By Steven Lieberman
The NHL’s 2014 Coors Light Stadium Series made a stop at Dodger Stadium on Saturday night which featured the Southland rival Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks in the first-ever regular season outdoor hockey game in league history on the West Coast.
Even though the Ducks shut out the Kings 3-0 in front of a sellout crowd of 54,099, it was the experience that mattered most. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman summed it up best after the historic game when he said “hockey in California won this game.”
Not only was there the hockey game, but fans also got to watch players’ wives and family members playing beach volleyball, kids wearing in-line skates playing roller hockey, and musical entertainment by the bands KISS and Five For Fighting. A carnival atmosphere.
Fans were also treated to a Spectator Plaza outside the stadium before the game where there were interactive games and an opportunity to meet Ducks Alumni.
After practice on Friday, players from both squads mentioned what they will remember most about playing at Dodger Stadium. Most were happy about getting the opportunity to skate with their families.
“When you’re in the midst of a shift, you don’t really think about where you’re playing,” Ducks left winger Dustin Penner said. “Then, when I’m sitting on the bench drinking Gatorade, I’ll look around the stadium and take it all in.”
“It’s been 20 years since my mom had skates on,” Kings forward Justin Williams said. “This is the first time my son put on skates,” Ducks centerman Rayan Getzlaf said. “That was special.”
Another special moment occurred when legendary announcers Vin Scully and Bob Miller introduced the game on Saturday. Scully got things started with his famous Dodgers expression, but this time with a twist…It’s time for ‘NHL hockey.’”
Even The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, was in the house performing the ceremonial puck drop before the game.
Game-time temperature was 63 degrees, making the ice a bit soft, but Kings coach Darryl Sutter did not want to use that as an excuse for their fifth loss in a row. After practice on Friday, he said “it won’t be much different than games we played in April and May in old buildings before air conditioning. We’ve all played on ice that’s less then great.”
“Yeah, it was tough chasing the lead,” he said. “It’s tough coming back from two. He (Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller) played a strong game, but we’ve had trouble scoring.”
Hiller did play ‘lights-out,’ stopping 36 shot attempts. “I saw the puck really well,” he said. “Our team got the rebounds.”
When Coach Bruce Boudreau was asked what the key variables are to the equation of success for his first place Ducks so far this season, he had this to say.
“Well, timely goals, timely goaltending, a great desire of characters to pay the price to be successful,” he said. “That comes when you’re blocking shots and everything. We’re seeing guys limping off the ice and not wanting to miss a shift. I think its true character.”
“I know other teams have it and that, but we have it in spades. I think what keeps us going is the desire to be successful. I mean, those guys really want to win.”
The Ducks scored their first goal less than three minutes into the game when Corey Perry tapped in the puck after it trickled between Kings goalie Jonathan Quick’s legs. Six minutes later, the Ducks scored again. This time by Matt Belesky with an assist by Teemu Selanne who is retiring after this season and leaving behind a storied career.
Less than a minute later, the Kings had their best chance to score when Anze Kopitar was awarded a penalty shot, but Hiller made the save. The Kings outshot the Ducks in the first period, 20-7, which proves how well Hiller played.
Andrew Cogliano added an empty-net goal for the Ducks near the end of the third period which sealed the victory.