Welcome Anaheim Ducks Super Fans! So you have filled your closet with gear, strapped your heart on for the wildest, wingiest ride in America, and your soul bleeds orange? You are the die-sty of diehards, and will scream it to the rafters of the Honda Center? If you’d like to be part of this Flying V, fill out this SuperFan form, and you might become the face of next month’s column on Anaheim Calling!
The Anaheim Ducks’ camera crew has a sense of humor. During the off-ice moments the engagement in the stands grows, whether it is a parade of pre-teen flossers, those social media addicts caught texting unaware, or the silver-studs of the Beard Cam… we’ve got intermission handled.
But in the past two years, one face has played games with the gamers, flirted with the lens, and become a “Let’s Go Ducks” boomerang image for the new season: Ryan Greco, the Winking Guy in the 200 section.
A season ticket holder since 2013, Ryan’s is a story of dedication and making the team his priority, and this goes much deeper than catching the camera’s focus - the Ducks ARE his focus. He is the first subject of my new recurring column: The SuperFan.
This charming repeat performer on the stunningly large face of the scoreboard of The Honda Center shuts down his environment when it’s time for the Ducks to hit the ice. He lives and breathes Ducks hockey; he’s got the calendar downloaded, his devices programmed, and his friends on notice. Ryan is “All The Time, Ducks Hockey”!
Being a SuperFan for the Ducks means making the team a priority, and making his days and nights available for the demand of the sport. His friends and family know that they should not bother him when a game is on. Orange down to his bone, Ryan cheekily admits to watching the game under the table at dinner (don’t pretend that you haven’t done this as well, dear reader).
Life outside Honda Center often involves the Ducks, too. In his non-game hours, Ryan works as a firefighter in Orange County, and has carried his enthusiasm into the firehouse, too. His department has been involved with the Ducks for special events, and last year celebrated their Centennial and had a shared Ducks Night at a game.
Although his fellow firefighters tease him about his passion, his tendency to say ‘We won! We scored!” his commitment, and his infamous wink, they understand that showing up for what you love and believe in is a hallmark of a man.
Ryan says that teamwork is a significant aspect of how he was raised, and he is proud of the lessons hockey teaches. He believes that, “the youth learn the hard work of a sport, and the team play required. It brings them together as one to accomplish a goal.”
This translates to his home life, as well, where he and his girlfriend Hannah and her four-year old daughter Selah get swept up in his passion for the team. Selah loves going to the “Go Ducks Game” and looking for Wild Wing.
Ryan shares, “I’ll be driving down the freeway and she will randomly yell “Look Ryan, Go Ducks!” when she sees a Ducks’ sticker or flag. I love it, teaching her well.”
These were lessons he also learned as a youth. Ryan has a picture of himself at two years old wearing a Mighty Ducks shirt, and he remembers screaming at the television in elementary school. We can so relate, right? He cherishes his replica 2007 Stanley Cup ring and like so many SoCal Ducks fans, collects memorabilia and memories of games with friends.
A player himself for seven years and previous employee at The Rinks in Yorba Linda, Ryan understands the game and the kind of sacrifice he must make to stay up to date with the team. He’ll spend time in conversation with other fans about player updates, changes in the team, and discussing possible improvements. As we all find, the fandom can be consuming, and Ryan recognizes that.
“It’s not just one day for Ducks’ Hockey and the rest of the week I don’t worry,” Ryan says. “No, I represent the Ducks every day and all year long. Since the beginning and until the end I will be a Die Hard fan.”
He will often choose to reject opportunities for other activities on game nights. Speaking passionately about his favorite team, Ryan is straight up honest about what it means to be a SuperFan.
“It’s not ‘just a game’ or ‘just a sport,’” he says. “It is a family built together as one, represented by a team who we all love. It’s a passion, a love, it’s something that literally affects your way of life... That’s what I’m about and what the Orange Alliance is about.”
Dedication, commitment, loyalty - these are all important values to Ryan, and it is an integral part of his experience. He admires the dedication of the fans inside the Honda Center, especially the times when the house is packed and everyone is “stoked and super loud.”
The engagement is exhilarating when the Pond gets booming, and Ryan wants the scene inside “to be a playoff atmosphere year around.”
Last season didn’t go as well as the team, the fans, and the management hoped, and some fans were openly disgruntled. General Manager Bob Murray stepped in as head coach when Randy Carlyle was relieved of his duties. Now, change is in the air: new coach, new players, favorite players have been traded, and this season has a less predictable outcome.
I asked Ryan about the recent past and the future of the team, and he was candid in his responses. “Obviously last season was not the outcome we want as a fan, but I want people to know that when people suggested that I find another team, I said ‘No… there’s going to be plenty of years when we aren’t going to get the outcome that we expect. The last five years we thought we had a good chance to win again, but winning the Cup - it’s rare. We have to be proud of the guys. They didn’t give up, and it’s a learning experience. Being a true diehard fan, you cannot just give up.’ ”
In the Team Store there is a shirt that reads Ducks Against the World, and Ryan certainly encapsulates this attitude.
He stated frankly, “The Ducks are a young team in the west, and most people don’t know who we are, or care. We get a lot of crap from NHL teams and the Canadian eastern conference. They don’t know anything about it and how dedicated we are. We don’t need that. It’s like the hockey attitude: Nobody likes us and we don’t care. I like that we’re getting a younger, newer coach with knowledge about the modern game. When we won the Cup in ‘07, we were the Big Bad Ducks. We destroyed the other teams with our hitting and checking. Today, the name of the game is speed and talent. Murray is going forward with someone that will understand the youth and the new demands of the game. These new players are young, they’ve played together, they understand Eakins and the style of play. They have a lot of speed and skills.”
Like so many, Ryan is looking forward to the new season, which starts tonight, against the Arizona Coyotes.
Although the wink is what initially brought Ryan to my attention, getting to know him revealed that he is as cool and warm as he is cheeky. He is grateful that the silly play with the camera brings fans happiness and a sense of togetherness that is exclusive to the home-game-attending crowd. Like so many, he has the flags and the stickers and the orange-hued energy…but he also gets stopped from time to time outside the Honda Center by people who recognize him from the camera hijinks. His girfriend Hannah says, “I love the way the superfans instantly know what’s going on when the screen goes to him and you can hear their excitement building. There’s nothing like that.“
“That’s the coolest thing about it,” he comments, laughing. “I never thought that acting like a dork on camera was going to be such a big deal. This is mostly for the people who are inside and care about the joke, for what it’s worth. I get stopped outside the arena from time to time. People will ask if I’m the dude from the Ducks game, at the gym, Knotts, and in restaurants. I enjoy it, and I don’t want anything out of it. It’s cool being a fan and seeing the warm, friendly fanbase that we can laugh at each other, and create a community or family out of it. Being a diehard fan, it’s cool to be a part of it.”
All of you who will storm the Honda Center will see the new video the Ducks made with Ryan’s trademark wink, and maybe you’ll catch the camera’s eye, too.
Your Unique Feathers
Regular Column Questions
What is your name?
Ryan Greco, @rgreco143
Who are your favorite players, and why?
Ryan Getzlaf, not only an insanely talented player but a great leader and the face of our team. Rickard Rakell, I believe is going to be the future of our team and his skill will only get better. Ryan Kesler, simply because of his down and dirty grinding hard work, that’s what it’s all about.
What is a game that you will never forget, and why?
I got to experience the “comeback on Katella” at Game 5 against Edmonton back in 2017 and that was an absolutely insane atmosphere and experience for me. Also I got to see Teemu Selanne and Giguere skate together one last time in 2014. And of course the “off the floor on the board” in 2003 with Paul Kariya, I remember as a kid watching on TV seeing that live. And most importantly, us winning the Cup in ‘07.
When you think of the Anaheim Ducks, what picture or icon comes to mind?
Selanne of course. And I picture us as always the competitors and tough team to play against.
Life at the Pond: What community engagement activities do you think are cool?
Inside and outside the Pond (Honda Center). Outside in the community and schools. Inside our hearts. There are quite a lot of activities that the Ducks Organization engages itself and the fans in that is much more than just the game. Faceoff Fest is great, the visit to CHOC every year is my favorite because that’s what it’s about. I have seen some guys out in public and they are always super cool to the fans, which is much appreciated.
What is something else that you think makes the Honda Center or the Anaheim area the best place to be a fan?
The area is clean and beautiful, with weather you can’t beat. It’s simply comfortable and feels like home.
What aspects of hockey as a team sport do you find appealing?
The level of respect the players have for the game is amazing. I love how guys can go to blows and beat up on each other, but then hug it out with a “Good fight, bud” after.