Normally, my Saturdays are filled with a whole lotta nothing. Getting me out of my apartment usually takes an act of God, because I'd rather be catching up on the sleep I lost during the week, but I saw on Twitter that the Ducks had an open practice at 11:30am. Initially, I scoffed at the idea of having to put on pants and drive up to Anaheim.
As I laid in my bed, trying to fall back asleep as the landscapers were mowing outside my window, I decided to take one for the team and head up to my first-ever mid-season Ducks practice.
I will admit, I looked pretty out of place when I arrived at Anaheim Ice. Most of the people in the waiting area outside the two rinks were parents with their little hockey players and figure skaters. Practice was already underway as I made my way inside the NHL sized rink. There were about 40 fans there, give or take. Most were parents with their kids. Others were people with cameras snapping pictures of the players as they skated. Not a single Puck Bunny in the bunch; I wasn't surprised, being that it was 11:30am on Saturday, and I don't think they rise (post-walk-of-shame) again until around 4pm.
Here are a few of my observations during practice...
- The entire practice, Cam Fowler was having issues with his jock. He looked like something wasn't sitting right and kept taking off his gloves to readjust. Having never worn a jock strap, I have no idea if this is a common occurrence.
- The mood of the practice was generally upbeat. The guys seemed to be having fun. There were lots of hoots, hollers and cheers. You could tell that they were still running on the high from the previous night's big win.
- I want to sit in the "Media Only" section. Only Eric Stephens from the OC Register, Dan Wood from the Ducks radio broadcast, and a couple Ducks staffers were in the large roped-off section.
- Jonas Hiller was not out on the ice while I was there. I'm not sure if he was skating before practice began, but I did see him afterwards (more on that later).
- Unlike some games this season, Ryan Getzlaf skated and practiced at full speed. He was also hit in the head with a puck...that was deflected by the visor he finally decided to start wearing.
- Mike Foligno did most of the work at the whiteboard with the team. After the group disbursed to set up for a drill, Teemu Selanne lagged behind staring at the whiteboard, until Francois Beauchemin re-explained the drill to him. This routine happened every time.
- Jason Blake was skating and shooting at full speed. He took a bunch of extra shots at the end of practice. I'd be surprised if he doesn't play versus Phoenix.
- I want a white practice jersey. The top line wears the white jersey. The cool kids wear white jerseys.
- Even in practice, Bobby Ryan falls a lot. I love watching him skate until, inevitably, he just falls down. I can only guess that he's being tripped by a ghost, or shot by a tiny, spiteful sniper.
- Watching the Ryan-Getzlaf-Perry line facing off versus the Selanne-Koivu-Blake line is pretty cool. Makes me even happier to have them on the team. It's not that they get really physical with each other, it's the sheer skill competing against each other. When one of the RPG line scores, they start yelling and cheering.
- I had no idea what was going on a majority of the time. It made me feel better when, at one point, Carlyle was trying to get the guys to run a specific play, and from the faceoff dot, Getzlaf stood up and said, "Wait. What? I don't get it." The other guys agreed with him as they tried to explain it and were shot down by Carlyle. They eventually figured it out.
- Corey Perry is pretty funny. He looked the most comfortable out on the ice with the guys. While Getzlaf would run part of a drill, Perry, waiting against the boards, would try to trip Getz when he wasn't paying attention. He got him a few times, and Getzlaf would start laughing. After one drill, Teemu and Corey charged at full speed towards Lubomir Visnovsky and tried to stuff him in an area between the announcers' booth and penalty box. They almost got him, but little Lubo held his ground.
- Ray Emery took a lot of shots from the first and second lines. The shooters were firing at game speed, and he stopped about 75% of the shots. I couldn't tell if he was really trying, but it didn't instill confidence in me that he's NHL game ready.
- Koivu was the first off the ice at the end of practice. He didn't look hurt, just the first off.
- Andy Sutton, Dan Sexton, and Cam Fowler were the last to leave the ice.
As practice wound down, I got an email from Arthur saying he was on his way - about an hour and a half late. I was already sitting around watching the last few skaters take shots, and debating whether I wanted to wait and try to get my new Koivu jersey signed. Arthur showed up and waited with me. Most of the others that were waiting were around 20 years younger than me, and one very impatient tween-year-old super fan, who kept making "UGH MOM" comments to her mother. A few things I noticed while waiting:
- Francois Beauchemin's kid, probably around 3 or 4 years old, is awesome. He was running around when his dad left the lockerroom, and let out the funniest, "DAAAHHHHDDD, you go give signatures" in that weird monster-yelling voice kids do. Frankie abided by his son's orders.
- Arthur noted that Getzlaf had a baldspot trailing his baldspot, like crop circles, and that his cranium was unbelievably shinny. The latter was said with an inexplicably envious tone.
- I thought Lubo's sweatshirt said "Soup Plantation Sinner." Arthur corrected me. It's actually "South Hampton Sinner".
- The one reason I stuck around (Saku Koivu) walked straight out of the arena while chatting with a Ducks' staffer. I was a little sad.
- Andres Lilja is really good looking, and a snappy dresser. Black slacks, navy polo shirt with a flipped up red collar, and a purple belt.
- I had Corey Perry sign my Ducks' Digest from the Vancouver game. I looked like a giant with all the little kids around me. You can tell that he's not totally comfortable being social with strangers. I didn't try to engage him in conversation. I just did what I usually do, try to make eye contact with everyone I talk to. He would look up and look away right away.
- Teemu Selanne is 40?? He looks amazing. I don't know how many chances I've got left to get one of the greatest-to-play-the-game's autograph. I joked with him, again surrounded by kids, that I was "10 years old and really tall for my age." He laughed and said, "Yeah. I'm sure you are." That Selanne grin is something I'm really gonna miss seeing regularly.
- Jason Blake attempted to sign autographs but he had a pretty hefty wrap on his lacerated hand. It looked like he struggled to grip the Sharpies.
- Jonas Hiller came out quickly from the locker room. He looks paler than usual, and tired. He signed autographs, but was silent. You can't help but feel for the guy. He was having a Vezina-esque year, only to be sidelined by something you can't feel, describe, or treat.
- Most of the autograph seekers were waiting for Bobby Ryan. We didn't stick around long enough to see if he came out.
- 90% of the guys came out of the locker room wearing jeans, sweatshirts and flip flops - the standard So Cal uniform.
Overall, it was a pretty good day. I'd probably go again if I've got a free or non-lush feeling Saturday.