Attending Two NHL Games In One Day

by Charlene @ Bookish Whimsy

11 JUNE 2014

With the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks recently completing their first ever playoff series, as well as the Kings making their second appearance in the Stanley Cup Final in three seasons, I thought now might be a good time to look back at a particular day that occurred four months ago.  It was a pleasant Saturday during a very warm February in southern California – but it was also when I attended TWO NHL games in the same day…

A LITTLE HISTORY

Since opening in 1999, the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles has been home to the Los Angeles Kings, as well as both the Lakers and Clippers of the NBA.  As a result, the overlapping NBA and NHL schedule provides a very common scheduling quirk: the Lakers seem to have first priority, and frequently play home games on Friday nights, as well as Sunday afternoon/evenings.  From there, the Kings are often left to host their opponents on Saturday, with the Clippers playing home games on Saturdays while the Kings are on the road OR subjecting themselves to the “NBA to NHL” changeover when they play a matinee and the Kings host a night game on the same Saturday:

Allowing for the complex scheduling issues at the Staples Center usually results in the Ducks almost always hosting their opponents on Fridays and Sundays, providing the NHL with the opportunity for visiting teams to play both southern California clubs in a two-day stretch.  The uniqueness of this setup does raise an interesting question:

How often do the Ducks get to play a home game on Saturday?

To me, there’s nothing like hockey on a Saturday – as an NHL Center Ice subscriber, I often have the opportunity to watch approximately 12 straight hours of hockey each Saturday, beginning with east coast matinees and wrapping up with the west coast late games.  Furthermore, it’s an institution for Canadian fans, who have been viewing Hockey Night In Canada on TV every Saturday since 1952 (and the radio broadcasts began in 1931!).  But the Kings hold on Saturday home games usually leaves the Ducks fans to watch their team on the road on TV those days or having to wait until the following (or previous) day to see them at home.

Even before the Staples Center opened, both the Kings and Lakers shared the Great Western Forum  (presumably with the same scheduling quirk), so the Ducks were limited in their number of Saturday home games going back to the team’s inception in 1993.  But how limited were they?  In their 20 seasons of existence, the Anaheim (Mighty) Ducks have only played 22 regular-season home games on Saturday, in addition to six playoff contests.  Further research reveals that the majority of these home games were played during seasons that had “compressed” schedules, either to account for the month-long break while the NHL players competed in the Winter Olympics (1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014) or the two lockout-shortened seasons of 1995 and 2013 – the Ducks have played 12 of their Saturday home games during Olympic years, as well as four Saturday home games during lockout seasons.  That leaves SIX Saturday home games during the 13 years in which the schedule wasn’t “compressed”.  This raises another interesting question:

How often have the Kings and Ducks both played home games on the same Saturday?

Of the 22 times in which the Ducks have played a Saturday home game, there were TEN occasions in which the Kings also hosted a game on the same day – and half of those ten games occurred during Olympic years [NOTE: see Appendix below for complete listing of Ducks Saturday home games].  

Thankfully for me, this past season WAS an Olympic year, and the NHL schedule-makers were kind enough to plan Kings/Ducks home games on the same day AND allow enough time between games for a devoted hockey fan like myself to attend both.  That day was February 1 and the timeline is as follows:

12:30pm

The first game of the day was an afternoon affair that saw the Kings hosting the visiting Philadelphia Flyers.

As I said, it was a very pleasant California afternoon, especially for February – hardly a cloud in the sky!  The early afternoon start allowed the fans to have an opportunity to soak in some of the warm sunshine before the game.  I parked a few blocks south of the Staples Center and headed around to the front of the building to see the Fox Sports crew setting up for their pre-game show:

Seated in front of the camera, next to Fox Sports host Patrick O’Neal, is former Kings defenseman Sean O’Donnell.  A veteran of over 1200 NHL games, who played eight seasons in Los Angeles (and also won the Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007), O’Donnell re-joined the Kings earlier this season to work as Manager of Fan Development and Alumni Relations – a role which also allows him to do some TV coverage before and after games.

1:00pm

I was joined at the game by my old friend and colleague, Randy, as well as his 11-year-old son, Matthew.  I’m not going to lie – as someone who didn’t really discover hockey until I was finishing high school, I’ll forever be jealous that Matthew has been able to attend NHL games at such a young age.

The Kings have always managed to do a good job with their pre-game ceremonies, which are usually quite colorful and artistic, and today was no different.  Once the light show was done, there was an added bonus: veteran Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr, playing in his 1000th NHL game, was honored in a brief ceremony:

(Click here to see the entire ceremony, including an interview with Regehr himself)

2:30pm

After a mostly defensive and uneventful first period, it would take almost half of the second period to see the game’s first goal, which turned out to be especially important for one particular player:

That would be Wayne Simmonds, who spent his first three seasons with the Kings before being traded to Philadelphia in 2011.  As a fan favorite during his time in Los Angeles, it was nice to see him score this milestone goal at Staples Center – one can only assume that the cheering in the stands after the goal came from both Flyers fans AND Kings fans.

4:00pm

Turns out, the second half of the game featured as much scoring as the first half: Flyers captain Claude Giroux would add a power-play goal with two minutes left in the game, to help propel the visitors to a 2-0 victory.  While it certainly wasn’t the outcome the home fans would have preferred, we still had an enjoyable time at the game.

Randy, Matthew and myself

Randy, Matthew and myself

Randy and Matthew would head to the train station to take a subway home, and my friend Chad would arrive at that same train station to join me for the second half of today’s adventure.  We walked to my car, I changed from my Kings jersey to a Ducks one, and we set out on the freeway toward Orange County.

5:30pm

The sun had set, and the pleasant California afternoon had now become a cozy California evening.  Thankfully for us, the Ducks also do a great job with their pre-game activities in front of the Honda Center, which include a live DJ, dancing cheerleaders, and even a roller hockey rink:

“When I say ‘Mighty’, you say ‘Ducks’!”

They also had this giant monstrosity in front of the arena:

Mind you – I’m 6’5″ and standing quite close to this thing, and I barely go up to his kneecap.  So odd, so remarkable, so…inflatable?

It was about time to head inside to grab a bite to eat and catch some of the warmup skate – but before we did, I had to take advantage of one of my favorite photo ops ever:

What can I say?  I love mascots.

What can I say?  I love mascots.

7:00pm

The puck dropped between the Ducks and the visiting Dallas Stars, thus beginning NHL Game 2 in my day (and Saturday Home Game 22 in Ducks History).  

I wish I could elaborate in depth about the game that followed, but it wasn’t one of the more exciting games that I’d seen.  In fact, what transpired over the next couple of hours was eerily reminiscent of the events from my first game of the day: the visiting team would take a 1-0 lead in the second period, then add an insurance goal very late in the contest from their team’s captain (Jamie Benn iced the game with an empty-netter in the final minute), and skate away with a 2-0 victory.  Stars backup goalie Dan Ellis, getting a rare start, made the most of his chance and was superb in shutting out the eventual Pacific Division champion.  A former Duck himself, Ellis was shipped to Florida at the trade deadline a month later.

9:45pm

And just like that, my memorable day was complete: two separate 2-0 shutout wins for the opposing team.  While it would have been nice to have been able to cheer for at least ONE goal by either home team, I definitely had a great time and sincerely hope that the NHL schedule-makers will soon provide fans in southern California with another opportunity to experience two outstanding hockey games on the same day.

MEMORABILIA

As I established in the recap of my Denver road trip, I’ve decided to document each of my NHL arena visits by purchasing a shot glass that features the home team’s logo.  Now for those arenas that I’ve visited multiple times, I thought it would be a nice touch to get a second glass, especially if the team’s logo had changed over the years.  After originally buying glasses with the old Kings and Mighty Ducks logos, this day served as a good opportunity to upgrade my collection, including one souvenir which commemorated this anniversary season:

…and let’s put them up on the Big Board!

POSTSCRIPT

One of the most popular hockey podcasts available is the Puck Podcast, co-hosted by Eddie Garcia (an avid Kings fan) and Doug Stolhand (a longtime Ducks fan).  Due to their collective team allegiance, I thought I’d share my adventure with them over Twitter:

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Just when I thought that was the end of the exchange, it turns out that this would be the Puck Podcast’s “Tweet of the Week” – and was read on the air during their February 2 podcast!


APPENDIX

DUCKS SATURDAY HOME GAMES

1993-94
April 2, 1994 vs. Toronto (Kings vs. Oilers)

1994-95
April 15, 1995 vs. Vancouver

1995-96
None

1996-97
February 22, 1997 vs. Phoenix (Kings vs. Canucks)

1997-98
January 24, 1998 vs. Los Angeles
February 7, 1998 vs. Los Angeles

1998-99
None

1999-2000
None

2000-01
None

2001-02
None

2002-03
None
PLAYOFFS: May 31, 2003 vs. New Jersey (Cup Final)
PLAYOFFS: June 7, 2003 vs. New Jersey (Cup Final)

2003-04
None

2005-06
December 3, 2005 vs. Atlanta
January 21, 2006 vs. Florida (Kings vs. Sharks)
PLAYOFFS: May 27, 2006 vs. Edmonton (Western Conference Final)

2006-07
January 13, 2007 vs. Colorado

2007-08
March 15, 2008 vs. St. Louis
PLAYOFFS: April 12, 2008 vs. Dallas (Western Conference Quarterfinal)

2008-09
None

2009-10
October 3, 2009 vs. San Jose (Kings vs. Coyotes)
October 17, 2009 vs. St. Louis
October 24, 2009 vs. Columbus
November 7, 2009 vs. Phoenix (Kings vs. Predators)
November 21, 2009 vs. San Jose (Kings vs. Flames)
December 19, 2009 vs. Phoenix

2010-11
None

2011-12
December 31, 2011 vs. Colorado (Kings vs. Canucks)
January 21, 2012 vs. Ottawa (Kings vs. Avalanche)

2012-13
January 26, 2013 vs. Nashville
February 2, 2013 vs. Los Angeles
April 27, 2013 vs. Phoenix (Kings vs. Sharks)

2013-14
December 28, 2013 vs. Phoenix
February 1, 2014 vs. Dallas (Kings vs. Flyers)
PLAYOFFS: May 3, 2014 vs. Los Angeles (Western Conference Semifinal)

 

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