The story of how I became a fan of the Ducks, and hockey in general, isn’t terribly exciting, I’ll admit. But I wanted to look back on how I fell in love with the ice born out of the heartbreak of the breaking of a bone.
The day is May 29th, 2010. The Angels are in the bottom of the 10th inning of a 1-1 game against the Seattle Mariners. The Halos slugging first basemen and the previous season’s runner-up rookie of the year Kendrys Morales launches a deep fly ball to straight away center field with the bases loaded.
Back it goes.
Fireworks burst forth from the iconic California Spectacular rock formation in Angel Stadium as the fans lose their minds in the stands.
Morales pumped his fists and rounded the bases while his teammates streamed out of the dugout to greet him at home plate.
And then disaster.
Morales, in a fit of pure elation, flung himself through the air into the mass of red and white uniforms surrounding home plate.
His leg buckled instantly as his foot hit the dish.
The diagnosis would come back as a broken ankle in a complete freak accident. Even with the slow start, the Angels seemed to never completely recover from the loss of Morales, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2006 and only the 3rd time since 2001.
October of that year came around. I was a freshman at the University Of Northern Colorado. I did not know anyone in the area and was having some trouble adjusting to my new surroundings. I could no longer hold on to my Angels as the feeling of them not being in the postseason was one I had rarely felt in recent years.
I needed something to latch onto.
Several friends back home were big Anaheim Ducks fans. I had been to maybe 3 games in my life before that year. I was aware but didn’t pay much attention to the 2007 Cup run. My life was purely Angels baseball and nothing else.
After talking to my friends, they suggested I finally give hockey a try. I thought it couldn’t hurt.
I can’t remember the details, but I found the occasional stream online and began taking in highlights of games. I was amazed at how fast the game was. I had never seen anything like it.
There was a young gun who broadcasters John Ahlers and Brian Hayward kept gushing over. He was only 18! My age! I immediately gravitated toward him and was transfixed by his hypnotic skating ability and his booming shots from the blue line next to his partner, Lubomir Visnovsky. A proud ‘Murican.
From the second I started watching the Ducks, Cam Fowler was my favorite player.
The emptiness of the lack of Angels in the postseason was steadily replaced by the wonder of Fowler and the rest of a hard-hitting Ducks squad. The team featured first year captain Ryan Getzlaf and some dude named Corey Perry who seemingly had the ability to will the puck into the back of the net en route to a 50-goal season and a Hart Trophy.
I may have been away from home—isolated, lonely, depressed—yet I had a sliver of home to hold on to. A game that is just as beautiful as baseball, but for completely different reasons. I traded in the crack of a bat, the pop of a glove, and the tension between each pitch, for the slap of a puck, the thunderous boom of a heavy hit, and the carving of ice.
Due to many personal reasons, I decided I could only last the one semester in Colorado and returned home to attend community college. I made it a point to go to as many games as I could afford. I begged for my first jersey for Christmas: a home Getzlaf jersey with the alternate captain designation (I later found out the jersey was fake, but I was the only one into hockey in my family at that point, so there’s no way they really could have known).
As I said, I don’t have the most the most unique or exciting story of how I became a fan. But I know that without the Angels beginning their playoff struggles on that warm May 29th in 2010 with a freak injury, I would have had nothing to hold on to in my dark hours in Colorado.
In some weird way, my lifelong fandom of the Angels and their failures brought me here. Despite the sadness of an injury essentially killing my team’s playoff chances, it led me from the grass to the ice.
I couldn’t be more thankful.