Despite two Stanley Cups in less than seven years, two of the current top teams in the NHL and an outdoor hockey game that defied the laws of ice by going off without a hitch, the world still seems to believe that hockey in Southern California is lacking. Obviously, people who believe this do not actually live in Southern California.
Because for those in the state who drive down the 405 freeway on a weekly basis or head to the beach with their families on New Year Eve the matter of that debate is well and settled. And the truth is — hockey is alive amidst the sun and the sand.
The Anaheim Ducks left the first part of their season behind as the No. 1 ranked team in the NHL, sending six of their players to compete for gold in Sochi, five of which return home this week with medals packed in their carry-ons. (Most likely it is safe to assume one doesn’t check a gold medal at baggage claim.)
Team Finland captured the bronze Saturday morning against Team USA at the heels of their captain, Ducks veteran Teemu Selanne, who was also named the MVP of the entire tournament in Sochi. On a smaller, but equally important scale Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen tallied multiple points to help Finland reach the podium.
Sunday morning Team Sweden was defeated by Team Canada for the gold medal, but not without a decent fight from Ducks forward Jakob Silfverberg, whose name was on repeat by commentators Doc Emrick and Eddie Olczyk as he capitalized on puck possession for most of the game’s second period.
And then come the Canadian twins, Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf and his line-mate Corey Perry. Together Getzlaf and Perry carved a decent dent in Canada’s road to gold, Getzlaf with a shorthanded goal against Team Austria and Perry with so many shots at goalie Henrik Lundqvist Sunday morning it wouldn’t be surprising if you discovered Lundqvist wincing underneath that fabulously sparkly goalie mask of his every time the puck found Perry.
The games are over, but before citizens of the United States and Canada have time to go into mourning over those 4 a.m. Olympic wake up calls the NHL season will be back underway with the Ducks still atop the NHL. And with their solid Sochi play behind them, the Anaheim medalists return with a bit more credibility from the world stage.
None of this is news, however, to anyone in regular attendance at the Honda Center where these players skate Olympic caliber hockey every night. But perhaps, finally, the rest of the world will begin to make a serious note of the good thing going on just a bit east of the happiest place on earth, because everyone knows sunny days are best served with ice.