In a recent attempt to escape the Boston winter weather, I decided to head west and spend a few days in sunny southern California. Despite numerous apologies from the locals about how "cold" it was, (and by cold, I mean it was 65º and I wore shorts the entire trip) the rainy weather cleared just in time for our arrival, and we had nothing but blue skies.
Outside of Sonny McLean's in Santa Monica (left); Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice (right)
After finding a little slice of home in Santa Monica (New England fans on the west coast, Sonny McLean's on Wilshire is like a Bostonian Mecca) we took in the sights of the Orange County coast, hiking the beautiful trails of Laguna's Top of the World.
Top of the World hiking trails in Laguna Beach
Before finishing off the week with a day at Disneyland (because what would a trip to the OC be without Disneyland?) we decided to check out the best rivalry in California for the first Freeway Faceoff of the season at the Honda Center. Now as a Bruins fan, I'm certainly no stranger to hockey rivalries. Any time the Flyers, Canucks, Rangers or Canadiens come to town, the added edge in the arena is palpable. Despite my fairly extensive experience attending hockey games though, this was unparalleled to anything I'd ever experienced as a sports fan.
Outside the Honda Center before the Freeway Faceoff
When you're used to your biggest rival being a five hour drive and another country away, you can feel pretty confident that home games will always feel like home games, but even before crossing Katella Avenue, it became immediately apparent that we were in the presence of equal parts Ducks and Kings fans. Chants of "let's go Ducks" and "go, Kings, go" echoed through the parking lots and through the Honda Center doors and didn't let up until, well, never.
As a fan of all good, physical hockey, I couldn't have really asked for more from this game. While there wasn't a flying-V, I did get to see five goals, two fights and an electric fan environment that proved for a memorable night and all around great entertainment.
The Ducks and Kings take the ice for warm ups
What stuck out to me the most though, (aside from the awesome Ducks logo-shaped pretzels) was how even after Anaheim was handed their hard-fought 3-2 loss, Kings and Ducks fans continued to cordially cheer on their respective teams and talk hockey with each other all the way out of the arena. No one berated me for not picking sides or for being a Bruins fan, (in fact, I got many, many compliments on my Sugar Jim Henry handshake tee) a true example of how hockey fandom should be.
So thanks for the hospitality (and pretzels), California. Til next time!