I sat in my favorite restaurant in Orange County at 5:00pm. I had left work early. My better half and two friends were heading to the game afterward. One of my friends is also the restaurant owner. He sat down with a smile on his face and took out two bottles of beer that put a smile on mine. A 750 ml Stone Arrogant Bastard and a Stone Ruination, the latter being my favorite brew. As I flipped through the menu that I had seen hundreds of times before, a dish caught my eye. Roasted Duck. Hmm. It seemed appropriate. The menu read, “Roasted tender half duck with an orange brandy sauce, finished and flamed with Grand Marnier. Served with creamy mashed potatoes and lightly herbed fresh vegetables. A special family recipe.” Done. The beer was poured. A toast was made to a great game and I enjoyed for the next 20 minutes a tender and delicious bird as only this restaurant could make it.
6:00 pm came and we headed out. For those that have never been to the Honda Center, it is a chaotic zoo. There is little sense of organization. Imagine a bunch of moronic millionaires haphazardly building a parking structure around an arena with little planning and even less foresight. To enter the Honda Center, one has to maneuver orange cones, not including those posing as Duck fans, and rent a cops whose only job is to wave you through regardless of traffic. I saw today one woman trying to make a u-turn from the far right lane on what is essentially a one way street while the Anaheim police kept waving. Parked. Doughty 8 jersey on. Hair brushed back with my hands only to have it fall back over my eyes. Let’s play some damn hockey.
I entered the arena with angst. I hate the Ducks. I abhor the majority of their ignorant milk toast fan base and everything that is orange about them. We entered the arena through the VIP section and went to our seats in section 320. Nice. Near center ice. View perspective equivalent to the Staples Center premium seats. “Want a beer?” my buddy asked. Am I that transparent? He grabbed two overpriced drafts of something or other, I put it away quickly and watched my boys circle the right half of the ice and take shots at Quick. The warm ups ended as they usually do with Ryan Smyth the last player off the ice. He skated to the glass and threw a couple of pucks over to two kids. A nice gesture by a class act.
The fat girl with a great voice sang the anthem. I had a lot of energy in the tank. One way to let it out. “LET’S GO KINGS!” clapclap clapclapclap, I screamed. It took seconds. “LET’S GO KINGS!” sounded hundreds, followed by the rhythmic pressed palms. Hundreds became thousands. The crowd was alive and Kings fans appeared ready to show their inferior counter parts the songs we sing.
For all the ready momentum that fed my heart, the Kings entered this game without one. 1-0. Bobby Ryan from behind the net to Jason Blake. Nice defense boys. 2-0. Jason Blake with a pass that caught O’Donnell sleeping and Quick waking up. Selanne put in his own rebound. End of the first. What the hell was that? The Kings weren’t playing defense while at the same time managing to keep their defensemen back on each offensive rush. Murray’s line changes were timed perfectly with the Kings entering the offensive zone with speed and gaining control. Randy Jones and Sean O’Donnell resembled those orange cones from earlier but for in Kings jerseys. I don’t know which one of the two was worse. Randy Jones answered that question for me in the second.
A little over 2 minutes in the middle period, Quick stopped the puck behind the net. He made what some may call a pass and others a fumble to Randy Jones. Jones handled the puck with his ever present grace by delivering it right on Bobby Ryan’s stick who put it in the empty net. As I watched Randy Jones skate to the bench with his head down, I suddenly got a flash back of a scene from Young Frankenstein.