Honestly, I'm still reeling from Saturday night's game at Dodger Stadium. The night was filled with it's dramatics, annoyances, as well as triumphs, as was expected of a game in Los Angeles. Everything--from the early afternoon festivities, to the dramatic Hollywood set-up of the ice, to the fireworks creating a silhouette of Ducks' high sticks saluting the fans and celebrating a Ducks win...it was all perfect. To the tee.
But wow...I cannot even begin to describe in words the amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience it was. So I'll try to do my best to give you my perspective through my eyes...or more like my camera(s)' lens. (Yes, I brought multiple cameras to make sure I got the best pictures possible.)
**Special thanks to Chris Kober and AC winner Jason for a couple of the Top Deck aerial shots.
Set up in front of Dodger Stadium, Spectator Plaza mostly unspectacular--as it mirrored the Anaheim Ducks Hockey Spot, where there were games and activities for fans to participate....Both Anaheim and LA Street Teams were on the scene, along with sponsor vendors hosting games and contests for fans as they await for the gates to open. Mostly empty upon my early arrival, the designated area filled up extremely quickly.
Take a picture with the Ducks team....
Take a picture with a Ducks background and take it home as a souvenir...
Desire to play in the Stadium Series? You can be a player just with one picture....
Thirsty or hungry or both? Wait in this long-a$$ line for beer and food....(Hate long lines? Had to get used to it fast because the night was full of them. Dodger Stadium was a fireman's worst nightmare.)
The weather was a sunny-but-not-too-warm comfortable mid-70s...perfect jersey weather. While there was a good mixture of both Anaheim and LA fans, it was evident that there were more of the latter. I was constantly dodging Kings fans trying to avoid any contact with their logos. Ugh. But the fact that most fans opted to wear their home Ducks/Kings jerseys instead of buying the Stadium Series jerseys made it a bit difficult to tell the fans apart from the distance. But those who did have the budget to buy the orange Ducks SS jerseys...for the flack that it received initially, the jerseys looked pretty awesome out there in the Stadium. But besides the Stadium jerseys...there were:
those unforgettable third jerseys...
Burger King jerseys
And since this NHL outdoor game is really a tribute to Californian hockey...we can go REAL old school with this Oakland Seals jersey....
Needless to say, I had fun people/hockey fan watching while I waited for the stadium to open.
Coors Light Stadium Series at Dodgers Stadium
All of us early birds roamed around Spectator Plaza trying to enjoy the festivities, despite restlessly waiting for 4:30 to roll around. But when the time finally came, I was herded in through the gates along with other fans like cattle. Because I arrived in the stadium as soon as the gates opened, I was able to take the time to soak in the fantastic view of the Stadium set-up on the Loge level.
As soon as I entered into the stadium, I could only look down on the Dodgers field in awe. I mean, yeah, it was a bit strange, epitomizing Hollywood’s dramatic flair...adding the beach volleyball court, roller hockey rink, and the 80’s-esque rollerbladers on the sidewalks, the yoga people sitting in a circle--all surrounding the sheet of brilliant white ice. A part of me was embarrassed by the unnecessary flamboyance of the "Venice beach" set-up, but the other part was waving a middle finger to the rest of the snow-covered east and Canada. It wouldn't be an outdoor game in California without the flair.
Do you see the yoga people sitting around in the circle? I thought that was a bit too much.
The one thing I did really enjoy was the small ball hockey rink in front of the ice rink. It was a proper homage to the roots of hockey in California. [Ed. Note: I thought it was supposed to be a roller rink, the kids were all in sneakers. -CK]. Kids from both clubs' junior hockey teams were able to go out there and enjoy the game that has grown so much here in California. What was even more poetic was the fact that some of Ducks players were playing some soccer beside the small rink. Some of these kids may go on to become one of these players. It just served to remind me that this isn't just an outdoor hockey game featuring crosstown rivals...this is also a tribute to the growth of hockey in California.
The Ducks players seemed to be pretty laid back as they played some soccer and soaked in the atmosphere. Pure camaraderie I tell you. And chill--that's how we roll in the OC.
Initially, I wasn't too thrilled about the design of the Ducks' Stadium Series jerseys. It was the blaring orange of a traffic cone. But despite the strange chome-scheme of the Stadium Series jerseys, I figured the Ducks' orange was a hell of a lot better than the Kings' depressing smog-gray jerseys. Anyways, I was impressed by the way it looked on the ice. The Ducks definitely stood out, and their numbers in black contrasted against the orange. Despite Jonas Hiller looking like a giant Candy Corn, I hope to see these jerseys again sometime this year. (Plus they have got to bode good tidings after the fabulous results of the game.)
The Ducks did nothing out of the ordinary. They participated in their normal warm-up routine with some smiles, and continued on their tradition of all crowding around the net to bombard back-up goaltender Frederik Andersen. They not only looked extremely comfortable on the ice, but I got the feel that they were honestly enjoying themselves out there.
I wouldn't be surprised if the Kings were a bit more solemn during their warm-ups. They were technically playing on "home ice" and were surrounded by a baseball stadium filled with the majority of their fans. (And we all know that many of these bandwagon fans would leave empty seats if the game didn't go their way...which is exactly what ends up happening.) After the Kings' loss at the Honda Center, the Kings were out on a mission with some "some fire in [their] belly."
I'm going to skip right up to the intermission shows consisting of KISS and Five for Fighting. Besides snapping a few shots, I wasn't really paying a whole lot attention to either band. Unsurprisingly, KISS' performance before the teams' introduction was full of the flash, the fire, and the dazzle. At the very least some of the pyrotechnics provided cool photo ops. Yay..let's move on. Oh wait, they came out again during the first intermission, but I left my seat in search of the elusive Stadium Series pennant flag at one of the overcrowded kiosks.
P.S. To make matters worse, the Coors Light-sponsored event at Dodger Stadium ran out of beer during this time.
Five For Fighting was alright. Kind of brought me back to the good old days of junior high and high school. He is a big Kings fan so he didn't bother to be neutral about who he was rooting for at the end of his performance. But then again, the Ducks were already up by two so let them have their Five For Fighting.
And so it begins...The Puck Drop
It couldn't be a more beautiful night for some outdoor hockey. The Los Angeles sky was streaked with orange as if it were an auspicious moment for success.
When the NHL and the MLB collided through the Coors Light Stadium Series at Dodger Stadium, who else but the legendary Vin Scully could so perfectly welcome both teams and their fans? I am far from a Dodgers fan but this was Vin Scully! And everyone, and I mean a sold-out Dodgers stadium gave him a standing ovation.
"And now it's time for....NHL hockey!"~legendary Vin Scully
With Dodger Stadium filled up to the top, both the Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings were ready to play in the first outdoor game west of the Mississippi River. The USC (booooo!!!!) Marching band began the opening procession with blaring triumph as the two teams followed marching side-by-side.
Jordin Sparks performed the National Anthem as both teams lined up on the ice.
And one of the highlights of my night was seeing The Great One himself, Wayne Gretzky drop the ceremonial puck. The growth of hockey in California is directly related to Wayne Gretzky, so it was only he who could drop the puck for California's first outdoor hockey game.
And so the game begins....
I know Chris and SK Eleven mentioned they was sitting in top deck, while Kyle mentioned he sat in the reserve level. I unfortunately sat in 7FD but made the most of it with the close-up shots.
Although I came with friends, I sat in a single seat alone. Fortunately for me, I was blessed with the company of some loud, rowdy, and Die-Hard Duck fans. Despite being surrounded by Kings fans, we made a lot of noise and cheered incessantly. If there was any heckling, I couldn't hear it over our "Let's Go Ducks" and "Beat LA" cheers. Like I said, my night couldn't be more perfect.
Ducks SCORE!!! Corey Perry first to put one on the board! A nice sea of orange rose up among the crowd. The top deck may not have heard the cheers, but it was pretty loud at the field level. It also helped that there were orange thunder sticks that were distributed prior to the game.
Fans in orange and black stand up and go mad high-fiving random orange neighbors when Matt Beleskey puts another one away. Ducks were severely outshot but come out of the first up 2-0!
Besides annoying their Kings neighbors, Ducks fans find another ingenious way to use their thunder sticks....to cover the Kings crown up with orange.
At the start of the second intermission, Captain Ryan Getzlaf was all smiles when he came up for the interview. Met with the boos and jeers of depressed Kings fans, he says, "We're going to to try and keep these guys quiet." Bravo Getzy, bravo.
One of the cool hockey traditions that was upheld at the game was the salute to a US service member. All of Dodger stadium got on their feet and gave him his due. 'MURICA!
My Kings neighbors got up and left during the second intermission, not even staying for a minute of the third. Slowly, the sea of orange and black became more distinct as Kings "fans" (for the most part) quietly "left for a beer" only to not come back. I found it hilarious. So I took some pictures of them.
"Why are you leaving? There's still a couple more minutes bro...."
"You guys too? But you still have 2 minutes left?"
Pictures really don't do what ensues justice....The first Californian Outdoor Stadium Series DUCKS victory!!!
Oh, wait, did I mention Jonas Hiller posted a 3-0 SHUTOUT?
Damn right!!! REGICIDE!
Jonathon Quick storms off, leading his fellow Kings off the ice without participating in the handshake, and without saluting what is left of their real fans. Classy---
Come on...if the kids can do it, the Kings should be able to participate in the handshake. Very disappointing.
Walk of Shame....
First Star rightly awarded to the Great Wall of Hiller. He was absolutely marvelous, standing on his head to not only keep the Ducks in by turning away 36 shots, but to post his 20th career shutout.
I was on Cloud 9 after the game. Even after returning home I was just so happy. Just SO HAPPY. Even now, as I am sorting through and looking back on my pictures, I am filled with such joy and contentment. The Ducks were out-shot and out-possessed most of the game. But they were resilient and Jonas Hiller was nothing short of invincible; every player out there did their part and played their role.
The Anaheim Ducks is a more than a small hockey club--it's a community and a family. The class that each Duck exemplifies just makes the win that much more deserving. They are a humble group with a drive to succeed and with a will to win. Saturday night was beyond special. Even if it was in LA--maybe more so because it was in LA.
Up until the end, the Anaheim Ducks showed class and did not overlook the impact of this game in signifying the historical growth of hockey in California. I will now stop spewing melodramatic and emotional musings and leave you with my favorite picture of the night. I think it best sums up the game, the evening, the fans, the individual players, and our Anaheim Ducks team.
What a memorable night.