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My First Hockey Game

For years, I have been an avid fan of the National Hockey League’s Anaheim Ducks. While I know more about some than others, I like basically all of the players because they seem like genuinely good people. The night they became the first team ever in California to win the Stanley Cup, June 6, 2007, was one of the happiest of my life. I love reading about, learning about, and watching this team. I have even written articles about some of the men who have been Ducks. Yet, I had never been to the game. This is mostly because my family could not ever afford to go, but the fear of seeing them lose also kept us from going. There were times when I felt like I would never get to see this team in person. We rarely get lucky, but if was not for some good fortune, I still would not have ever been to a hockey game or had such a good time.


A while back—I am not sure exactly how long ago—the Ducks had a contest on their website, which we entered. As time passed, it slipped my mind. One night, when I checked the messages on our cellphone, I was shocked to hear a few messages from someone saying they were calling from the Anaheim Ducks to inform us that we had won second prize, which included two tickets to a game, but he needed us to call and confirm our address before he could mail the prize. That was a Tuesday night; the game was that Friday. My mom returned his call getting only an answering machine, as expected, and left our address. The next morning, the Ducks employee told us he had sent the tickets by UPS and they should be there by the next day. As the hours went by, we became convinced the tickets would not arrive in time for us to go. Fortunately, though, they did as the package arrived after 7 pm that Thursday night. In addition to the tickets, it also included two Ducks T-shirts, two Ducks caps, two tubes of mint-flavored Ducks lip balm, and an opportunity to skate on the Honda Center ice. (Honda Center is the name of the arena in which the Ducks play their home games.)

When April 10, 2009 arrived, I was very excited by the prospect of finally getting to see the Ducks in person. We had to take buses to get to the game, and when we got off, one couldn’t help but notice the mass of people wearing Ducks jerseys, T-shirts, caps, etc. walking towards the arena. This was the last home game of the season, and a win would put the Ducks in the postseason; I could feel the excitement in the air. As we entered the arena, we were given vouchers for free tickets to Angels games (which we ended up not using) and free copies of Ducks Digest, the team’s official magazine. On the cover was Teemu Selanne, the face of the franchise and my favorite hockey player of all-time. Our seats proved to be the first disappointment. They were in the so-called nosebleed section, did not provide a good view, and a spotlight scanning the crowd kept shining right in our eyes. It seemed like my excitement was for naught. Bad seats ruined my first baseball game, so I feared we were in for a similar occurrence.
A short while later, two female Ducks employees known as “Power Players” approached two men sitting behind us and offered them a seat upgrade. Fortunately for us, one of them blurted out, “I’m Mike Brown’s cousin!” (Brown is one of the Ducks.) The Power Players told them that meant they could not receive the upgrade. Then, the man proceeded to claim he had been lying before and that he wasn’t really related to Brown. He had already ruined their chance, though. The women seemed unsure of what to do next, but after a few moments, one said to the other, “How about them?” and gestured to us. We ended up getting the upgrade. There were two downsides to it, though. First, we had to hold up an advertisement and smile into a camera. Also, on the way to our new seats, we heard the crowd roar—the Ducks had scored and we missed it. It was well worth it, though, as we ended up five rows from the glass. The seats were fantastic, but they would have been even better if they had been at the other side of the arena. For one thing, the angle of the glass created this optical illusion that could make the players seem to disappear. In addition, for two out of the three periods in regulation, we had a much better view of the Ducks’ goalie, Jonas Hiller, than of Marty Turco, the netminder for the Dallas Stars (the Ducks opponent that night). Now, I would much rather see Hiller than Turco, but the setup made it a lot easier to see the Stars score than to see the Ducks score. After missing the first goal, I couldn’t help worrying that the Ducks wouldn’t score again, so the placement of our seats wouldn’t matter. Luckily, I was wrong. (Speaking of Turco, I couldn’t resist joining in on the singsong taunts of “Tuuuurrrr-co! Tuuuurrrr-co!”)
In all, the Ducks scored the three goals in regulation. The one we missed was scored by Todd Marchant and assisted by Rob Niedermayer and Petteri Nokelainen. Rob’s older brother, Scott, who is also the team’s captain, scored the next goal. His tally was assisted by Corey Perry and James Wisniewski. The final regulation goal came off the stick of rookie Andrew Ebbett. Selanne and Scott Niedermayer got the helpers on that one. With about 90 seconds left in the game, the crowd rose to its feet, trying to cheer the Ducks to a 3-2 victory and a playoff spot. Dashing the hearts of most there, though, Dallas scored with a mere 13.1 seconds left to tie the game at 3-all. The game ended up going to overtime. At the completion of the five-minute extra session, the score was still tied, sending the game to a shootout.
In the shootout, each team gets three one-on-one chances to score. It is just one skater versus the goaltender. Best out of three wins the game. If there is a tie after three shots, the shootout continues. Each time the Ducks shot, I yelled, “Come on [Duck’s first name]!” repeatedly until they had made their attempt. When it was a Star’s turn, I chanted, “Come on, Jonas!” After each team had shot twice, Dallas scored once, and the Ducks not at all. Ryan Getzlaf came up next. If he missed, Dallas would win, but Anaheim’s young star came through. When it was the Ducks turn again, Selanne took a wrist shot over Turco and put the puck in the net. If the next Star scored, the shootout would continue, but Hiller made the save. Thus, the Ducks had not only won the game but had also clinched a spot in the NHL postseason. The standing-room-only crowd was in a giddy frenzy, and I was right along with them. I clapped as hard as I could, not caring when my hands got sore and screamed and jumped up and down with joy. Mind you, I am usually never the sort to do such things, but the game was just so much fun, and I was in such a good mood. Shortly after the game’s finish, the three stars of the game were announced. Hiller was the 3rd star, Selanne was the 2nd star, and Scott Niedermayer was the 1st star. As each one’s name was announced, he skated onto the ice to much fanfare, lifted his stick to acknowledge the fans, and skated off. (As the first star, Scotty was interviewed just after being announced.)
Now, I would like to conclude with a few more notes on this thrilling victory. It was defenseman Francois Beauchemin’s first game since November 14, 2008. (He had been after having surgery on a torn ACL.) The Ducks secured a playoff spot for the team-record fourth straight season. After the game, each fan in attendance received a team photo. It was also Fan Appreciation Night, so several lucky fans won prizes, including trips, season tickets, gift cards, the jerseys the Ducks had worn in that game, and more. In addition to the upgrade, we also won tickets to a Metallica concert. There were 17,531 people at the game; Honda Center’s capacity is 17,174. The Ducks actually nailed down a playoff berth once the game went into overtime. That is because a team’s standing is determined by the number of points it earns during the season. Two points are awarded for a win, and a team gets one point if they lose in overtime. The Ducks got two points that night, but they only needed one to get into the postseason. That triumph was the team’s 10th win in their last 12 games. Ebbett gave Anaheim a 3-2 lead in the 3rd period just 13 seconds after Dallas had tied things up at 2-2. In fact, he scored before Dallas’s goal was even officially announced. Hiller recorded 42 saves. The national anthem was sung by the winner of the team’s “Oh Say Can You Sing?” competition. Before the game, a moment of silence was held in honor of former Angels’ pitcher Nick Adenhart. This was the Ducks’ first home game since his passing. That night, the Angels were also playing their first home game since the tragedy occurred. Despite liking the Red Sox and not the Angels, I applauded along with the crowd when it was put up on the Honda Center scoreboard that the Halos were beating Boston. Finally, I had my worries that the game or the experience in general would not go well. However, it ended up being one of the most fun nights of my life.



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This article has 3 comments. Post your own now!

Elviras4roxy said...
Oct. 4 at 2:39 am
I loved this story and glad I finally got a chance to read this. Your writing paints a picture, draws the reader in, truely talented Punky Brewster. You must go again!
 
powera said...
Oct. 6, 2009 at 2:45 pm
I can all out relate to this experience. I am also an avid hockey fan and was estatic when I was told I was going to be attending my first game. In your piece I love how you stay on topic the whole time and you stay in the order of events, and not jump around. Also, throughout your writing you built up suspense. You didnt come right out and just say "I went to a Ducks game and they won in a shootout." You gave specific events that happened one-by-one. I commend you on a job well done!
 
Youcanttouchdis said...
Sept. 30, 2009 at 11:12 am
I liked your story and how you stayed on topic
 
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