The weather forecast in Southern California this week is set to break 100 degrees, yet ironically enough the buzz on most people’s minds around town has everything to do with cold, hard ice.
While West Coast hockey fans have been pulling for a playoff meeting between the freeway rivaled Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings for years, the series playing out in the recent week might actually be turning into more than either sides bargained for — in a good way, mostly.
When the NHL announced the two teams had been chosen to participate in the 2014 Stadium Series with an outdoor game under the January stars at Dodger Stadium, the sanity of pulling off such a feat was in question. Yet the game was a sell-out success, igniting not only one more chip on the shoulders of this Ducks/Kings rivalry, but a spark for hockey throughout a place where winter sports don’t usually ring popular.
In addition to the outdoor game, all three of California’s hockey teams not only made the playoffs this year, but have played each other thanks to the new divisional arrangements of 2014. Hockey is alive and well in California.
But this week the stakes are raised as Anaheim and Los Angeles begin the final stretch of games to the Western Conference Final, starting with Game 5 on Monday night at the Honda Center in Anaheim.
Prior to the series’ start, Ducks winger Pat Maroon said the match-up would be nothing but a man’s game, working boots required. Maroon’s words have rung more than true as the rivalry on the ice has certainly reached the expected level of tenseness, the most recent chess piece being the introduction of Anaheim’s young brick wall of a net-minder John Gibson.
But it’s the rivalry amongst fans of the two sides that has taken the land of oranges and the land of stars by storm. From freeway signs of roasting ducks posted as drivers enter Orange County from the Los Angeles side to Anaheim fans’ holding a middle of the night rally on Saturday at Honda Center in celebration of a now tied series and restored bragging rights, you’re for one and against the other these days — no grey area accepted.
Despite the few fans who always take any rivalry to a point in which it’s no longer fun (unfortunately, they will always exist), the Freeway Faceoff series has been a remarkable one to sit back and watch — both on and off the ice.
And perhaps by the time that thermometer cracks the three digits the Battle for Southern California will finally have crowned a victor.
Jessica Bradley is an Anaheim Ducks writer for RantSports.com. Follow her on Twitter @jessiebear23 or add her to your network on Google.