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12:17 PM ET, 5/06/06
Hungry Bryzgalov lifts Ducks
Posted by Arash Markazi
ANAHEIM -- Moments after being the first rookie to post back-to-back postseason shutouts since 1945, Mighty Ducks goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov had more on his mind than history. The 25-year-old netminder was starving. "Do we have a meal tonight upstairs?" he asked a member of the team staff. "Or is it the same horse---- as last time." Something tells me that Bryzgalov would do himself well by eating whatever he has been since replacing Jean-Sebastian Giguere in goal during the playoffs, where he now has a shutout streak of more than 169 minutes. "Goaltenders are always a little different," said Mighty Ducks coach Randy Carlyle. "They're wired different."
As Bryzgalov contemplated his postgame meal, Teemu Selane's boys, Eemil, 9, Eetu, 7, and Leevi, 5, were enjoying theirs in the forms of Snickers bars. While Leevi chewed on his candy, he looked up at Jeff Friesen's mug above his locker, which is next to Selane's. "That's you," he said to Friesen. "That's right," Friesen responded. "Yeah, I sit right next to your dad." Leevi nodded, then moved on to his next piece of detective work. "Who's the guy with the black eye?" he asked. "Which one's that?" Friesen laughed, pointing at Sean O'Donnell's locker. "Oh, yeah, that's him," said Levi at the sight of O'Donnell's picture.
Mighty Ducks left winger Todd Fedoruk is already used to taking care of one boy, 2-year-old Luke, but he was smiling extra wide after the game, showing off his missing two front teeth. "My wife gave birth to our baby daughter this morning," said Fedoruk, who flew from Calgary to New Jersey on Wednesday night to be with his wife and witness the birth. "I was in Jersey at the hospital and flew in for the game today. It was actually scheduled for May 3, but the doctor is a big hockey fan and he said we had to wait two more days because we had a Game 7. I guess he some pull back at the o.r. in Jersey. I thanked him and I'm a big fan of his now, too. My wife wasn't too happy but she had the baby this morning and she's fine. She's probably out cold sleeping now."
Fedoruk, who proudly announced that Sienna Rae was 8 pounds, 2 ounces and 21 centimeters, told me later that while his wife, Theresa, and son were happy to see him for 24 hours, they weren't big fans of his ever-growing playoff beard. "My son doesn't like it," he said. "He says it's itchy and my wife hates it. Most people do. They say it's too scraggily."
Some sights and sounds from Game 1.
It isn't easy being a Mighty Ducks fan in California. Not only do you have to put up with the constant jokes about your team being named after a kids movie starring Emilio Estevez, but you also suffer from the little brother syndrome of playing in the same market as the Kings, who might not be as good as they once were but still had Wayne Gretzky and continue to attract their fair share of celebrities like Tom Hanks and Elisha Cuthbert. The least the Ducks could do is make watching their team in the playoffs more convenient. During the first round, the Ducks' games were televised on three different channels and aired on three different radio stations locally, leaving many fans with no idea where to go to watch or listen to the game from one night to the next. That was never more evident than during the Ducks' 3-0 win over the Calgary Flames in Game 7. The game was only televised locally on KDOC 56, an independent television station that usually shows Matlock, Perry Mason and Kojak reruns and aired on KTLK 1150 AM, a progressive talk radio station that usually airs the rants of Al Franken and Randi Rhodes.
Local critics despised the Mighty Ducks' name when it was first announced in 1993. Not only because of the movie but because ducks not named Donald really don't have a connection with the city of Anaheim, but that's no longer the case. Just outside the southwest concierge at the Arrowhead Pond, there is a female duck ready to hatch nine eggs in her nest, which sits in the plants beneath one of the many palm trees outside the Pond. The arena is protecting the brown-feathered duck by putting a barricade around the nest and employing a security guard to watch it during the day.
Watching some NHL highlights on OLN before the game in the media dining room, it was great to see the Tim Hortons signs around the rink at a couple venues. It made me reminisce about the Christmas I spent in Toronto a few years back. One morning I walked into a local Tim Hortons and asked for a large coffee. "You want a Gretzky?" the man behind the counter asked. Not wanting to deny the "Great One" near his hometown I obliged. After pouring the large cup of java, the scruffy employee proceeded to pour nine packs of sugar and nine creams into the coffee. Halfway through I told him that was enough. "I'm not done," he responded. "Trust me, it's good. You'll thank me later." It was, and I did.
Unlike the NBA and Major League Baseball, there is no pregame access for NHL games, which didn't hurt me since I was almost late to the game anyway. If you want a sense of how bad Los Angeles traffic can be on a Friday afternoon, I'm staying 50 miles away from the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim and left around 4 p.m. and didn't get to the arena until 6:30.
I will never tire of seeing referees let hockey players fight in games, circling around them like boxing officials and keeping their teammates back as they see who wins before finally breaking up the action. Can you imagine if that was the case in the NBA? Officials would circle around Kobe Bryant and Raja Bell after a harsh foul, pushing back their teammates as they watched the two of them go at it for a little bit before finally breaking it up.
Not only is Bryzgalov playing lights-out hockey in net for Anaheim, replacing fan favorite Jean-Sebastian Giguere, but whenever he makes a big save, fans are spared from having to listen to Will Smith's Getting' Jiggy Wit' It as they would have if Jiggy were making stops in goal.
The Ducks have three banners hanging from the rafters of the Pond, but only one is deserved in my book: their 2002-03 Western Conference Championship banner. The other two are pretty lame. There is one for the team's 1993 inaugural season and another for its 10th season, or as they put it, "A Mighty Decade," in 2003. I'm sorry but you don't get to put up a banner for being awarded a franchise and not closing shop after 10 years; you put one up when you actually do something.
The Pond, laced with marble tiles throughout the concourse levels, is one of the classiest arenas I've ever been to. Not only do they have your regular arena fare at the concession stands but they also have desert carts and full bars and a nice French cafe called Boulangerie Canard, which serves up "les sandwhiches, le patisserie, les cafes and les vins." They also have fun with the names with their concession stands with names like "Franks A lot" and "I Only Have Fries For You."
I feel bad for anyone wanting some cheap Stanely Cup merchandise at the Pond. Stanley Cup hats and shirts went for $30 and a 3-foot inflatable plastic Stanley Cup went for $44. "I know. It sucks," said one vendor when I teased him about the prices. "I wouldn't pay for it."
A large framed picture of Lord Stanley's Cup has been hanging on the center wall of the Mighty Ducks locker room all season and while looking at the Cup holds a little more meaning now to the players, Fedoruk said the thoughts that race through his mind are the same as they were in October. "That's the goal; it's always been the goal." In addition to the picture of the cup, the room has five motivational paragraphs posted around the upper walls that would make even a Kings fan like Tony Robbins proud. "You look around the room and you read them and think they're cheesy but they're so simple and they're so true that they help you," Fedoruk said.
Another interesting aspect of the locker room is that above each player's nameplate is the headshot of that player that appears in the team's media guide, which has caused a few ribbings as would be expected if, for example, your driver's license photo was placed above your cubicle at work. "We give it to Scotty [Niedermayer] for that smile and that hair," Fedoruk said. "It's funny, but he takes it in stride. Scotty's even keel, you can't rattle him."
Moments after the game, many Mighty Ducks players, who had just played their second grueling playoff game in 72 hours, changed out of their uniforms and put on T-shirts, shorts and sneakers and went to the gym, located right down the hall from their locker room. The state of the art facility, complete with flat screen televisions above each bike and treadmill, was packed with players listening to heavy metal while they did their cardio and weights, with Selane somehow able to do dead lifts after recording a goal and two assists against his former team. "We all try to do a little bit of something after the game," said Ducks center Samuel Pahlsson, dripping with sweat as he took off his sneakers following a quick ride on the bicycle and treadmill. "Depending on how long you play, you might do more or less, but it's not hard at all. You just want to keep in shape in between games and practices."