|More than 15,000 enthusiastic kids filled Honda Center for the First Flight Field Trip. |
One day after an exhilarating overtime victory that left the home fans cheering wildly, the Ducks returned to Honda Center on Thursday morning to an even louder ovation from more than 15,000 screeching kids for the ninth annual First Flight Field Trip.
Schools from Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Los Angeles Counties brought students (from grades 3-6) and their teachers to the arena for an interactive learning program. While they watched the Ducks take part in practice on the ice, the students navigated their way through a workbook entitled “Water and Liquids.” Among topics included were the importance of hydration to a professional athlete and how the ice is maintained by arena personnel. Prior to taking their seats for the on-ice program, the students got a closer look at the elements of water and liquids and how they relate to hockey through exhibits set up around the arena.
|While they watched the Ducks take part in practice on the ice, the students navigated their way through a workbook entitled “Water and Liquids.” |
“I thought it was awesome and really loud,” said Brendan Morrison. “To see that amount of kids out there for practice was pretty neat. I liked how they incorporated an educational aspect as well, having them bring a workbook and answer some questions. I thought it was a well-run event.”
With the completion of their workbook and practice, the students were then treated to a skills competition among the Ducks. Split between two teams (with half the arena cheering for players in black jerseys and the other half cheering for those in white), the Ducks took part in competitions normally reserved for All-Star Weekend: Hardest Shot, Shooting Accuracy and the Breakaway Challenge.
After watching seven players dent the net with shots ranging from 87 to 95 miles per hour, newly acquired forward Mike Brown saved the best for last in the Hardest Shot competition. As the final competitor in the event, Brown registered 96 on the radar gun, much to delight of the crowd cheering for the White squad.
|New Duck Mike Brown won the Hardest Shot competition with a 96 mph effort. |
“I’ve never really been in a Hardest Shot competition,” said Brown, who gave the white squad a 7-3 lead in the event. “I just leaned into it and put everything I had on it. It read a 96. I don’t if it was the guys before me warming up the machine and then it was ready to go for me. It was pretty fun out there and good for the kids.”
Playing for the Black team, Steve Montador tied the two sides at 10-10 by hitting four targets on four attempts in the shooting accuracy event to best George Parros and Rob Niedermayer, who each took five attempts.
In the third and final competition, the Ducks had to get creative for the Breakaway Challenge, which was being judged by five students sitting on the visitor’s bench. Although Bobby Ryan nearly won with a 49 (off a slick move where he slid the puck from his skate to his stick and past a goalie brought in for the event), it was Morrison that took top honors with a perfect 50.
|Steve Montador celebrates after shattering all four targets in the Accuracy competition. |
Morrison, who had a big game-tying goal for the Ducks against Calgary on Wednesday night, found the net after bouncing the puck off his stick, then spinning and backhanding it through on his first attempt. He distracted the goalie on the second attempt by throwing one of his gloves at one side of the net while sending the puck through on the other side. His victory gave the white team a 17-13 win in the skills competition.
“I talked to a few guys and we were throwing around some ideas,” said Morrison of his winning effort. “It’s one of the things where it might work half the time and it happened to work out today. It’s all for fun and hopefully the kids enjoyed it.”
|Ryan Getzlaf and his Ducks teammates threw hats to the kids at the conclusion of the event. |
Recognized as an educational event by the California State Assembly, First Flight’s academic principles follow the state’s educational content standards. Thursday’s interactive event was just one facet of the award-winning Anaheim Ducks S.C.O.R.E. (Scholastic Curriculum of Recreation and Education) Program, which was developed in 2005 with the ultimate goal of promoting healthy living and academic excellence to all students in Southern California. In addition to being recognized for its educational initiatives, the S.C.O.R.E. program has received the Celebrate Literacy awards from both the local and state chapters of the International Reading Association.
“There was a lot of energy that was for sure,” Brett Festerling said. “It was a little different, a little more people than a normal practice, but we enjoyed it. It’s good to see the kids out. It’s fun to have them there. They are the future fans. Hopefully, they’ll stay fans and come back.”