different way the next couple of days, in terms of years. That’s all I’m going to say."
But today is not about Bobby Ryan and it's not about Paul Kariya. It's about one more year with the most beloved guy in the history of this franchise, and one of the greater guys in the history of this game.
And in 60 days, when we finally get this season started, something tells me the Teemu-related exclamation points will be pouring in once again.
Updated August 3 at 12:34 p.m.
It's been a summer of change for the Anaheim Ducks defense, especially in the last four days when the team traded away one veteran and promptly brought in another.
Mere moments after signing James Wisniewski to a one-year contract on Friday, the Ducks promptly traded him to the New York Islanders for a third-round draft pick. While Wisniewski was a solid No. 3 or No. 4 defenseman and a great personality, the Ducks and Wiz's camp were extremely far apart in their contract negotiations this offseason. And that was after Ducks boss Bob Murray made an offer during the season of a four-year contract that was turned down. It had become clear that when Wisniewski went to arbitation (and his hearing was scheduled for today) he was likely going to be awarded a figure that was more than Anaheim was willing to pay. So, rather than walk away and allow Wisniewski to become a free agent, the Ducks worked out a deal with the Isles for that draft pick, knowing they had other options (such as yesterday's signing of Andy Sutton) ahead of them.
It's yet another move to shake up a defense that Murray has made clear needed some altering, after finishing 29th in the NHL last year in both shots allowed and blocked shots. And that's what makes yesterday's signing of the veteran Sutton so appealing. The 35-year-old Sutton, who spent last year with the Islanders and the Senators, is a 6-6, 245-pound behemoth who finished second in the league in blocked shots and eighth in hits last year. He's also a guy that the Ducks had been interested in for some time, and he comes at a price (an average of $2.1 million over each of the next two years) much lower than what Wisniewski had commanded.
"We inquired about him at the deadline last year," said Murray. "I just couldn’t make things work in time to get him ... I talked to Pat Morris (his agent) very early about Andy. We waited a little while and talked again. I had to see where the whole Wisniewski thing went and we had to let that play out a little bit. I think Andy is very excited about playing with our group and we’re very excited to have him. We were all patient and let things unfold."
Said Sutton, "My first priority was to try to make this work in Anaheim. Bob was great in working with Pat to make sure that this happened. It was very important to me. Everything came together perfectly. I know the research that management has done there. They brought me in to fill a hole. I think I can complement the Ducks really well. I think the sky's the limit with this club."
During a session with a reporter on the phone yesterday, in which he came off as extremely bright and affable (and reminded us a bit of Sean O'Donnell), Sutton said he thought he had the best year of his career last year (which included some postseason time with Ottawa in which he averaged 23 minutes a game). Concurred Murray, “From about all accounts, this is an outstanding young man who probably had the best year in his career. He’s a consummate professional. We’ve lost some of those guys. I think Andy is that type of guy. He keeps himself in great shape. He’s ready to play. He does all the little things that you want your younger players to see.”
Murray, meanwhile, has indicated he's still on the phones to attempt to add to a defense that now has Sutton, Lubomir Visnovsky, Toni Lydman, Sheldon Brookbank and possibly Luca Sbisa among its NHL-established troops. “I’m okay with where we are at the moment,” Murray said. “I’m not saying we’re done yet. But I don’t know or can’t say for sure that there’s something coming. I’m dabbling in a few things right now.”
So, possibly more changes to come, and as far as two changes Ducks fans don't want -- nothing new to report on Bobby Ryan and Teemu Selanne.
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The Puck Daddy blog on Yahoo! is doing a series for each NHL team entitled Mount Puckmore, which features fans, bloggers and various media personalities of all 30 teams choosing the four defining faces of their franchise. These four people are who you remember most when you think of these teams -- whether they be players, coaches or executives.
The Ducks were featured first, courtesy of blogger Earl Sleek, who went with Selanne, Paul Kariya, Sammy Pahlsson and J.S. Giguere. I think the choices of Selanne and Giguere are no-brainers, as is Kariya, no matter how you feel about the way he exited Anaheim. But as much as it pains me to say it -- as the owner of an unapologetic man crush on Sammy -- I don't think there is any way you can leave out Scott Niedermayer.
Your thoughts? Feel free to email.
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Former Ducks assistant coach Newell Brown was hired as an assistant by the Vancouver Canucks today. Good to see Brownie, one of the all-time nice guys, end up in a good city with a good organization.
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A Kings staffer sent me this interesting Herald-Examiner news clip from way back in 1966 that reports on the process of the franchise in Los Angeles being named the Kings. Jack Kent Cooke, then owner of the Kings and the Lakers, revealed that management held a team-naming contest for potential fans and received 7,648 submissions through U.S. mail (whatever that is.) Apparently they narrowed the choices down to eight, and one of the losing entries was, "a name that had previously been associated with failure in sports here." (I wasn't alive in 1966, so what could that have possibly been? The Rams? )
The story continues with: And there were also "some beautiful sounding Spanish names that didn't quite measure up to what we wanted." Their meaning, in other words, was not as beautiful as their sound.
The winner of the contest was Harry J. Mullen of Pasadena, whose entry bore an earlier postmark than 30 others who submitted the same name.
Wait, what's a postmark?
For his efforts, Mullen won a color television set and a portable FM-AM transistor as well as two season tickets and a season parking pass for the Kings' first year. Love how the writer, Steve Harvey, lists the TV and the radio ahead of the tickets in the story.
The story continues with: And there were also "some beautiful sounding Spanish names that didn't quite measure up to what we wanted." Their meaning, in other words, was not as beautiful as their sound.
The winner of the contest was Harry J. Mullen of Pasadena, whose entry bore an earlier postmark than 30 others who submitted the same name.
Wait, what's a postmark?
For his efforts, Mullen won a color television set and a portable FM-AM transistor as well as two season tickets and a season parking pass for the Kings' first year. Love how the writer, Steve Harvey, lists the TV and the radio ahead of the tickets in the story.
Updated July 21 at 9:18 a.m.
I've been a lot more active on Twitter than the blog lately (but things will get closer to normal when we get near the start of the season). So, just as a reminder, if you'd like to follow me on Twitter, click here.
You can also see my last few tweets from here by looking at the column to the right of this page.
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One of the greatest things about this job is the number of “I can’t believe they pay me for this” moments it produces on a regular basis. Things like watching hockey in an NHL arena 50 nights a year. June 6, 2007. Heck, this blog.
And there is that one summer day every year that brings that thought back to mind – Power Player auditions.
Yesterday was this year’s edition of girlapalooza, as more than 100 Power Player hopefuls tried out at THE RINKS – Anaheim ICE during a 6 1/2 hour day that, somehow, never got boring. Including the nine returning hopefuls, there were 113 girls at the auditions, an all-time record, not to mention more than 100 watching in the stands and a half dozen judges (of which I was one again this year).
The day started at 9 a.m., outside the rink, where the hopefuls signed in and braved what felt like 100-degree heat. (The only decent place to stand was in the shade of one of those giant inflatable Ducks players.) From there, things moved inside, where the shock of going from sweltering heat to the sub-40 temperature of the ice rink was jarring. But that’s where the girls first got to strut their stuff, hitting the ice for a free skate in which us judges attempted to pick out some standouts from the crowd. Each of us is given a rundown sheet in which we can grade each one (identified by a number stuck on their spandexed leg) on personality, appearance, skating ability, etc.
And you inevitably have conversations with the judge next to you – in yesterday’s case, the hilarious Marissa from the Ducks staff – that go something like this: “Oooh, I like 61” or “Check out 9 when she comes by again.” (I hope I didn’t give too much away there.)
The girls skated around the rink for several minutes, most trying to get the attention of the judges, others concentrating on not falling flat on their faces. Actually, the day’s biggest spill came from Ducks entertainment manager Chris Brown, who was attempting to skate backwards while shooting some video of the event and went tumbling over a girl who had fallen down seconds earlier. Brownie was okay, coming out of it with a sore rear end and a severely bruised ego (his cleanly shaved bald head turned the color of a goal light.) More importantly, the girl and the camera survived unscathed.
Eventually the girls were broken into groups of about 40 (with the rest standing along the boards), so we could get a better look at each of them as they cruised around the rink. That was followed by the starting and stopping drills, in which groups of five were made to start at one blue line, stop at the red line, stop at the other blue line and then turn and go back. For some girls, it was a piece of cake. For others, it looked very similar to a baby deer being born. Some girls kind of went into an accidental spin to stop their momentum, others circled their arms as they tipped precariously forward and others fell flat on their faces.
Thankfully, the traditional routine of having the girls attempt to shovel snow (as the on-ice Power Players do during every timeout at the games) was squashed for time concerns. Instead, each girl was asked to skate up to the judges, give a quick introduction of themselves and then skate off the ice, unquestionably my favorite part of the day.
One girl revealed she was a former Dallas Stars ice girl. One was a mother of two. Another disclosed that she came here from Cleveland (but didn’t mention her feelings about LeBron James). One girl skated around the rink wearing a George Parros mustache. One said she was fluent in sign language and signed "I love the Ducks" (apparently the sign for "Duck" is flapping your hand like a duck bill near your mouth). There was an emergency room tech, a girl who bragged that she rotates her own tires, a girl who was fluent in Polish, the starting center for the Los Angeles Temptation in the Lingerie Bowl. There were Disneyland cast members, Strike Force girls from the Angels, former figure skaters, former hockey players, former cheerleaders and one police officer. Some of the girls had trouble staying on their feet as they introduced themselves, or completely skated past the judges area as they tried to stop. And of course there were a few great lines:
“I would wink, but I don’t know how.”
“I play roller hockey and I love deking all the guys.”
“I like to kick my boyfriend’s butt in NHL 10.”
“I’m a pretty big dork, but an even bigger Ducks fan.”
"I'm the biggest Scott Niedernighter fan ... I can't say his name."
“I’m scared of clowns.”
After all the quick intros, the girls waited patiently in the lobby while us judges went through the process of coming up with 25 or so girls that would move on to the interview portion (we eventually landed on 27, with all nine returning hopefuls making it to that stage). Eventually, the list of numbers was put on the wall by none other than Wild Wing (chosen, I assume, because the padding of the uniform would protect him from the inevitable swarm of females).
The 27 happy girls (some of them consoling the several dozen sad ones) were brought in for five-minute interviews in front of the judges where they were asked standard questions like, “Why do you want to be a Power Player?” and more offbeat ones like, “If you could be any food, which one would you be and why?”
One said she watches NHL Network constantly and it annoys all her friends. A returner said she had a goal of getting on a plane for the first time this year. One girl, after we’d had a flood of others talking about how much they love the “Twilight” series, refreshingly said, “I’m not a huge ‘Twilight’ fan.” One said she started skating as a kid because, “You feel like you’re flying.” One started a Facebook fan page for the auditions. A girl with a background in classic cars said her favorite was the ’69 Shelby Mustang and that it was better than the ’67 because of the hood extension (yeah, I don’t even know what that means). One, when asked where she sees herself in five years, said she plans to have graduated from law school. Another, when asked what she thought of next year’s uniform (displayed on a mannequin) replied, “I like it. I don’t have a problem with midriff.” (What a coincidence, I’m the same way!)
When the last girl had answered the last question and the day was finally done, we got just a little bit closer to putting together next year’s team. Girls will be brought in for second interviews and uniform try-ons in the coming days (a process I’m unfortunately not a part of) and next year’s team will be finalized by the end of this month or early August.
And that will be the squad we’ll gladly watch clean the ice and pump up the crowd night after night at Honda Center. Inevitably, I’ll be watching them during a break in the game with the rest of the crowd, when once again I’ll be saying to myself, “They pay me for this?”
Updated July 17 at 4:14 p.m.
A long day and a great turnout at Power Player auditions today at THE RINKS - Anaheim ICE. I'm waiting on photos from the day and planning on posting a full report tomorrow afternoon.
Updated July 9 at 2:44 p.m.
There was a lot to like at yesterday's scrimmage at THE RINKS - Anaheim Ice, part of the week-long prospects summer conditioning camp. First was the big crowd that came out to watch the kids (which was even bigger during the first scrimmage of the week on Tuesday). One thing that sticks out among those crowds is how their reaction to goals is much different than at your typical hockey game. In these games, the crowd is just kind of rooting for good hockey rather than pulling for the home team. So whenever a goal is scored, you hear more of a "OOOOOOOHHHHHHH" from the stands, which is much different than the "HEEEE-YEEEEAAAAAHHHHH!!!" you hear in your typical NHL arena.
There were a few of those "OOOOOOOHHHHHHH"s last night during the 5-2 victory by the White team (Dan Sexton, Kyle Palmieri, Emerson Etem, etc.) over the Black (Nick Bonino, Peter Holland, Devante Smith-Pelly, etc.). Sexton, who ironically enough looks like a man amongst boys in these scrimmages, had two goals last night (one on a penalty shot following a penalty since they don't do power plays in these scrimmages). Rob Bordson, signed by the Ducks last March out of Minnesota-Duluth, also had two goals, while Bonino (looking very sharp, by the way) scored for the Black team. But those scorers weren't the only ones who stood out at last night's scrimmage. A few notes:
- Jake Gardiner, the defenseman taken in the first round by the Ducks in 2008, continued to be his smooth-skating, good-decision-making self and looks at least 20 pounds heavier (i.e. stronger) than he was at this time last year. Gardiner will be in training camp in September and will return to the University of Wisconsin for his junior year, but he looks every bit like a defenseman of the future for Anaheim.
- Forward Kyle Palmieri (taken in the first round by the Ducks last year) joined Gardiner and this year's Ducks first-round pick Cam Fowler on the U.S. team that knocked off Canada (which had Ducks prospect Brandon McMillan) in the World Junior championship game last January. Palmieri looked good last night again, just two days after he had a hat trick (including one spectacular goal) in the first camp scrimmage. He's got very good hands and is quick around the cage.
- Mark Mitera, the d-man Anaheim took in the first round four years ago continues to be a tough, stay-at-home guy who gets the puck out of his own end.
- Devante Smith-Pelly, the big forward taken by the Ducks in the second round last month, was a noticeable force last night, hitting everything in site, going hard to the net and even bowling over a goalie in a manner that would make Corey Perry proud.
- Chris Wagner, the kid from Massachusetts who the Ducks took with the pick they got from Mike Brown, looks like he could be Sammy Pahlsson's little brother.
We've got photos and video from last night's scrimmage (as well as a postgame pizza party with kids from the Boys and Girls Club).
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In case you didn't already see, Ryan Carter was placed on waivers yesterday morning and was not claimed by another team, so he remains property of the Ducks. The Ducks, who are logjammed at center right now, are looking to move Carter, a guy who was hurt for a good part of last year and even when healthy had trouble getting consistent ice time in Anaheim.
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Anaheim's trade this afternoon of defenseman Steve Eminger to the Rangers for LW Aaron Voros and LW prospect Ryan Hillier, signals the end of a tough go for Eminger with the Ducks, who feel the need to shake things up defensively. Said Bob Murray about the trade, "I wanted to change the mix on our back end." And he'll continue to do that this summer by possibly making more deals and giving some prospects a chance to make a defensive unit that right now only has Lubomir Visnovsky, Sheldon Brookbank and newcomer Toni Lydman as veterans under contract.
Voros is a big, tough grinder, who has an interesting story. He overcame a number of ailments while in college, including bone cancer, when he had to undergo no less than six operations. Check out this story to get an idea, a piece that includes this Voros quote: "They carved around my tumor, so they took out a little bit of femur and they packed it with cadaver. Then, while recovering, I got a staph infection in my leg ... I had these tubes in my heart attached to a fanny pack that fed antibiotics into my system 24 hours a day, seven days a week for eight weeks. I had to flush the tubes out every day with saline because the end of the tube by the heart would clot. It was pretty nuts."
Voros is also a bit of a fighter, as he had 13 of them last year in 41 games, including this beauty against Tom Kostoupolos of Carolina)
Said Murray about Voros, "I wanted to add a more physical forward on the left wing and he fills the roll we're looking for."
Updated July 7 at 3:15 p.m.
I've got a feature on 2009 first round pick Peter Holland, after talking to him during conditioning camp.
Updated July 6 at 3:05 p.m.
In lieu of a blog today, check out the Q&A I did with the always-humble Dan Sexton this afternoon at conditioning camp.
Updated July 2 at 12:48 p.m.
A couple of items before getting out of here for the long weekend:
- Saku Koivu spoke to reporters via conference call about a half hour ago from his home in Finland and appeared to relay some potentially good news about his countrymate and friend (and if I need to clarify who that is, you're probably not reading this blog anyway):
"We spoke once a day and a couple of times a day about the situation and what was going on," Koivu said. "I spoke to him last night after I signed. He was happy about it. He didn’t know what was going to happen. He said in the Finnish media that whatever happens with me and if I’m back in Anaheim, it would have an effect. In this case, I hope it’s going to be a positive effect and we’ll see him back.
"As far as I know, and the times we’ve spoken -- we spent quite a bit of time together after the season in California -- I know that Teemu is working out already. I know that he has been doing that since coming to Finland. His mindset is he’s going to play. If that is going to happen, I don’t know. He wants to be in top shape and doing everything to be in that just in case if he’s going to continue playing."
Nothing from Teemu yet, so that is as good as we're going to get for now.
- We've officially announced Monday's start of conditioning camp at Anaheim ICE, in which almost all of the Ducks recent draft picks (including a number of your other favorite prospects) will be on display during 6 p.m. scrimmages on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
- It's long overdue, but I have started a Twitter account. (I know, by technology standards, this is like saying 10 years ago that I bought my first touch tone phone.) So, for all of you Twitter people (or even those who haven't gotten on board yet), start following me for my 140-characters-or-less thoughts about the Ducks and other topics that come to mind (and there will be plenty of the latter). I'll also alert followers when this blog is updated.
Follow me @AdamJBrady (because AdamBrady was somehow already taken by this goofball in Dublin, so I threw the middle initial in there). Looking forward to it.
Updated July 1 at 3:58 p.m.
It was a relatively quiet Canada Day -- also known as the opening of the NHL free agency frenzy -- for the Ducks until a little before 3 p.m., when they announced the important re-signing of Saku Koivu to a two-year deal. Of course, while locking up the veteran was a big move for the Ducks, it inevitably opened the door to other questions from the Ducks media and fandom.
Okay, so does that mean Teemu's coming back? And what about Bobby?
Ducks boss Bob Murray did his best to address those questions when he spoke via conference call just a few minutes ago. On Selanne: "I don’t know yet. I still think Teemu is thinking. Obviously, [he and Saku] have the same agent, so we’ll see what the next couple of days bring.
And later in the conversation: "I have to talk to Teemu. That is the next step tomorrow or sometime soon."
As far as BR goes, Murray revealed that he has increased his offer to Ryan to five years at $5 million per year. "I'm thinking after what I heard him say last week, that would be very close," Murray said of Ryan's comment to the O.C. Register that he doesn't expect to make as much as Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Ryan, at the same time, may be seeking a deal for fewer than five years, since he'll be an unrestricted free agent when he turns 27 in 2014.
So, the back-and-forth continues between the Ducks and Ryan, and Koivu wasn't the only Finn that Murray signed today. This morning, in a move to bolster a defensive corps that needs some bolstering, Anaheim inked former Buffalo defenseman Toni Lydman (pronounced LUDE-man) to a three-year deal. You're excused if you don't know much about the 32-year-old Lydman (since we don't see the East all that much around here), but he's a solid shut down guy and a shot-blocker (98 last year) who chipped in with four goals and 16 assists in 67 games last year in Buffalo. The two-time Finnish Olympian not only was one of the best plus/minus guys on the Sabres last season, but according to one blog, the team gave up only 1.88 goals per 60 minutes with him on the ice. Murray called him "a third or fourth defenseman who eats up minutes. He does everything well. He’s a real solid two-way defenseman, which we needed desperately."
We haven't gotten a chance to talk to Lydman (whom I believe they call "Loods") yet, since he's back in Finland, but he did briefly comment to the Buffalo News that the fact the Ducks offered him three years was what sealed the deal. "I would have liked to stay [in Buffalo], but two years was their offer, and Anaheim offered three years, so that was the biggest thing.”
The Lydman signing came after a number of defensemen signed for big money this morning and into the afternoon -- including Sergei Gonchar in Ottawa, Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek in Pittsburgh and Dan Hamuis in Vancouver. Murray said he wasn't surprised at the big money thrown at those guys, but "When I saw where the numbers were going I said ‘Oh boy, if I’m going to get any quality defensemen like [Lydman], I better go now.' So, I did."
Updated July 1 at 2:41 p.m.
The Ducks are about to announce they're signing Saku Koivu for two years. More to come.
Updated June 29 at 3:34 p.m.
So why did he fall to Anaheim at 12? For a couple of reasons.
One is that many of the teams ahead of the Ducks were in the market for wingers and centers, as eight of the top 10 took forwards. and Dallas, which picked one slot ahead of Anaheim, had its eye on a goalie and got its man in Jack Campbell, a stud for Team USA at the World Juniors.
Another reason that Fowler tumbled is that a couple of monkey wrenches were thrown in during the first 10 picks. That left players available that teams did not think would be there when it came their turn to pick. The first was Columbus' No. 4 pick of center Ryan Johansen (who was ranked 10th among North American skaters), a pick that came despite many teams believing the Jackets would go after a defenseman. Then there was the Rangers' pick of defenseman Dylan McIlrath at No. 10, a kid that was ranked 17th.
Why the Rangers passed on Fowler, we'll never know, but the Ducks table of team execs and scouts was noticeably giddy after they realized Dallas would take the goalie and that Fowler fell to them. Bob Murray has let it be known that he considered making a trade to move up to get Fowler, and when it turned out he didn't have to, he was elated.
It's because of that pick and the selection of Long Beach's Emerson Etem (ranked eighth NA skaters) at 29 that many experts are listing Anaheim as one of the big winners on draft day. Fowler is, according to some scouts, the type of kid who could quarterback your power play for a decade (though Murray was quick to shoo away any attempts by the media to compare him to a recently retired Duck). And the local excitement about the Etem (pronounced EAT-em) was evident by the roar that went up as soon as Murray said into the mic "from Long Beach California..." (Normally when teams announce a pick, they say the name of the junior team he's from, but before he went on stage, Murray was convinced to go with "Long Beach" as a nod to Etem's SoCal supporters in the crowd.)
NHL Network thought so highly of where both players would go in the draft that they decided to mic them up while they played the agonizing waiting game. You can see what that was like for Fowler right here, including the cringe-worthy frustration on his face as he's passed up pick after pick. One cool moment is when Fowler is getting discouraged and former GM and current broadcaster Craig Button comes over to Fowler to comfort him, mentioning the many guys who went low in the first round of the '03 Draft and are now NHL vets. He names Zach Parise, Mike Richards, Ryan Kesler, even Braydon Coburn. What, no Getzlaf and Perry?
Fowler is finally taken by the Ducks and gladly accepts the boos from Kings fans, hearing from Gary Bettman on stage, "You now know what it's like to be part of a big rivalry." Said Fowler later to NHL Network, "The boos, I was actually happy to see that. That means these fans are passionate around here." Fowler also pointed out that the Ducks, who like other teams bring pre-stitched nameplates to slap on the back of the jersey, didn't have one for Fowler because they didn't think they would get him.
(By the way, be ready for the next episode of The Element in a couple of weeks that takes an inside look at the pre-draft and post-draft meetings with the Ducks brass. Our video guys are currently pouring through hours of footage to put together what will end up being a pretty cool piece.)
Etem is an interesting story, a bi-racial kid who is one of the few players of African-American heritage to be taken in the first round. He comes from an athletic family in which his dad played tennis and rowed at the Naval Academy and his mother was one of the few black women to row on the U.S. national team and competed in two Olympics.
“Obviously there’s not a lot of diversity really in hockey,” Etem told the O.C. Register before the draft. “Willie O’Ree is setting a good example for how the game is changing and how it should change and his vision of what the NHL should be like. I think I’m part of that vision. It’s something I’m looking to do in the future. It’s important for me for sure.”
The Ducks took another African-American player with their first pick in the second round when they got big power forward Devante Smith-Pelly at No. 42. Said Smith-Pelly, “If younger African-American kids are going to see guys like me, Emerson Etem, Wayne Simmonds, Chris Stewart, all these kind of guys doing well, that’s going to make little kids want to keep playing.”
All of the Ducks draft picks (except for Sweden's Andreas Dahlstrom) will be a part of the Ducks Conditioning Camp at Anaheim ICE next week, which is open to the public. We'll have a more detailed schedule within the next couple of days.
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I'm a little late in mentioning this, but Joffrey Lupul had a pretty clever post last week on his Twitter page: Just got to physio and Chris Pronger is on the table beside me. Naturally, we traded tables.
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The trade of Mike Brown on the second day of the draft for the 122nd pick (which the Ducks used on American center Christopher Wagner) was a tough one for Ducks fans who have enjoyed Brown's grit and workmanlike attitude the past couple of seasons. But Murray made it clear that the Ducks have too many right wingers, each right-handed shots who could not be moved to the other side of the ice. So, because of that logjam and a desire to play George Parros on a nightly basis, he had to part ways with Brown.
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There is some good news coming down the pipeline regarding Ducks games on TV. KDOC is going to make all Ducks games available in HD to those with Time Warner Cable or Cox Cable. The station is currently working on making that available for those with DirecTV, Dish Network and Charter as well.
Updated June 26 at 9:55 a.m.
By all accounts, the Ducks were absolutely elated to be able to get defenseman Cam Fowler and winger Emerson Etem, the kid from Long Beach, in yesterday's first round. Fowler was taken with the 12th overall pick by the Ducks, who had ranked him as high as third on draft board. Meanwhile, Etem, who was listed in the top 10 by many experts, fell to the Ducks when they picked again at 29th.
And the moment the Ducks announced that pick is one I won't soon forget. Bob Murray leaned into the mic and said, "The Anaheim Ducks select, from Long Beach..." and before he would finish, a loud roar went up from the countless Etem supporters in the crowd. I performed my first ever NHL Draft high five with a fellow staffer next to me and guys from other teams yelled to me that we just got two steals in the first round. Awesome moment, and even more awesome to watch a thrilled Etem react to the pick and speak very eloquently to various media. He was relieved after agonizing through pick after pick and not hearing his name, while delighted to have landed with a SoCal team. "Friends and family were all sitting next to me, probably just as anxiously waiting as I was," Etem said. "I couldn’t have fallen to a better organization. They just present such high class. It’s just such an exciting time for me."
Meanwhile, the Ducks execs and scouts came away from the 4 1/2 hour Day 1 absolutely ecstatic. Bob Murray: "Never in our wildest dreams did we think we’d get those two players on the first day," Murray said. "All day long we kept thinking about moving up. Finally we just said, ‘You know, things are falling our way. Let’s just leave it alone’. It turned out to be a really good day. We haven’t given away anything and we’ve done okay."
In case you missed it, you can see how much Ducks fans were hoping Etem would fall to Anaheim in the transcript of the live chat I held throughout the day yesterday.
Today is very different from yesterday, as we draft rounds 2-7 (the Ducks currently don't have a third or fourth). It's a much emptier building fan-wise, things are a lot calmer and they move a lot faster. Execs don't go to the stage to announce picks and bring the kid up for pictures. The picks are announced on the mic right from the table and there isn't a lot of time between picks. While yesterday's first round went way over time at about 4 1/2 hours, today we're scheduled to get through six rounds in 3 1/2.
I'm holding a (most likely less-attended) live chat again today, which you can jump into right here.
Updated June 25 at 3:48 p.m.
As they take the traditional role call 10 minutes before the Draft, the call of "Anaheim Ducks" draws lots of boos from the Kings fans in attendance. Should be an interesting evening.
Check out Kent French's preview of the Draft as he talks to fans at the NHL Fan Fest outside the arena, then ljoin me in the live chat.
Updated June 25 at 2:11 p.m.
A good two hours before the NHL Draft is scheduled to start and it's already a scene here in downtown Los Angeles. Scores of fans in their teams' jerseys wandered around the NHL Fan Fest in the LA Live Plaza. (Word of advice: The chicken wrap at the ESPN Zone in there has too much ranch.) The Fan Fest has interactive games a beer garden, a few hockey luminaries hanging around and more. (Scott Niedermayer and Luca Sbisa could both be seen hanging around outside the building.) We'll have video of that scene (including interviews with Ducks fans in attendance) a little bit later, as well as much more video throughout the day. By the way, TONS of Oilers jerseys walking around outside and inside.
Once inside the Staples Center, you immediately notice that no matter where this thing is held each year, it always looks exactly the same. With plenty of time to go before Edmonton announces its No. 1 pick. countless men in suits flood the draft floor exchanging pleasantries (and possibly discussing a deal or two). Here's a look:
Just a reminder that you can follow the Draft all evening long on the website and please take part in the live chat I'm doing, starting at 4 p.m.
Updated June 24 at 1:43 p.m.
A few items while I come to terms with the fact that, with all that I don't like about soccer, that was pretty damn cool yesterday morning:
We will have plenty of coverage of the Draft on the website and social media sites starting Friday afternoon when the festivities kick off at 4 p.m. Pacific. I will be doing a live blog and chat during the entire first round, where you can ask questions (about the Draft or otherwise) and I'll do my best to answer them. You may recall I did a similar live chat back in November.
The live chat will be located here, and you can go there now to sign up for an email reminder before it gets started.
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With Scott Niedermayer announcing his retirement on Tuesday, we barely got to focus on the Ducks' 2010-11 schedule that came out earlier that day. The full schedule is right here, by the way, and you can download it to your Outlook calendar and more on this page.
The Ducks, who have been notorious for slow starts the last couple of seasons, will have their work cut out for them to start the next one. The opener at Detroit on October 8 is followed by another game the very next night in Nashville, and one two days later in St. Louis. The Ducks come home for three after that, but hit the road again, meaning seven of their first 10 games are away from home.
Although, that's not the toughest road stretch for Anaheim, which has a seven-game trip in December (as the Ducks are traditionally on the road at Christmas time). And speaking of holiday tradition, the Ducks play once again on the day after Thanksgiving (November 26) against the Blackhawks, although this time they're the "defending champion Blackhawks." The second and last time the Ducks face the Hawks at home comes January 2, two days after the Ducks welcome back Chris Pronger and the Stanley Cup runner-up Flyers on December 31. It's the second time in the last three seasons the Ducks play on New Year's Eve (the game is moved back to 5:05 p.m. from the normal 7:05 p.m. to appease the partiers).
For a Ducks team that might be interested in establishing playoff position down the stretch, they play nine of 10 games at home from February 23 through March 16, followed by six of eight on the road. The last four games include three at Honda Center, all against Pacific Division rivals. That's Dallas on April 3, San Jose on April 6 and an intriguing home-and-home against the Kings to end the regular season.
Let's just hope those games determine where the Ducks will be seeded in the postseason.
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- The Ducks just announced that they have hired Mike Foligno, who spent the last seven seasons as coach and general manager of the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL, as assistant coach. Newell Brown's contract will not be renewed by the team.
Foligno was formerly an assistant with Toronto and Colorado and also coached the Hershey Bears of the AHL. He had a very solid 15-year career with Detroit, Buffalo, Toronto and Florida. Mike son, Nick, is a winger with the Senators.
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I asked readers on Tuesday to share their favorite memories of Scott Niedermayer, and the best ones have been posted here.
Here's one that stood out, from Marty of Cerritos:
My oldest son was a burgeoning Ducks fan when they signed Scott and my son took an instant liking to him mainly because his first name is also Scott. Well, the next year my wife miraculously became pregnant with our second child and we found out we were having another boy. After much discussion between my wife and me, we decided on a name, and it just so happened that there was a Ducks game that night. So we told our Scott what name we had picked out for his brother at the game. He thought about it for a moment and then in all seriousness informed us that he didn't care what his new brother's name was, he was going to call him Rob. He said he could tell by the way Scott and Rob Niedermayer played that they looked out for each other and cared about each other and that's the way he felt about his new baby brother. So that is how Jack Palmer Knowles became Robert Jack Knowles. My wife and I have our own Scott and Rob, and we couldn't be more proud of them and their namesakes. Thank you, Scott Niedermayer, for being a terrific role model for our oldest son, Scott.
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You may recall a couple of months ago, I posted some pictures of Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan shooting a video spoof segment at Honda Center in which Getzlaf constantly reminds Ryan who won the gold at the Olympics. Well, that segment aired last night during the NHL Awards on Versus and received rave reviews, including from Joe Yerson of MSNBC.com, who called it the "highlight of the evening." He wrote: Pretty impressive stuff from three guys who have obviously been paying attention to Hollywood while playing hockey in Southern California. The league should take note that doing things like this help to better show off their stars and how funny these guys can be when not doing semi-robotic interviews.
In case you missed it (and even if you didn't, here's the video below:
I watched some of this segment being shot (which made for about a nine-hour day for the two guys) and it's interesting to see how it turned out after it was pieced together. In fact, at one point that afternoon, I was talking with Bobby in the hallway when, mid-conversation, he went running into the locker room (he must have heard the director shout "Action!") and uttered the line "You're using my medal as a coaster???" Now I finally know what that was all about. As you'll see in the pictures, they shot a scene involving Fudgesicles and another involving Getzlaf baking cupcakes, both of which apparently ended up on the cutting room floor.
My personal favorite parts? When Getzlaf curses after failing to come up with another word that rhymes with "Duck." Also, when the two guys say, "Hi, Annabel" to our longtime receptionist here. Hilarious.
Updated June 22 at 4:14 p.m.
It was a statement seen coming from a mile away by those in the room -- as well as those watching on their televisions and computer monitors -- but that didn't make it any easier to hear. "It's been a tough decision," Scott Niedermayer said, his voice shaking just a bit, "but after plenty of reflection, I'm here to announce I'm retiring from professional hockey."
And with that, it was officially over -- the career of one of the best defensemen of his time, one of the best skaters the game has ever seen, the guy largely responsible for the fact that two dozen Anaheim Ducks names are etched on the side of that Cup.
Sure, we'd been teased by Niedermayer's possible retirement from the game each of the last four summers, starting after he carried the Ducks to that magical championship. And yet, when it finally happened, you couldn't help but feel a little empty inside, knowing you'd witnessed the end of an era.
Despite insisting that his decision was firm, Niedermayer led off his remarks by saying, "We were joking on the way in that maybe I would change my mind." Then Niedermayer, never a guy all that comfortable with having the attention on him, gave a lengthy statement (reading from pages of handwritten notes) that focused almost entirely on the countless number of teammates, coaches and staff from both the Ducks and New Jersey Devils that he wanted to thank. Heck, he even thanked the media, "who make me look a lot better and talk about me a lot better than I think I am." That got a laugh from a number of those media types in that press conference room, along with various Ducks personnel and even one former teammate -- Joffrey Lupul.
Through it all, Niedermayer kept his composure until he got to acknowleding his family -- his incredibly nice wife Lisa and their four sons. “I owe a big thank you to my family,” Niedermayer said before his voice caught, his eyes filled up a little bit and between sips from a water battle he quietly said, "I didn't think I would do this."
He gathered himself and continued, “You’ve put up with a demanding schedule and been very supportive. You’ve made my life richer … it was really great to see your face when I came home from the road.”
(And let's just say Niedermayer wasn't the only one in the room who welled up a little bit at that point.)
Later he gave a nod to the fans, whom he said, "make the rink a special place to be. Your support, excitement and passion for the game were inspiring and always made a difference on the ice. Thank you to all the fans here in Anaheim and in New Jersey. You will always be an important part of many great memories I’ve had."
Looking back on the past five seasons, it's hard to pick a favorite among our Niedermayer memories during his time as a Duck, only because there are so many. (Although this picture certainly ranks up there). Is it the goal in the final minute of Game 5 against Detroit in '07, unquestionably the biggest in Ducks history? Is it the one that clinched the series in double overtime that same spring against Vancouver, when Niedermayer just threw a loose puck on net and it slipped by a distracted Roberto Luongo?
Or is it the countless other overtime winners (more than any defenseman in the history of the game), like the one that beat Calgary a year ago, or the one that beat the Canucks a month later?
Or is it the stuff that never makes it on the highlight reels? The velvet-smooth skating, the ability to find the open man, the knack for effortlessly taking the puck away from an opponent while his heart rate never got higher than a guy reading the Sunday paper. The way he made everything look so easy, as he was usually the fastest skater on the ice, yet he never looked like he was skating hard. How about the countless times he'd be deep in the attacking zone, see the puck go the other way, turn on a dime and somehow be the first person back?
How about the salt-and-pepper playoff beard, the sight of which always made me feel old since the 36-year-old Niedermayer was born three days after me in August of 1973. That beard would get noticeably saltier the further his team went in the postseason. And with Niedermayer that happened a lot. Four Stanley Cups, two gold medals, a World Championship, a World Cup, a Memorial Cup and a World Junior title. No player in the history of the game has won as much as Scott Niedermayer.
|Fans, share your favorite memories of Scott Niedermayer, and we'll reprint the best ones in Ducks Blog|
That unassuming demeanor was evident in a story I heard recently about Niedermayer from a fellow Ducks staffer. Niedermayer had just arrived back in Anaheim fresh off that dramatic gold medal victory for Team Canada in front of countless thousands of screaming countrymen in Vancouver. He asked Niedermayer what that experience was like, and Niedermayer matter-of-factly said, "Yeah, I guess it was pretty neat."
(Yet this afternoon, when asked to sum up his favorite moments in his hockey life, he listed three -- that gold medal, winning his first Cup with New Jersey and winning the last one with his brother, Rob.)
“This man has no ego,” said Ducks boss Bob Murray while seated next to Niedermayer. “He treats everybody from the trainer to the fans with dignity and respect. For the young players to see this everyday … it’s just outstanding what you’ve done with the younger guys.”
Now Murray has to go to work filling the void left by No. 27's retirement (something we'll get into in the coming weeks). It's a void we're all feeling right about now, while hopefully remembering how incredibly fortunate we were to watch one of the all-time greats night after night.
"Looking back on the last 18 years, I could not have dreamed of such an amazing journey," Niedermayer said. "It’s been more than a dream. You wouldn’t have believed that if someone told you this is what your career is going to be full of. I’ve been very lucky."
No, Scotty, we've been the lucky ones.
Updated June 22 at 10:02 a.m.
- My apologies for the lack of activity, but I've been on vacation for the past few days in Chicago (unbelievable city with possibly the nicest people in America, by the way) taking in Angels-Cubs at Wrigley Field.
- The 2010-11 schedule has been released, in which the Ducks play their first three games and seven of their first 10 on the road.
- More on that later, because the biggest news of the day is that the Ducks and Scott Niedermayer are holding a press conference at 1 p.m. Pacific. The press conference will be streamed live on AnaheimDucks.com and we'll be posting live updates via Twitter and Facebook as well.
Updated June 15 at 1:48 p.m.
Like many of you, I've watched my share of the World Cup so far -- which is to say, I watched USA-England over the weekend and that's pretty much it. And I am among the thousands of Americans who, despite playing youth soccer for years growing up, just never latched on to the game as a spectator.
And while you can argue that fans of hockey should naturally be fans of soccer -- since the basic premises are similar -- I was reminded yet again on Saturday of how they really are very different. With that in mind, I present Why Hockey is Better Than Soccer:
- The Name
The world can't even agree on the name of the sport they're playing in the World Cup. Over here, it's "soccer." Pretty much everywhere else, it's "football." We already have football over here, which the rest of the world calls "American football." (Then again, soccer really is football more than football is football.) At least hockey is "hockey" all over the world, although they may add an "ice" in front of it outside the U.S.
As much as the NHL has done over the past few years to increase scoring, the game has never had the dearth of actual goals (and hence, actual excitement) that soccer has. While the 1-1 tie in the the U.S.-England 1-1 match on Saturday seems like a low-scoring affair, do you realize there has been just one match so far in this World Cup with more than two goals combined?
It's the actual shots on goal that are the real culprit. In a typical soccer match, 24 combined shots is a pretty good total; in hockey that's a fairly low number for one team. It's one of the many reasons why you don't want to look away from a hockey game for fear of missing something. In soccer, you can hit the bathroom, make a sandwich or add an addition to your house, and you probably won't have missed much.
In hockey, when you commit a penalty, they send you off the ice to the penalty box. In soccer, the referee holds a yellow piece of cardboard in your face. And if you're really bad, it's a red card. I've got to know, how did this start? And why didn't it go away?
- Those Godawful Horns
Chances are that a week ago, you had never heard of the word "vuvuzela." And now, you've probably learned to despise it. In case you don't know, vuvuzelas are those horns that fans incessantly blow during these World Cup matches, making it sound as if the stadium is being invaded by a swarm of 100,000 bees. Here's a delightful sampling of the sound. Thankfully, steps are being taken to decrease the audio level during the rest of the World Cup telecasts, prompting the writer of this story to lead with: It is safe to listen to the World Cup again without feeling like you want to put an ax in your head.
Soccer players are notorious for diving to the turf and pretending to writhe in pain to draw a foul call, as if they've broken a leg. In hockey, when a guy actually breaks his leg, he's back for his next shift. Anyway, here's a nice montage of soccer dives, each one more ridiculous than the last. If a hockey player tried any of these, someone on the other team would make sure he had something to agonize about. (And even if they didn't, hockey has rules so that if you even appear to dive, you're sent to the box. Great rule. They should try it in soccer. And basketball, for that matter.)
When an NHL regular season game is tied after regulation, it goes to five minutes of sudden death overtime, followed by a shootout. In the playoffs, it's 20-minute periods of sudden death until somebody scores. In the World Cup, if it's a tie, it's a tie. That is, until the matches move out of group play, when they play two 15-minute overtime periods (THAT AREN'T EVEN SUDDEN DEATH) followed by a five-round shootout, which they call "penalty kicks." Last year's World Cup championship game ended this way. It's the final game of the biggest sporting event in the world. Don't you think it's worth playing overtime until the cows come home, rather than relying on penalty kicks?
- The Clock
For whatever reason, the clock runs upward from zero in soccer, while it runs downward in every other timed sport. Each match is 90 minutes -- although not really. The clock keeps running during stoppages in play, while the referee notes the time elapsed and adds it on at the end of each half. So, as a result, no one in the stadium knows exactly when a half is going to end until the referee blows his whistle. Can you imagine that in hockey? Or basketball?
Here's an example of a hockey fight:
And here's an example of a soccer fight:
I've never really understood why soccer goalies (or "keepers") wear a different uniform than the rest of their team, and it's usually a completely different color than the team's colors. For instance, in the U.S.-England game, their keeper wore flourescent green while the rest of the team wore red and white. And our guy? Decked head to toe in ... orange. In hockey, the goalie's jersey looks just like the other guys' -- although a little more bulky.
- Hockey has ice girls
Unfortunately, we just said goodbye to the hockey season a week ago and the NBA campaign wraps up either tonight or two nights from now. Aside from mid-June baseball, the World Cup is pretty much all we've got right now. So, I guess I'll keep rooting hard for the U.S. (which doesn't play again until ... wow ... Friday).
While watching the U.S.-England game, a buddy turned to me and said, "We've watched nearly this entire game. Can you name an American player besides Landon Donovan?" The only other one I could come up with was the goalie who yells at his teammates, Tim Howard.
Although, that's probably because he was wearing orange.
Updated June 11 at 4:24 p.m.
It's not exactly a well-kept secret, but the Ducks will indeed be wearing third jerseys next season.
The design of the jerseys are complete, but unlike when the team switched colors, logo and uniforms prior to the 2006-07 campaign, they won't unveil the third jerseys until during the season (at a time yet to be determined). They will only wear them during home games, a maximum of 15 as mandated by the NHL).
Ducks VP of Sales and Marketing Bob Wagner said the team waited this long to create a third jersey so as to not dilute the new look that was unveiled four summers ago. “We wanted to establish that new logo and colors first, "Wagner said, "before we started making plans for an alternate jersey."
Ducks executives created the new look with the help of an outside firm while also getting input from players. “We've gotten a lot of positive feedback," Wagner said. "The players especially are really excited about it."
The last time the Ducks wore an alternate jersey was when they wore this black and dark purple one (with "Anaheim" scripted across the front) during the 2003-04 and 2005-06 seasons.
The Ducks won't reveal anything about the look of the new jersey until they're made public next season (though I can confirm that they are pretty cool-looking).
“I think the fans will really embrace it," Wagner said.
Updated June 11 at 12:14 p.m.
One of the cooler things about the NCAA Basketball Tournament each year is the "One Shining Moment" montage CBS shows after the conclusion of the championship game. It's a video package of the greatest moments from the tournament, set to one of the cheesiest songs of all time.
Well, the CBC may have one-upped them with their Farewell to the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs montage, set to one of the great songs of the '90s -- "Tonight, Tonight" by Smashing Pumpkins. Yeah, I know the Ducks weren't in it this year, but it doesn't get much better than this:
Updated June 10 at 1:21 p.m.
The thought process went a little something like this last night:
8:03 p.m. - Wow, wouldn't it be cool to see a team win a Cup on an overtime goal?
8:06 p.m. - Wait ... it's over? That was it?
If it's at all possible for an overtime Stanley Cup-winning goal to be anticlimactic and awkward, it happened last night when Patrick Kane's seemingly innocent bad-angle shot somehow slipped under goalie Michael Leighton to clinch Chicago's first championship in 49 years. (That was the longest such Cup-less streak in the NHL, an honor that now belongs to the Toronto Maple Leafs, who last won in 1967. The Kings and Blues also have gone nearly that long without winning a Cup at all, since they entered the league in 1967-68.)
If you haven't seen the goal already, here it is again:
It was a goal that few people knew was a goal, a goal that probably shouldn't have been a goal (that is, if Leighton -- who was so good throughout most of the postseason -- didn't dramatically misplay it). And at first glance, the only person in the building who knew it was in right away was the guy who shot it -- Patrick Kane.
"Threwitinfront! ... sa ... oh my, it rattled around and it kicked on back and it ... SCORE!! ... We saw no light, we saw no signal and we're not sure if they've signaled it's a goal or not, but they are celebrating at the other end of the ice. What chaos."
Chaos indeed, as Kane immediately sprinted from behind the net to the other end of the ice as the Philly players froze, desperately looking for a puck that would never show itself. Meanwhile, Patrick Sharp, who on replays appeared to be as sure that the puck went in as Kane was, frantically chased after Kane in the hope of eventually putting his arms around him. He was soon joined by the other guys on the ice like Andrew Ladd and (former Duck) Nick Boynton, as suddenly the Blackhawks bench followed their lead and poured onto the sheet, equipment flying everywhere.
Kane reached goalie Antti Niemi at the other end of the rink first, as Niemi hadn't even risen from his goalie's stance because he wasn't sure the puck wasn't going to come back down the ice at him. And even as the entire team embraced behind the Chicago net, there was still uncertainty as to whether they had won the Cup or not. But if you watched the telecast carefully, there was something that convinced them that the goal was good and the game was over, and it wasn't until later we found out what that was. "No one knew where the puck was," said coach Joel Quenneville. "Our video came out and [said] he knew it was in the net. I saw the puck in the back of the net and I said, 'Okay, party's on.'"
Later, Kane would admit, "I tried to sell the celebration a bit. Everyone came down and I think some guys were still kind of a little iffy to see if the puck was in the net."
Admitted Jonathan Toews, the 22-year-old captain who took the Conn Smythe despite scoring just three points (and no goals) in the Final, "He sold it pretty good if the puck didn't go in. But it was kind of an awkward celebration. We didn't know what to do."
Kane, interviewed later by Pierre Maguire after the traditional handshake, said, "I knew right away." He immediately shifted gears in the interview to thank all of his friends and family who had some to the game, including "my three beautiful sisters, my mom and dad."
And then he provided a reminder that despite having all the talent in the world, he's still just a 21-year-old kid realizing a dream:
"What a feeling. It's unbelievable. We just won the Stanley Cup," he said. "I can't believe this just happened. Holy crap. It's something you dream of as a kid, to score the winning goal in the Stanley Cup finals ... and, uh ... it was just, uh ... I mean, it was unbelievable."
Maguire, obviously referencing the trouble Kane got into last summer involving an alleged assault on a cab driver, closed with some fatherly advice: "Be on your best behavior at the parade, Patrick."
And Kane, to his credit, came back with an elated, "Not a chance, NOT A CHANCE!"
Watching the Blackhawks passing the Cup to each other, each guy holding it over his head to show it to a mostly unfriendly crowd, it struck me again how lucky we were that the Ducks clinched their Cup title at home. Granted, I'm sure the Hawks had a heck of a party on the flight back to Chicago (and apparently when they eventually touched down), but just to be able to show the Cup off to your home fans, and to party that very night with friends, family, staff, etc. (like we did on the night of June 6, 2007), that's got to make it even more special.
Either way, you've got to be happy for the Blackhawks, an organization that turned things around in shockingly quick and efficient fashion. Not too long ago, they were a last place team playing in front of half-empty arenas for an owner who chose not to televise their home games. Now they're a Stanley Cup champion and one of the more admired franchises in sports.
In the wake of last night's on-ice celebration, just as NBC was about to go off the air for its last hockey game until next year's Winter Classic, Emrick was back to his usual smooth and poetic self. As the Blackhawks gathered for the traditional team picture, he had this to say:
"We have a picture that is going to be taken, that will burn forever in the memories of these guys. They played and sacrificed like this for a ring that will be so gaudy that they won't wear it every day, and for their name to be on a trophy that they cannot keep. But they can keep this memory."
And with that, the 2009-10 season officially comes to a close. Training camp starts in about three months, when 29 other teams (including the one close to our hearts) get to work on making sure they're taking that photo a year from now.
Updated June 6 at 12:08 p.m.
To commemorate a very special anniversary for Ducks fans and for me personally, I'm re-posting this piece that originally ran June 6, 2008:
As anniversaries go, this one will always be a little bittersweet for me.
Two years ago on this day, my mom passed away after a year-long battle with 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 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), 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:
For a nice reminder of that night and all that led up to it, take a look at this.
Updated June 4 at 3:14 p.m.
A few thoughts for a Friday afternoon while I shake my head at the number of times I’ve heard the name Armando Galarraga in the past two days.
I had to include the photo at right because how many chances do you get to include the thrilling action shot of two officials making a phone call? Plus, it's a chance to display Bill McCreary's sweet 'stache.)
In Philadelphia’s Game 3 victory over Chicago at Wachovia Center, replay review was used not once, but twice during the game – once to allow a goal that was initially waved off; the second to disallow a goal that was counted by the officials on the ice.
In the second period, Scott Hartnell redirected a Chris Pronger slap shot that slipped through the pads of Hawks goalie Antti Niemi, but it was initially ruled that the puck didn’t completely cross the goal line. Play continued for a minute and a half before replay officials ruled on it after the next stoppage, and did see that magical glimpse of white between the edge of the puck and the back side of the goal stripe. That gave the Flyers the goal they deserved and a 2-1 lead.
In overtime, a Simon Gagne shot hit the post and skittered along the goal line, and officials again made it right, determining that it never crossed completely. (Almost forgotten in the sequence of events was the fact that the whistle was blown prematurely when Niemi tried to cover the puck and Mike Richards poked it from under him and into the net.)
Luckily for the Flyers, they made that close call moot when Claude Giroux deflected in the game-winner not long afterward to give the Flyers the 4-3 victory.
I’m not saying I’m in favor of Major League Baseball adopting instant replay for more than what they use it for now – to determine whether home runs actually left the park – but it sure is nice the NHL ensures that they always get it right.
- Tonight’s Game 4 comes two days after Game 3, as the Stanley Cup Playoffs continue to prove why they're better than the NBA's tournament. (L.A. beat Boston in Game 1 last night and we have to wait until Sunday evening to see if they can do it again). Anyway, tonight is a monster game for both Chicago and Philadelphia, and even more so if you take these kinds of things seriously: Of the past 27 Stanley Cup champs, 24 of them have won Game 4. That includes your Anaheim Ducks, who took down the Senators in Ottawa, three years ago today.
In case you don’t remember that one, the Ducks won it despite playing without a suspended Chris Pronger, got two goals in a one-minute span in the second period from Andy McDonald and got the game-winner from Dustin Penner, who was provided an open net by a pretty feed on the rush by Teemu Selanne. (Of the countless Selanne highlights we’ve seen over the years, how many of them involve passes? Yet, this is one of the biggest in Ducks history.)
I got a little sentimental, so I went back and read my own game log and recap story from that game (it’s here if you’re interested). And at the end of the recap is a quote from Randy Carlyle that read: “We haven’t accomplished anything yet. We still have a lot of work to do.”
Two days later, their work was done.
- Scott Niedermayer was a guest on NHL Live! yesterday to talk about the Stanley Cup Final and his impending future. When he was asked by the hosts Ken Daneyko and E.J. Hradek if he was any closer to a decision, Niedermayer responded with this (take it how you will):
“Yeah, I am. It’s got to come pretty soon because the Draft and July 1 are getting closer and our team needs to move ahead with their plans. I’ll make the decision relatively soon here. It’s not an easy one. I’ve played this game for a long time here, it’s treated me well and I’ve had a blast doing it. So, it’s not an easy decision, for sure.”
Niedermayer, meanwhile, continues to blog for the L.A. Times website and he predicted a Game 4 victory for the Blackhawks: Chicago I’m sure is disappointed coming so close but losing in overtime, but a huge part of playoff hockey is being able to rebound and forget about it. You have to come out the next game and play even better and try and get the next one. Whether you win or lose, that’s the challenge…I think Chicago will answer that. They’ve seemed to do it all playoffs and I will expect them to be better Friday night.
Anyone else besides me suddenly inspired to take the Hawks tonight?
- Tomas Holmstrom became the second Red Wing big name to resign with the team this week, when he was locked in for two years today. As on blogger wrote: Two more years of goaltenders having to put up with Holmstrom’s rear-end in their faces!
Updated June 1 at 3:47 p.m.
A few thoughts while I implore parents to put a moratorium on the practice of giving their toddlers faux hawks...
- Last night's Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Blackhawks and Flyers was a 180-degree departure from the 11-goal extravaganza of Game 1, in which Chicago prevailed 6-5. (That game, by the way, was the first Final game in which one team scored six goals since, that's right, the Ducks did it in 2007.) Last night, neither team found the net until Chicago potted two in a 28-second window late in the second period. And Philly's power play goal in the third was all they could manage in the comeback attempt.
Scott Niedermayer, who is writing a blog during the Final for the L.A. Times website, wrote this after Game 1, which was almost a prohecy that Game 2 wouldn't go the same way: When two teams meet in the Stanley Cup finals, they’ve only played each other once during the regular season. That familiarity isn’t there. That can lead to a lot of questions about what the opposition does and how they play.
For the first game of the final, I’d imagine everyone is going to be a little bit nervous and a little on edge. Many of these guys are there for the first time. Factor all that in and you get a game like last night. There seemed to be a lot of mistakes made and that led to the goals that were scored. You’re so focused on the game, but some days the puck just has a mind of its own. For whatever reason, strange things happen and they tend to happen in bunches.
He later added: Looking ahead to Game 2, I’m sure both teams are thinking the same things: Play smarter defensively and do not make as many mistakes in your own zone. Both teams are talented offensively and they will want to keep that same type of pressure going as the series moves forward. I would expect both teams to settle in and play the way they normally do on Monday night.
- Chris Pronger stirred things up at the end of last night's Game 2 when he went into the corner of the rink to retrieve the final game puck, which by all rights should have belonged to the Blackhawks (something he also did at the end of Game 1). This time the move drew the ire of Chicago's Ben Eager, who got into a verbal spat with Pronger that ended with Pronger shooting a fan towel at Eager. And Pronger, never one to curtail the sarcasm when talking with reporters, rehashed the incident with a few comments that included this beauty on what Eager said to him: "I couldn't hear him. I don't speak gibberish."
- The best hit of these playoffs has to be the one from last night in which Daniel Carcillo of the Philadelphia Flyers laid a vicious hit on Jeff Carter ... of the Philadelphia Flyers. Carcillo's intended target was Tomas Kopecky of the Blackhawks, who (you can see in the video) definitely got in a few words after the whiff to rub it in Carcillo's face. (He was caught on mic saying, "That's the best hit you've had all year.") Good to see Kopecky (a former Red Wing) still willing to mix it up after he was annihilated in this fight with Francois Beauchemin during Game 4 of last year's series between the Ducks and Wings (a fight that left Kopecky out for the duration of the postseason with what I can only remember as a fractured face).
- No matter what happens in this Final, the fact that both the Hawks and Flyers are battling for the Cup is a testament to the parity of the post-lockout NHL. In 2006-07, the year the Ducks won the Cup (had to get that in there), Philly finished dead last in the NHL standings (a whole 11 points behind second-to-last Phoenix) while Chicago was 26th out of the 30 teams in the league. But each of those teams has built in the Draft -- Chicago selecting guys like Toews and Kane; Philly getting guys like Mike Richards and Jeff Carter in the same '03 Draft in which the Ducks got Getzlaf and Perry -- along with making several shrewd moves to add veteran pieces to leap to the top of the pack in a relatively short time. (Although, we should keep in mind that Philly's incredible postseason run has blurred that fact they actually finished 18th in the league's regular season standings this year.)
And it's not just those two teams that have climbed the ladder in the past four seasons. The bottom three teams in the Western Conference in 2006-07: Phoenix, Los Angeles and Chicago. The bottom three teams in the East? Philly, Washington and Boston. All of them playoff teams this year. And incidentally, the worst team in the Eastern Conference the season before was Pittsburgh, last year's Cup lifter.
- While the turnarounds of big-market teams like Chicago and Philly is a feather in the NHL cap, so are the TV ratings for this Final so far. Last night's Game 2 was the best overnight rating ever for a Game 2, while Game 1's rating was the highest in 11 years.
- And speaking of the Stanley Cup Final, a website called Gunaxin has a feature called The Stanley Cup of Girls in which they compare the ice girls from the Blackhawks and Flyers. They did the same thing during last year's playoffs, comparing teams from each of the second-round series, including this one for Ducks-Red Wings in which the Ducks won with 65 percent of the vote. (How I missed this until now, I have no idea.)
- A recent Stanley Cup champion and one of the most successful franchises of the post-lockout NHL got its former Norris Cup-winning veteran defenseman -- who was contemplating retirement -- to sign for another year. Unfortunately, it's not the one we're all hoping for.