A few weeks ago Derek and I managed to snag some pre-sale tickets to the Anaheim Ducks round 1 playoff game 5 against the Minnesota Wild. This would be the first NHL playoff game either of us had attended. Before the game I anticipated experiencing energy from a crowd and a team that I had not witnessed at the Honda Ponda in all my years of attending hockey games there since 1993. I had attended Anaheim Bullfrogs playoff games(Professional Roller Hockey) back in the mid 90's but they never quite sold out the whole arena.
After fighting traffic for about 50 minutes(not bad considering the potential for freeway hell between LA and OC) we arrived at the Ball Rd off site parking lot in front of a synagogue and found parking in the assistant rabbi's parking space. I wasn't sure if this was wrong but a woman entering the synagogue jokingly(with a smile) commented to us as we got out of the car, "Not bad, the assistant rabbi!"
I had hoped that the crowd would be mostly wearing orange items of clothing to create a sea of bright orange but because the ducks' jerseys are either black or white most people were not wearing orange at all. I was in full hockey dork attire with a bright orange ducks practice jersey on over my hooded sweater. We made it into the Honda Center with about 10 or so minutes to spare before "the show" was going to begin but after a 15 minute adventure into trying to buy BBQ chicken sandwiches we missed the pre-game music video and highlights. The national anthem began as we ascended the stairs to find our last row, top of the arena ,seating. For leaving LA only an hour before the game was supposed to start we made damn near perfect time.
The Ducks were on a verge of sweeping the 7 game series two nights before in Minnesota but were handed a 4 to 1 loss. Momentum in sports is everything and even just losing 1 game out of 4 can swing things in the wrong direction. All of the ducks fans' concerns were quickly put to rest though as Christ Pronger lasered a slapshot off of the first face-off in Minnesota's territory about 1 minute into the game. I hadn't even had time to take a bite out of my BBQ sandwich when the place erupted from seeing the first goal. A sea of orange did actually come to be as the ducks organization had provided everyone in the arena with bright orange "rally towels" or "fowl towels"(a term fused for towels handed out during the ducks first playoff appearance back in the late 90's). It was pretty cool to see everyone standing and waving those bright orange towels. That was highlight number one.
Highlight number two came when it was brought to everyone's attention on the scoreboard Jumbotron that Snoop Dogg and his son were in attendance and fully representing the Ducks. They don't really play a lot of rap music during ducks games(hockey is more of a hair metal sport) so when they started playing a Snoop Dog song Derek and I were confused. Then we saw Snoop and it all made sense. If you go to NHL.COM
they have a photo called the "frozen moment" on the homepage and today the frozen moment is snoop holding up a bright orange foam finger. The NHL desperately needs cool points so hopefully other media asside from just the NHL coverages on not so well known Versus Network and local orange county news will bring Snoops love of hockey to national attention. How cool would it be if Snoop's kid plays hockey and grows up to be this huge(literally because Snoop is super tall) talented NHL hockey player?
The third highlight of the night was the ducks killing off a 4 minute penalty combined with another 2 minute penalty that resulted in us being down 2 men for a full 2 minutes. The crowd stood and waved their towels and screamed and cheered as much for that penalty kill as they did when the ducks scored their goals.
Of course winning the game 4 to 1(with an empty netter) was the final highlight of the game and as a bonus surprise the ducks put next round's tickets on sale a the box office for all the fans in attendance. I got 2 tickets for game 5 in the 22nd round. Hopefully it will go down with similar results.