Living in Minneapolis, a place that couldn't really care less about the Anaheim Ducks, I have very limited options when trying to catch a game. If I have the time, I find a stream. Unfortunately, I'm busier than a college senior probably should be, so more often than not, I keep tabs on my Ducks app on my phone and follow the game that way. With that being said, whenever the boys are actually on TV up here, it's when they play the Wild, so the variety of broadcasted opponents is painfully nonexistent. With the Ducks jumping onto the outdoor game bandwagon, it gives them a rare opportunity to showcase their talents to a national audience, even against the hated Kings, no less. With that kind of setup, I obviously had to take advantage of my roommate's TV to take in this game.
This was, by a long shot, the largest attendance ever recorded at a Ducks game. How did our friends at NBCSN do at covering ice hockey in Southern California? Here's a very brief overview of what they did well and what I could've done without.
- Vin Scully, the Dodgers announcer, took the reins for a very cool game intro that focused on the growth of hockey in the area.
- Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brian "Fear the Beard" Wilson, referred to Corey Perry as "a complete badass, I know that". When you have the most intimidating player in all of baseball call you a complete badass, you're doing something pretty well. Perry ended up scoring the game's first goal as well, so I guess Wilson calls 'em like he sees 'em. Stick tap for #10!
- Neutrality from commentators is always a nice breath of fresh air to me. Even if I'm watching a stream from the Ducks broadcast, I don't get as much enjoyment from it as much as I do when I listen to a network that gives highs and lows of each team to the fans straight up with as much indifference as they can. Actually, they had a LOT of good things to say about the Ducks. Granted, they played a very efficient game for 60 minutes (I know, right?!?) but it was still reassuring to hear, especially since the media tends to shy away from giving them love. On the flip side, NBCSN was a little more critical about the Kings, talking a good amount about how they're a good defensive team, but they need to get better at scoring. "You can't expect to win 1-0 every night." For some reason, I expected the commentators to be taking that tone with the team in orange, and the fact that my unjustified expectations were proven wrong was nice to hear.
- Pierre McGuire wasn't in attendance. No more needs to be said.
- On a similar note, I get a kick out of Jeremy Roenick. If you ever want to make a drinking game out of one you're watching that he's covering, take a drink every time he says any variation of "how cool is this?"
- DUCKS WIN (AGAIN)!
- KINGS LOSE!
- The KISS interview during pregame. In my eyes, it ends up right under the Eminem interview in the "unusually weird interviews" category. In case you haven't heard, this is also the group of guys that are the owners of the newest arena football team that will call the Honda Center home.
- Periodically hit on the "outdoor hockey in Los Angeles! Isn't that weird?" concept. News flash everyone: Southern California has had at least one really good hockey team for quite a long time now. Yes, outdoor hockey in such a warm climate is unusual, but with the success of the Ducks and/or Kings for the last ten-ish years, it shouldn't be so surprising that the NHL decided to play such a huge game in this market.
- (More of a personal one for me and any other northern viewers) The constant references to how miserable the weather is going to be in Yankee Stadium tomorrow in comparison to the nice 60 degree atmosphere in LA. I was at an outdoor game last week on the University of Minnesota campus and I sat in five degree weather for two and a half hours. Why the NBCSN crew found it necessary to wear light jackets is beyond me. I would kill to be down there instead of in the tundra right now, and that weather comparison only made me a little saltier in terms of my current location. Thanks, guys.
Despite the opinions that I've seen on Twitter this evening, I didn't think NBCSN did a terrible job at covering this game. I'm assuming that the atmosphere that NBCSN gave to this game is identical to the one that fans in attendance were feeling. Yes, this was the first outdoor NHL game in Southern California, and the folks who set up Dodger Stadium made sure everyone knew that the venue was a very unusual one for hockey.
With palm trees, a beach volleyball court, performances from KISS (that didn't lack in the pyrotechnic department), and 60 degree weather (all of which the broadcasting crew made sure to give focus to individually), this is obviously a far cry from the vibe that the Winter Classic and Heritage Classic want to produce. The NHL has made it a special event to tip their caps to the game's heritage, reminiscing back to the days where players played on ponds in Canada, Minnesota, New England, and other places that are colder than most of you could even begin to fathom.
The Stadium Series opener, however, strayed from that perspective completely, from what we could see on TV. Anyone who follows the NHL at all can't deny that the Ducks and the Kings are two of the best teams in the NHL by a long shot, and since 2007, other franchises have had to start taking at least one of these teams seriously instead of considering them as an afterthought just because of their locale. Hockey in SoCal is growing exponentially, and the area's NHL teams are the cream of the crop. With that in mind, the event planning staff (or whatever you call them) must have shed the thought that the vicinity should fit the mold of hockey hotbeds like the Winter Classic hosts have, and instead embraced the Hollywood atmosphere and incorporated it into this event. Instead of the pond hockey reminiscence, Dodger Stadium featured, according to NBCSN, "a recreation of Venice Beach". With the recent success that Anaheim and LA have been seeing, maybe hockey fans might have to start looking into this blueprint as the new norm for hockey instead.