Today is a pretty significant – and a little astonishing – anniversary for me. It was 10 years ago on this date that I started working for the Anaheim Ducks and Honda Center, a mighty decade (if you will) that feels like it’s gone by in about 10 minutes.
If you’ll allow me to be incredibly self-indulgent for a moment…
I grew up in Orange County, but went to college in Northern California and lived on the Central Coast for nine years working in the golf industry. In 2005, I made the decision to move closer to home (my mom was fighting an ultimately losing battle with lung cancer at the time), and I took a job as Publications Manager with what was then known as the Mighty Ducks and The Pond.
It was a stint that started inauspiciously at first, at a humble desk inside an even more humble trailer in the middle of the Honda Center parking lot. You see, the arena’s offices were being renovated at the time, so about half the staff (many of whom were hired, just like me, right out of the NHL lockout) spent a few months working inside one of about a half dozen trailers. Most staff were grouped by department, but my trailer in particular contained such a mishmash of staffers that we were dubbed “The Trailer of Misfit Toys.” And because of that, I formed friendships with fellow co-workers I might have never gotten to know well otherwise. I also formed other friendships since one day someone threw a Pop-a-Shot machine into our trailer (probably to store until the next basketball game at the arena), so co-workers would invariably stop by to play a few games during breaks.
Working out of a trailer felt like an annoyance at first, but over time those folks in our so-called Trailer Village formed such a sense of community that by the time the real offices were finished, we were almost hesitant to relocate.
Ultimately we moved back inside, and that first season with the Mighty Ducks (they didn’t become just Ducks until the following summer) was such a memorable one.
That was the first season in Anaheim for Scott Niedermayer and Rob Niedermayer, the return of Teemu Selanne, the rookie seasons of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Those two were actually demoted to the AHL at one point that year, a time when you’d be bold to predict they would someday become superstars and likely future Hall-of-Famers.
It was a season that started with guys like Sergei Fedorov and Sandis Ozolinsh, but they were traded away and guys like Francois Beauchemin and Todd Marchant were brought in. GM Brian Burke made so many deals that year that at one point after the trade deadline he invited the entire staff – from the Directors to the entry-levelers – into the Ducks locker room to explain the moves. I had never heard of that happening before, and I remember thinking it was so cool.
That team got off to a rocky start, losing eight in a row in November to fall to 7-10-4 at one point. But they somehow found a way to charge into the playoffs and all the way to the Western Conference Final, finally losing to an Edmonton team that featured an intimidating defenseman by the name of Chris Pronger. We could hardly have known that a year later, that same guy would help us become Stanley Cup champions.
That’s what happened on June 6, 2007 (a year to the day after my mom passed away), an incredible culmination of just the second season on the job for me and so many of my co-workers. It all happened so fast – a Conference Final the first year and a Cup title the second – it was hard not to take it for granted (as ridiculous as that sounds now).
But as we all know, the Ducks are still striving to experience that euphoria again, and in that time there have been so many great memories – and some bad ones – that have defined this job for me personally. The good:
• The night of June 6, 2007. There is just too much to put into words.
• All the games my dad was able to go to because I could get him tickets.
• Being with my dad when he saw the Stanley Cup for the first time and watching my girlfriend (now wife) Michelle drink out of it.
• Taking over the Ducks website in the middle of that Cup season and traveling with the team to Minnesota, Vancouver, Detroit and finally Ottawa during that magical playoff run. I’ll never forget the feeling inside Joe Louis Arena when Teemu scored that overtime goal in Game 5.
• Ultimately being promoted that summer to my current position of Director of Publications & New Media. That position has expanded into other avenues that include social media, allowing me and my staff an insight into our fans that can be gratifying when things are going well and (admittedly) frustrating when they’re not.
• The satisfaction I got from writing Ducks Blog for so many years, though it got me in trouble on a few occasions.
• Watching Teemu make magic on the ice, but mostly off it, and seeing how exceptional he was with fans, media, Ducks staff and pretty much everyone he came in contact with on a daily basis. There are so many great stories about Teemu that I wouldn’t even know where to start.
• Working on the book that commemorated Teemu’s number being retired by the Ducks and him signing it for me with the words: “Great masterpiece.”
• Teemu agreeing to sign an autograph for my dad that read:
• Seeing the artistry of guys like Niedermayer, Pronger, Getzlaf and Perry, and more recently guys like Fowler and Lindholm, and knowing you’re in the presence of greatness.
• Having one-on-one access to guys who are true legends in this game and carry themselves like consummate professionals.
• Working for the Samuelis (who took over the team a few months before I arrived), the most generous owners you could ever hope for.
• Having the privilege to travel to so many great places with this team, including to different parts of Canada, to London, New York, Chicago and even the White House.
• Working with people who became some of my best friends in the world, people with whom I’ve spent countless postgame nights out, NFL Sundays, trips to Vegas. One of them was even the best man in my wedding.
• Being a part of #PaintItOrange during the playoffs and seeing the community come together in the name of Ducks hockey. I’ll never stop feeling thrilled when I see an orange Ducks flag waving from a car window.
• Every email we get from fans saying how much Ducks hockey means to them.
• Being involved in the Stadium Series game at Dodger Stadium in 2014, an incredible experience from start to finish that climaxed with a satisfying 3-0 win over the Kings.
• Serving as the boss for AJ Manderichio and Kyle Shohara, two of the hardest-working guys in this organization.
• Clinching a playoff series in dramatic fashion against Dallas two seasons ago and against Winnipeg and Calgary last spring. Beating San Jose in the first round when we were the eighth seed.
• All the incredible plays, overtime game-winners, jaw-dropping comebacks and deafening crowd roars – far too many to properly recollect. The bad:
• Learning on the morning of September 7, 2011 that Ruslan Salei (everyone called him “Rusty”) died along with the entire Lokomotiv team of the Kontinental Hockey League in a plane crash on its way to Minsk.
• Losing in Game 7 to Detroit
• Losing in Game 7 to LA
• Losing in Game 7 to Chicago
• Locker clean-out day every year you didn’t win the Stanley Cup.
• Playing a small part in Burkie’s feud with the Oilers and having my name appear on page A1 of the Edmonton Journal.
• Misreading our morning departure time after Game 4 of the Final in Ottawa, missing the bus to the airport and very nearly missing the flight back to Orange County. One day later when I congratulated Randy Carlyle on winning the Cup, he smiled and replied, “You sure you didn’t [bleeping] sleep through it??”
• The time I (wrongly) insinuated on Twitter that Marian Hossa took a dive during a regular season game at Honda Center and immediately felt the wrath of Blackhawks fans.
• Kings fans on Twitter
• Whenever a guy I like got traded or signed away.
• How cold (both in climate and otherwise) the Staples Center press box is, made up for by the fact they have really good coffee and caramel corn.
• All the typos. I hate typos.
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This is by no means a goodbye, since I'm not going anywhere. It's just a recollection of an incredible 10 years with this first-class organization and a job that has meant so much to me in so many ways. I look forward to finding out what’s to come in the next
decade – and beyond.
NOTE: This will be the final post for me in this space, which started out as Ducks Blog back in 2007 and became Ducks Off the Ice a few seasons ago. I will continue to write on a consistent basis for AnaheimDucks.com, but that content will run with other features and news stories rather than in a blog.