Yesterday, the Anaheim Ducks held their annual Select-A-Seat event, where season ticket holders are given the opportunity to upgrade their seats. Although that's ostensibly the main draw to the event, the Ducks always open the festivities with statements about what's new at Honda Center and with the team.
An artist's rendering of the new east entrance for Honda Center. Apparently we'll all be driving Italian sports cars when the upgrades are completed.
Dan Wood MC'd the speaking portion and pimped the Ducks Scandinavian oddysey upon which they'll open the season. Wood mentioned that the Ducks are organizing a Road Crew trip for this event that takes you to all three games and also grants you an exclusive meet and greet with the players and coaches after one of their practices abroad.
Wood then went on to introduce a new column at the south entrance with a Ducks Dedication banner wrapped around it. Wood said that the team will be allowing fans to somehow get their names on this column so they can be part of Honda Center. I didn't get all of the details, but this sounds like some kind of engraved plaque or something that will go on the column.
Tim Ryan was up next, talking about what was on the docket for Honda Center:
- Ryan stated that the Ducks are currently at a 90% renewal rate on their season tickets and that the team is pleased with that figure.
- Ryan and Murray just met with the Samuellis a few days ago, and they authorized a multi-million dollar upgrade to Honda Center that will feature several components.
- One principal component of this project is The Patio, an exclusive club-level restaurant and bar. The Ducks are trying to generate 1,000 charter members to support the project and gain exclusive access once it's open.
- Ryan said that they would also be opening a sit-down restaurant on ground-level for all fans. It will be a 250-person sports bar that occupies part of the planned expansion of the east entrance. Full season ticket holders will get priority reservations at the restaurant.
- The other part of the planned east entrance expansion is a 4,000 sq. ft. team store that is triple the size of the existing store.
- All told, the east entrance expansion will add be approximately 200 feet wide by 60 feet long. Construction is set to begin in October, with project completion targeted for May/June.
- Ryan announced that Honda Center will have arena-wide WiFi for the upcoming season.
- The Samuellis also authorized a $2 Million food upgrade for Honda Center. The upgrade consists of a new BBQ eatery, a gourmet-burger bar, and a Subway-style sandwich restaurant where you can build your own sandwich. There will also be money spent on enhanced customer service and speed training. These upgrades are slated to be in-place by Fall 2011.
- Ryan mentioned that Honda Center recently ranked 5th amongst all US major arenas (it wasn't clear what this ranking referred to).
- Ryan separately stated that The Hockey News recently rated the Ducks as the 5th best franchise.
At this point, Ryan turned the mic over to Murray, who went through some canned information before taking a few questions from the audeience:
- Murray said he just had lunch with Teemu Selanne (and one other player) and he said "Teemu wants to play hockey." Murray said that in all his time in Anaheim, he's never heard that from Teemu this early in the offseason. Murray said that Teemu's excited about the guys he's playing with and noted that he's suffering from a knee problem. There hasn't been any surgery on it, but Teemu has seen a few doctors. He's heading back to Finland next week to begin training. Murray made it seem like Teemu was a lock if his knee held up.
- Murray spoke a little about Jonas Hiller, saying Hiller "sounds like himself again." Murray said Hiller was really depressed about the vertigo issue but that he finally feels good again. He'll begin working with Francois Allaire in early July, and he has promised to update the Ducks about his status in late July.
- Murray went on to talk about Emerson Etem and Devante Smith-Pelly, whom he refers to as "Devo." Murray said that both had tremendous years and are big, strong kids that can play well at both ends. He likened their status entering this year to Fowler's last year, saying that if they were strong enough to play, they could stay. He went on to say that he could very easily see them as two-thirds of next year's third line.
- Murray said they were pleased with last year's draft, and they're hoping a player falls to them again this year, à la Folwer last year. He said the draft is fairly deep after the first 7 or 8 players and that the Ducks like two centers predicted to go in the 15 range. Murray said that he's hoping one of them will fall, but that he's willing to move up if necessary.
- While Murray was talking about Etem and DSP, he mentioned that the 3rd line is his main priority for this season. Murray gave the impression that he wold actively seek a third line center or would try to trade for one.
- At this point, Murray began taking questions from the audience. I managed to get the first question, asking about Paul Kariya.
- Murray revealed that Kariya was also at the lunch he had with Teemu a few days ago. He said that Paul is at a crossroads in his career due to head hits, but that he made it very clear to to Kariya that the Ducks are interested and would love to have him. Murray said that Paul's got a difficult decision to make but that he hopes he comes back into this building, as a player or in some other capacity, and is warmly welcomed back.
- The next question was about cap space. Murray said the team is fine with respect to the cap, and he casually mentioned that the team spent some money to try to cover the owner's hole last year, which he characterized as rather significant.
- Someone asked about Emery and Murray made it clear that Emery probably wouldn't be had due to salary considerations. He said he doubts Emery will sign for anything less than $2 million but said that if things don't work out with Jonas, he would definitely be interested in Emery if he was still available at that point.
- The next question was about whether or not the Ducks would get a top 4 d-man to play with Fowler. Murray said that the team wouldn't be able to afford one and that he didn't think the available d-men this year would be worth the prices and years they'll command. He reiterated at this point that a third line center is his top priority.
- At this point, they released the fans to go search for their seats. However, Murray and Ryan stayed behind so I took the chance to talk to Murray one-on-one.
- I first asked Murray what he thought the team's biggest need was, and he said that he knows the team is very weak at center.
- I then asked if he's considered offering an offer sheet to any RFA. At this point, Bob got very animated as he told me how he does not like the RFA process and that he would rather do things "honestly." He said he'd much rather trade some kids for a player instead of making an offer sheet. He went on a mini rant about Penner and asked how I would have felt about an offer sheet to Bobby Ryan (which I thought was ironic and made me chuckle inside). I assured Bob I understood, as I tried to slink away. He seemed irked that I asked him about this.
After escaping Murray, I went to the 400 level to look for new seats. We moved one section closer to center ice (really just across the aisle) and maintained our aisle seat while moving up a row. If you're at a home game next season, come track me down in 410 Row Q, on the goal end of the section.
Once we had our seating situation figured out, I snapped some shots of the artist rendering's for Honda Center's additions.