What an experience...Stanley Cup Finals Game One in Anaheim...and I was
there! I have been a hockey player/fan all my life, and this was awesome!
I live in Vancouver but grew up in Ottawa. I was in Ottawa for the re-birth
of the Senators franchise and the inaugural season. I was raised on
major junior hockey and Hockey Night in Canada. For a Sens fan, the Senators making the finals was along time coming...
The Set Up
The emails from my friends and family started flying early when the Senators jumped into a two game lead over Buffalo. The emails accelerated when it was 3-0. When that series finished and it looked like the Ducks would be the finalist in the west.... well via our emails, we decided (we as in a few ex pats; my cousin Geoff who lives with his family in Seattle (his wife and two boys born in the USA but are SENS FANS!) his buddy Paul who lives in Whistler and Matt, his brother in law who lives in Calgary)...yes, we decided we had to go to California for a game…and we got tickets!! Then we booked our flights$$.
We met on Monday in Anaheim. Game time was 5 pm Pacific so naturally we arrived at the Honda Center just after noon.... Nothing but a big empty parking lot and a VIP tent. Not much around here. It reminded me of Scotia Bank Place in Ottawa. But we did spot a roadhouse style restaurant pub across the street ( a six lane road), so we wandered onto the patio and discovered four other Sens fans: instant friendship! 30 minutes later the first Duck fans arrived; two dudes. We were all eyeing each other, sizing things up. I went over to break the ice. They are great Ducks fans. They love hockey and they are really diggin' the new ownership, and are liking the improvements being made to the venue and the over all game experience.
Media Moments and Making More Friends
More Sens fans arrive and more Duck fans arrive...We take off back across the street to see if Cameron, the leader of the “Rolling Sens Fans” headquarters, has finally convinced the parking folk (incidentally wearing red shirts, which they tells us Detroit fans ribbed them for as well) to let them park the motor home and pull out the nets for a little road hockey. On the way we bump into Ken Evraire from A Channel in Ottawa...we meet more people who have made the trip from Ottawa. We worked with Ken on a little shtick for his show and Max Keeping shows up! We all joked that he looked the same as when we were in grade Eight. Next we find ourselves by the media trucks and looking for anything Hockey Night in Canada and here comes Scott Oake and Elliotte Friedman. Nice dudes...Paul is really excited about the great banner he made and shows them, they like it and give him the low down on how to get it on TV. They also tell us that we won't be able to get next to Grapes (Don Cherry) for the opening because he will be with 'The Govenator!' (Arnold Schwarzenegger) We think they gave us a scoop...so we take our excitement and meet up with Cam and his friends...well there must be 50 Sens fans there! The CBC camera man is grouping them all together to get his opening shot for HNIC. We quickly join in and cheer our heads off! More media is coming over to report back to their various stations about Sens Fever in Southern California. We meet Natalie, an accountant living in LA but from Ottawa. When The Globe & Mail’s Jeffery Simpson was getting a quote from her he realized she was French so the conversation switched languages. And when Natalie's American friend look confused Paul translated. Incidentally, Jeffery used this quote in his article ...'Matt Joss from Calgary gathered up three Ottawa friends now also living in Western Canada and flew in for the game. Matt said "We want the Cup back in Canada," We met Amy, a die hard fan from Ottawa whose husband bought her the trip for her “best birthday present ever”. Meeting so many Senator fans added to the day.
Inside “Ponda” Center
We made our way inside for the pre game skate. We noticed some of the Senators waiting in the tunnel to get the okay to come out. The concentration on Joe Corvo, Chris Neil and Peter Schaffer’s faces was intense! The rest of the Sens joined them and out they came, greeted by fans reaching for high fives. Chris Neil's focus changes for one second as he gives the lady next to me a wink. She’s wearing a pink Sens jersey. Later she tells me she borrowed from her daughter. I find myself reaching out and Chris Phillips sticks his hand up. Everyone is pumped!!
More Media Moments
I captured some great pics of the skate. Spezza and Alfie trying different sticks. Chris Kelly trying a second pair of gloves halfway through. This was my first Stanley Cup Finals. Was I hungry or was that nerves?? We started up to our seats but made one stop. The CBC’s Ron MacLean was wrapping up the pre-game show. We had to dodge one aggressive security guard. I asked another security dude if I could walk in and take a photo... “no problem” he said, but McLean was gone. Then Kelly Hrudey showed up...so I yell “Kelly Hrudey!” I mean...what else do you do? I get my cousin’s attention and he asked Kelly if I can snap a photo of them. Sure says Hrudey just as the 1st security guard is trying to get Geoff to leave. Kelly wins that little tug of war, and we get our photo.
On to Our Seats...and Here Come the Ducks!
We arrived at our seats and I say “hey game neighbors” and received a few strange looks. There are orange towels on our seats. We are curious. Is this something Brian Burke mandated? Lots of Orange....Orange County...ah! So far no hostilities, just good info.
When the Ducks hit the ice, that the crowd goes nuts! In fact, even before that, the crowd was going nuts! The have plastic horns and air horns! They have duck calls and tin cans with coins in um'.
There are brothers sitting next to me whose folks have season tickets in the lower bowl. The one brother, who had just returned from college says “Why did the hot blonde get to sing the Canadian anthem and the old dude (Stephen Stills) get the U.S. one'? We laugh at this, and it leads us to some great hockey talk from what became the average Duck fan. Passionate and cool!
The game starts and place is going nuts! After a whistle, Sammy Pahlsson gets kicked out of the face off circle, and the place goes berserk! In Vancouver we seem to save that kind of noise for something else. I realize this is the Cup Finals but these fans are GREAT! Loud, Loud, Loud!! I hear maybe three whistles all game. The lady in front of me whose son got her into hockey jumps out of her seat at every potential exciting play. So there I am, one had on my seat anticipating pushing myself up in synchronicity with her, so as not to miss a hit, shot or goal. What fun!! I have a laugh with her afterward.
The Sign...and a Little Trash Talk
During a break Paul and Matt hold up their sign... waiting for the surrounding folks to get aggressive. But what they get is the folks wanting them to pose so they can get a photo of it! 1st periods ends I am having a blast. The game is exciting! We check out the concourse, and receive high fives (nobody does that anymore) from the Sens fans, and some jeers from the Ducks fans. “Ottawa Sucks!”... “How do you know? Have you ever been?”....and a look of confusion from a dude in orange. Then some trash talk that gets heated: Geoff is being told he is getting screwed by “'20% in taxes” when I lean in and say “Ah...he lives in Seattle.” The Anaheim fan turns to me and says “I love the trash talk! You guys are good sports.” We laugh and talk a little hockey. Inside the building was a great time.
What a fever. Even thought the Ducks played the better game it was exciting. There were big hits, goals posts, a missed open net and when Anaheim scored with 2:51 left to take the lead the Sens didn't quit. It took a great save by Giggy! Giggy! in the final seconds to end this one! I was soaking it in as the crowd was filing out. I talked to some folks in the lower section. I asked about ticket prices. Interesting, a $30 regular season ticket is $175 for the Finals. So FANS are in the seats! What a difference. That's why it's louder.
Outside I meet a couple of gals, and we talk hockey. They love the game, love the fans. They tell me about the dislike for Brett Hull in Anaheim! I Meet an aerospace guy named Fred and his wife, who moved from T.O. 20 years ago, and they love hockey in SoCal! Season ticket holders, and he never dreamed of selling any of his playoff tickets.
We head back to the bar where we started our evening. Duck fans, Sens Fans, Teemu's buddies from Finland. On the way in I meet Sean a real social guy. His gal Teri got him into hockey. She is a big fan. Became one when Teemu 1st came to town. Wearing the jersey, she tells me she likes the kind of player he is. After the local radio station tries to stump her on hockey trivia she heads back to our table (both teams fans sitting together) with her prize
for answering all questions correct and in walks Teemu!! No shit! So I go
to snap a photo and there is Ray Emery sitting with a bunch of friends. I
say “excuse me Ray, good job tonight and good luck on Wednesday” and shake his hand! We head to the “media hotel” to get a bite to eat at the
bar and in walks Ray Ferraro and Nick Kypreos. I approach Ray and
introduce myself. I tell him I dig him on Dan Russell's Sportstalk. He joins us at our table and the five of us talk about the game. Just like the old HNIC Hot Stove... Awesome! Two guys in suits arrive and introduce themselves
to Ray; they are part of the group that is trying to bring hockey to Kansas City. So I am in this circle listening to what would be just like a segment from Dan's show...pretty cool. Ray takes off and we have our dinner.) On the way out at midnight, Geoff and Paul spot Darren Pang,( they sort of know him from high school). There is another dude with no hair chatting with Darren, and it’s Mark Messier!
So our night ends with a brief game talk with Mess and Panger about what the Sens need to do for game two, and then one final photo I took of them all together with Sam Rosen.
Wow that was fun!!!!
'Let's take that step together...'