Like many who grew up in the shadow of Detroit, hockey is a sport that captivated me from an early age. The speed and skill of the game, as well as the delightfully colorful padding and stylistically painted masks of the goaltenders drew me in from the very first instant I happened to flip to CBC one afternoon and see the Montreal Canadiens and Quebec Nordiques battling for provincial pride. That season the New York Rangers ended 54 years of suffering in lifting the most beautiful trophy I had ever seen, with an outpouring of joy and a celebration that made me a fan of the sport for life.
No matter the team, the passion is universal (via leksa0990)
My name is Eric, and I'm not like most hockey fans born in the state of Michigan. I was the only person in my immediate family that watched the sport initially, as my dad was a basketball fan and my mom didn't really follow sports despite growing up in the Los Angeles area and going to see Kings games at the Fabulous Forum. Her father, my grandpa, was a Yugoslavian Serb who immigrated to Canada then moved to southern California to raise a family and was a major hockey fan. I credit him for teaching me to respect and love the sport for the beauty of it, and appreciate the game more than any one team.
It's because of that upbringing in the sport that I rebelled against supporting the Red Wings despite the team winning the Stanley Cup back-to-back in my early middle school years. Being surrounded by a fan base whom the majority seemed arrogant and disrespectful was nothing I wanted to be a part of, so I initially supported the Colorado Avalanche mainly to antagonize them. Then the 2003 playoffs happened.
Coming in to the postseason I knew Jean-Sebastien Giguere was a goalie that had game-stealing potential. After watching Patrick Roy dominate with Colorado for several seasons, Giguere was another butterfly goaltender that had caught my eye and had me talking up the Ducks as a problem for Detroit in the opening round. When Steve Rucchin completed the sweep with his dramatic overtime winner, I felt a sense of pride and vindication in the face of the dismissive red and white horde around me that planted the seeds of my Ducks fandom.
Down goes the red menace (via HockeyPacific)
That passion bloomed when I moved to Ventura County in 2006, just in time for the Mighty Ducks to go on another improbable run to the Western Conference Finals. Though thanks to my grandpa I also appreciate the Kings (I regularly attend games at STAPLES Center and actually support them when they aren't playing Anaheim), Ducks games have a certain purity and heart to them that speaks to me as a fan of the sport and have made me a fan of the franchise for life. Being part of a fan base whose cheers by and large support their team rather than attacking the opposition, as well as being fortunate enough to attend games both regular season and playoff cement that status.
It also doesn't hurt that the Ducks have been one of the best franchises at developing goalies since Giguere took the world by storm in '03. As a street hockey goalie myself, seeing the caliber of netminding that has graced the crease in Anaheim has been an absolute treat. Watching Giguere win a Conn Smythe in vain then bring California it's first Stanley Cup; observing Ilya Bryzgalov progressing from incredible insurance policy to a most entertaining starter elsewhere in the league; seeing Jonas Hiller wrest the reins and backstop an upset of the Presidents Trophy winning San Jose Sharks, and now try and hold in the face of challenges from Viktor Fasth and Frederik Andersen has been the most delicious of chicken soup for my goaltending soul.
While SB Nation is the voice of the fan, I'll be bringing the voice of a professional sports broadcaster and journalist who has called play-by-play, hosted radio shows, and covered local sports in print for over five years. Hockey is the sport I am most passionate about, and I look forward to sharing that with everyone in the Anaheim Calling community. It seems only appropriate that the first season I started following the NHL was also the first for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
Anaheim has been fortunate enough to experience the joy that I first saw from the Rangers once, here's to the hope that we all get to experience it again in the near future.