Anaheim Ducks vs San Jose Sharks
Honda Stadium, Anaheim – 21 January, 6pm

Arriving early to the game, hubby and I were lost in sea of orange streaming from the car park towards the Honda Centre. Tonight wasn’t just any ice hockey match. It was our our FIRST ever ice hockey game. I didn’t know quite what to expect.

We were here to support the local team – the Anaheim Ducks. It was also Angels night. The home of the Angels baseball team is just across the road from the Honda Centre and one night a year baseball and ice hockey combine in a game day presentation, co-branded merchandise, Angels giveaways and surprises during the game. There were also key Angels team members involved with the ice hockey equivalent of a ‘coin toss’. So the sports fans were in their element.

Angels Ducks ice hockey Jandals and Jet Planes
Angels Baseball Team members in attendance.

We grab an overpriced (expected) beer and wander the concourse that encircles the entire stadium checking out the food stalls, merchandise stands and soaking up the atmosphere.

We’re trying to be incognito in grey, but we stand out like a sore thumb not being adorned from head to toe in Ducks or Sharks clothing, colours and accessories. Whole families, from babies to grandpas are decked out in orange, black and white shirts, scarfs, caps and beanies (and they all seem to be different designs). The odd aqua and white shirt makes an appearance, much more in my colour scheme, but I soon learn these are the ‘old’ Ducks colours from when Disney owned the team. It’s all about the orange now! Go figure, we are in Orange County.

Anaheim Ducks, Honda Center, Jandals and Jet Planes
Nosebleed seats – back row.

We climb the precarious concrete stairs to find our seat. Dear god they’re steep! San Jose Shark fans to the right and in front, and a family of Ducks supporters to the left. Our nosebleed seats mean no one is sitting behind us (we’re as high up in the stands as you can possibly get). Beers in hand (when in Rome) we were ready for the game.

The Duck’s mascot skates in to a cheering crowd, waving his flag with gusto!

And then the players make their grand entrance.

Being my first stadium sports game over here, it was also my first time experiencing the thrill of a pre-game national anthem. Everyone stands, caps off, hand over heart.

I’ll admit that this Kiwi got a few goosebumps as Dawn Wright belted out her rendition of the anthem. I didn’t learn until after the game that there is a story behind Dawn, and her anthems are a favourite with this crowd. I kind of feel like a local now that I’m in the know!

From a marketing point of view, the side entertainment and merchandising is incredible. Because this particular game was the annual Angels night (baseball team),  the merchandise shop was jam packed full of die hard fans wanting to get their special game night t-shirt or memorabilia.

There was a raffle – where one lucky punter can win half of the prize pot (the other half goes to charity), and it was up in the 10’s of thousands by giveaway time. There were also sponsor giveaways awarded to various sections of the stadium (one area won free 7 Up for a year). Dance Cam also proved very popular, continuously returning to a kid in full Ducks hockey mask doing the famous ‘backpack kid’ dance.

I laughed the hardest at an elderly Ducks fan hanging a mini shark around the neck by a fishing rod! These are passionate fans and take their ice hockey seriously.

Between plays the ‘sweepers’ race on to push any ice shavings off the rink and smooth the ice down, while the ice machines also make an appearance at half time (complete with a guest in the passenger seat who gets to wave for 5 mins while the machines do their job).

The action on the rink was interesting too! I’ll admit that I did ask the poor guy sitting in the seat next to me a few questions on what I was witness to (“how many players are on the ice at once”, “why was that guy sent off?”, “why wasn’t that a goal?”) It’s times like this that I play the ‘tourist’ card.

A couple of players were sent to the sin bin. Although there were no ‘fights’, there was plenty of pushing other players up against the sides of the field? pitch? rink? (I’m not even sure what the ice bit is called in a game). It’s incredible how fast they go and how nimble they are on their skates. I loved it!

The Ducks were defeated 6 vs 2, but we still had a great evening.

Will we be back? You betcha! Next time we’ll even take the kids, although those steep concrete steps will make the evening eventful, I’m sure.

Now to get myself to a baseball, basketball and american football game…

What was the last exciting sports game you attended?

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