I was one of the lucky 53,099 fans in attendance last night at Dodger Stadium as the Ducks shut the Kings out 3-0, so I thought I'd put together a little post to give those who weren't able to make it a little taste of what it was like to be there.
It was awesome! The End.
Just kidding, but before I go into detail which includes some criticism (I am a blogger after all), I need to note that none of the issues that I may have had detracted from the event to make it anything less than an incredible once in a lifetime experience.
I attended the game with my wife, my son (who is almost two) and my parents. We arrived just as the parking gates opened at 3:00 pm and first headed to the Fan Zone (I forget what its official corporate name). While I won't say it was disappointing because it was pretty much what I expected, I'll go with underwhelming.
There were concession stands, corporate sponsor booths where you could get samples of Advil or Verizon sunglasses a live stage and a DJ booth. The Ducks and Kings Street Teams were there with their inflatable shooting targets as well as two other non-team specific target shooting games, one where you can shoot 10 pucks into a dryer Sidney Crosby style and another with targets in the corners of a goal like the All-Star Game. You could get your picture taken and put on a hockey card or grab a handful of free cards off of the Upper Deck booth (Kings players only). There was air hockey and NHL 14 to be played at the Game Center Live tent, but within the first hour so many people had shown up that there were massive lines for everything, including simply to enter the Fun Zone itself.
It was a mass of humanity, which isn't super conducive to life with a toddler so we decided to head into the Stadium as soon as we could, which was about 4:30 or 5-ish. The first view we got of the field was pretty amazing from the left field loge level. Sure, I'd seen plenty of pictures from people at the practice/media day on Friday but the size and colors in person really made an impact.
Not being very familiar with Dodger Stadium it took a little while to figure out where the hell we were going, but we had plenty of time and it gave us an opportunity to see some of the colorful characters around the stadium. For instance there was a Kings fan eating a whole roasted duck (my wife actually saw that one, so it may have been outside before we got in) or another Kings fan dressed as a duck hunter with a sign that said "Duck Season is Open" hanging from his neck. That guy got a little bit of business from security for making people uncomfortable with his full camouflage outfit. Of course there were your standard face painters (gotta support the team) and hair dyers, but the best of all was a guy who had made a full length cloak with hood out of Ducks playoff towels with a huge beard walking around like some combination of a Ducks fan, Gandalf the Grey and Moses.
Once the pregame warm up got started, one thing was clear above all else: This was a Kings home game. All of the production elements including scoreboard visuals, the PA announcer, organist, etc. were geared toward the Kings. I thought the NHL might set it up as a sort of neutral game, with the Ducks goal song as well, but that wasn't the case. Despite it being Kings-centric, it was slightly toned down from the Staples Center experience. For instance while they did have Cartman cartoons, they weren't as anti-Ducks as they were pro-Kings and most importantly the organist refrained entirely from leading the crowd in "Ducks Suck" chants with the Addams Family theme. That was much appreciated.
After warm ups we were greeted by a disgusting guttural screech over the sound system that officially announced the arrival of KISS. They played two songs, and came back for two more in the first intermission. Much like the Fan Zone it was pretty much exactly what I expected, didn't sound very good but there were plenty of fireworks and mechanical moving platforms and make up and space suits or whatever to distract from that. Remembering that this game was a spectacle there couldn't have been a more fitting band to add to the lineup for some outlandish bells and whistles.
The one thing that did surprise me about the KISS performance was the horrible between banter between songs. I wasn't paying full attention to who was speaking, but it was essentially just shouting random words that vaguely had to do with the event, as if they were playing $10,000 Pyramid with the crowd.
HOCKEY! ........ DUCKS! ....... KINGS! ..... WHO'S GONNA WIN? ......
Disappointing from a band that goes so over the top with everything they do, except their music.
On the other end of the musical spectrum, Five for Fighting played their two big hits 'Superman' and '100 Years' during the second intermission with front man - and true Kings fan - John Ondrasik rocking a black and purple Luc Robatille jersey and the rest of the band in Ducks stadium sweaters. They would have sounded better over a different sound system I think, but I enjoyed it. The best part of their performance was the montage of intertwined Ducks and Kings history during '100 Years'. Maybe the best part of that was video of Dustin Penner with both of his Stanley Cup rings on (except for the Kings fan next to me screaming "F*** You Penner").
The view of the game from our seats high above home plate (pictured above) wasn't bad by any stretch. We could see the whole ice, but it was difficult to read the numbers at times and the puck got lost pretty easily. On both of the Ducks first period goals it took me about a second to see the players celebrate then check that the referee was calling a goal before getting up to cheer.
And that brings me to my biggest disappointment of the night. When the Ducks scored I was shocked by how little noise it caused. Based on the reaction to the goals it's probably generous to say that 30% of the people there were Ducks fans. Given that that the Kings' offense and Ducks' defense didn't give the other 70-ish% anything to say all night, there wasn't the raucous playoff atmosphere that I was expecting. But there was plenty of heckling from the Kings fans before the game for me to appreciate their silence and the new meaning they brought to the phrase "Go Kings Go" with five minutes left in the game as there was a mass exodus to the parking lot.
The other big thing that I was expecting which didn't actually happen was the obligatory celebrity fan cam. Of all the people on the jumbotron I didn't see a glimpse of Will Farrell, Jon Hamm, Kevin Smith, Tom Hanks, Goldie Hawn or Kurt Russell. The only semi-celebs that I spotted were hockey people. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly was seemingly everywhere taking in the atmosphere and we ran into Ducks Owner Susan Samuelli on our way out. The latter was actually really cool because she stopped to tell my wife and me that our son dressed up in a Ducks jersey, orange jeans and orange crocks, holding a souvenir mini stick was "The best little Ducks fan."
Overall it was a fantastic night, even if the concession stands ran out of beer by the middle of the first period (they got restocked for the intermission, thank goodness). We stayed until we basically got kicked out, partially because we could see from our seats that traffic getting out of the parking lot was insane, but also to squeeze every drop out of an incredible night of hockey in a way we've never seen it before and may never see again.
So, I'll leave you with a few words from the lucky winner of SB Nation's contest to send an AC reader to the game, Jason Fender from Gresham, Oregon:
My wife and I had an absolute blast. We got there as soon as the lots opened and spent the 4 hours before the game in the fan section and stadium celebrating the game. Then, of course, the game started and the Ducks took it to the Kings. All in all, 7 hours of celebrating the great game we all love.
Thank you once again. This was a once on a lifetime event that I'll never forget.