When Disney made the decision to create a hockey team 20 years ago and name it after one of their hit films no one thought much of it. Another team in California would seemingly result in very little. But amidst the sun and sand and 70 degree holiday seasons enjoyed by residents of Southern California, the Anaheim Ducks have spent the past years proving naysayers wrong and building a west coast franchise worthy of east coast caliber recognition without actually ever receiving such. Until now.
It’s only natural to think of hockey as a sport that is solely appreciated in climates with frequent snow, ice and blistering cold weather. When the NHL announced the 2014 Stadium Series would begin with the Ducks taking on the Los Angeles Kings in the first outdoor game the league has ever hosted on the west coast, the critics went to work with speculation of all the ways the game would go wrong. Surely, the ice would melt and teams would be swimming to the goals mid-way through the third period. A bit dramatic. Or even more surely people in California don’t actually love hockey enough to pay $200 a ticket to watch such a game. Wrong again, it was a 54,000 person sellout.
The Stadium Series took a bold step in proving that hockey not only exists in California, but is loved. And the Ducks took a bold 3-0 victory over the Kings to prove they are more than worthy of the prime time spotlight.
A mere 14 years after its establishment, Anaheim won the Stanley Cup in a dominant series against the Ottawa Senators. The first California team ever to do so.
And while mega franchises such as the Detroit Red Wings have Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, the Ducks have Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. This dynamic duo has led the Ducks through a record setting 2013-14 season causing even those in the most northern parts of Canada to take note. Anaheim currently stands atop the NHL rankings with 87 points and Getzlaf and Perry both currently sit at No. 2 and 7 (respectively) in points leaders across the league.
So for people thinking the residents of Southern California now sporting orange and black on any given day as “bandwagon” fans you are quite mistaken. Hockey has been long alive and well in the land of sand for quite some time, the rest of the world has just finally caught on to the magic they’ve been witness to for years.