The view from Dodger Stadium
LOS ANGELES TIMES
And so it was, with Wayne Gretzky dropping the puck between the Kings and Ducks for the first NHL regular-season outdoor game played in California. Game-time temperature: 63 degrees, within the 60-to-64 degree temperature maintained in NHL rinks, no wind, and far more people in seats for the 7:17 opening faceoff than are in their seats for the first pitch at Dodgers games.
So much was so different and so wildly out of the norm for the Kings and Ducks.
But one thing remained consistent on a night best diagnosed as severe mind overload in the outfield and the stands:
The Kings’ scoring woes are serious and profound.
Indoors and outdoors.
LA DAILY NEWS
Elliott Teaford: Ducks’ Stadium Series victory over the Kings is one to remember
Winning, taking a 3-0 victory from the Kings in front of a sellout crowd of 54,099 at Dodger Stadium, made the first NHL game played outdoors in California all the more memorable for the league-leading Ducks. It was, in the end, a very enjoyable business trip.
Jill Painter: Hockey a huge hit at Dodger Stadium
Scully and Bob Miller, Hall of Fame broadcasters, came together for this special event under the Saturday night lights.
Baseball and hockey were partners for a day, creating a sports lover’s playground at Dodger Stadium.
ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Eric Stephens: Ice holds up and so do the Ducks at Dodger Stadium
Skeptics wondered how the league could possibly take a game rooted on frozen ponds in Canada and play in a place more akin to the desert. Those in cold climates pictured hockey players skating in pools of water.
Thanks to the abilities of Dan Craig, the NHL’s ice guru, and his refrigeration truck, the ice surface held up just fine and allowed the 54,099 of split loyalties to celebrate how far hockey has come in the Golden State.
Jeff Miller: Outdoor game once in a lifetime – and that’s plenty
It says we’re a nation so committed to being distracted, so determined to find an escape, that we’re taking our usual pastimes – the games that used to be enough on their own – and shaking them in the manner of a snow globe, curious to see the scene that develops.
So it was Friday that we walked into a baseball stadium to watch two hockey teams practice next to a temporary beach volleyball court, the NHL figuring why not help decide the Pacific Division by playing between two foul poles and in the center ring of a circus?
The Los Angeles Kings captain wasn’t sure if he’d ever get the opportunity to compete in a Winter Classic. The game has an Eastern bias, and caters to the Original Six; the Kings obviously don’t fit either category.
But what if, instead of the Kings going to an outdoor game, an outdoor game came to the Kings?
“Early on, you probably didn’t think about that, but each year you see them dial it in a little bit more. You start to see them get better with the whole outdoor ice thing, and you start to think,” he said.
The first outdoor NHL game in California began with temperatures around 62 degrees Fahrenheit, before dipping to 59 degrees by the end of the third period. The ice remained playable throughout the game, quelling fears about a game played after a day of LA sunshine.
Only twice was the ice possibly a factor: When Jeff Carter fell taking a shot for the Kings in the first, and when Cogliano flubbed a breakaway later in the game.
The Kings have put 120 shots on net against Anaheim in three games this season, with four goals to show for them. The outdoor game came in the middle of an eight-game stretch away from Staples Center for L.A., which has to snap out of its funk with a back-to-back set of road games against the San Jose Sharks and Phoenix Coyotes.
Dan Rosen: Ducks blank Kings in Stadium Series showdown
The Ducks would go on for a 3-0 win in front of 54,099, but the result came long after the players followed the rubber matting under their skate guards to the brand new hockey rink stretching from third to first in Dodger Stadium, the third oldest ballpark in baseball, a 52-year-old L.A. landmark.
Legendary broadcasters Vin Scully and Bob Miller emceed the opening act while standing on the interlocking LA behind the stage built atop home plate and not far from a street hockey court. The crowd stood and cheered wildly.
THE GLOBE AND MAIL
But there were few complaints from ice level.
“It was better than the ice in some NHL arenas,” said Ducks’ defenceman Francois Beauchemin. “It wasn’t an issue out there.”
Teemu Selanne, a veteran of five Olympic Games and a Stanley Cup championship in 2007, said he ranked the event “high on his bucket list” of career achievements.
Kevin Allen: Ducks beat Kings, Southern California style
Anaheim forward Teemu Selanne gushed about how much fun he had playing the game, and joked that the NHL should build “80,000-people stadiums so we don’t have to play 82 games.”
“We could just play 20 games,” Selanne joked, laughing. “Same money.”
THE NEW YORK TIMES
For the Ducks, maybe. In the 10th minute, Anze Kopitar was awarded a penalty shot but he was stopped by Hiller. When Kopitar failed to score, the air went out of the lungs of the Kings fans. Anyone who follows the team knows well its recent struggles to put the puck in the net. In their last five games, all losses, the Kings have been outscored, 16-8. They haven’t scored since Kopitar’s goal in the fourth minute of their game Thursday against the Ducks in Anaheim.
The puck at times bounced off players’ sticks like a bad grounder off a shortstop’s glove. The ice, while slushier than usual, was not terrible. Ben Lovejoy, the Ducks defenseman responsible for hooking Kopitar to set up the penalty shot, had described the ice as “good enough” after practicing on it Friday.
Mark Spector: Ducks top Kings in Stadium Series classic
Indeed, the pertinent hockey is here in California, and being played to a far higher standard than anything our Canadian teams are producing at the National Hockey League level. Anaheim’s 3-0 win gave the Ducks an incredible 83 points before Robbie Burns Day had passed. They are 19 points clear of the Kings, seven up on the defending champs from Chicago, and have clearly staked their claim as the NHL’s premier combination of size, speed and skill; locked and loaded for a Stanley Cup run.
Luckily for the Ducks, it appeared that the Kings’ power play wasn’t changed by the ice conditions. (aka: it was bad) The Ducks killed the penalty easily. This was a completely different Hiller than the Tuesday game against Winnipeg. He was tracking the puck well and making the reads to get into position to make saves.
JEWELS FROM THE CROWN
This is a tough game to judge, because obviously it was heavily score effected, as the Ducks scored two quick goals and the Kings were never able to answer. For the “too many defensive breakdowns!” crowd (hi, Jim Fox!), neither goal stood out as a particularly bad breakdown by the Kings, either; the first goal was a weird play off a face-off, and who knows if the ice contributed to Willie Mitchell being off-balance and having to turn the puck right over to Getzlaf (players seemed to have more trouble than usual staying on their skates throughout, with Jeff Carter memorably just falling the hell down for no reason at one point).
Thousands upon thousands just shook their heads, muttering something about there being no real hockey fans in Southern California, and that Dodger Stadium would be mostly empty.
As evidenced by the sellout crowd at Dodger Stadium on January 25 for Stadium Series: Los Angeles, the naysayers were wrong.