What was a great event in its inaugural year became even greater the second time around.
This year’s version of the Anaheim Ducks Skills Showdown had an even bigger crowd, even more fun moments and even more laughs, as more than 7,000 fans enjoyed the event Saturday afternoon at Honda Center.
Season ticket holders were let into the building early, where they were treated to a Q&A with Ducks boss Bob Murray and coach Bruce Boudreau. Questions were taken from a collection that attendees had submitted in advance online, and among the quips from Boudreau was this one on what he thinks it will take to make the playoffs: "I do this math every single day. Unfortunately, I count on all the other teams to lose.
“We have to go on a pretty good run. We've broken it down into segments. It's feasible, we just have to beat teams ahead of us."
He added, “This is why coaches and GMs lose their hair..." then turned and looked at Murray to the delight of the crowd.
There was one question asking Boudreau about his experience doing the HBO 24/7 show last season when he was Washington’s coach. "It was fun,” he said, “until I watched it...I didn't realize I swore that much until my mom phoned me and chewed me out."
After the 30-minute chat, the general public poured into Honda Center as the players warmed up, split into Team Black (captained by Teemu Selanne
) and Team White (Corey Perry
). The earliest indication it would be a fun day came when tiny little Samuel Beauchemin (Francois' 5-year-old son) skated with the Ducks
, and at one point went in and scored on Jonas Hiller
one-on-one. (You'd be hard-pressed to find something more adorable than this in a hockey rink.)
Some bigger kids were among the youth players that led off some of the skills events, which included: King of the Breakaway, Fastest Skater, Nothing But Net, Accuracy Shooting, Hardest Shot and Obstacle Relay.
When all was said and done, Selanne’s Team Black won for the second straight year and retained the ugly ceramic pig trophy that was picked out last year for the event.
“We tried to keep the competition even and close, but my team had more passion and skills,” Selanne said tongue-in-cheek afterwards. "In the end, it paid off.”
POST-SKILLS COMMENTS | EVENT HIGHLIGHTS
There were some accusations of cheating during the Accuracy Shooting, to which Selanne said, “We have a little thing going here: If you don’t cheat, you’re not trying hard enough. But it was a fun day.”
Some of that fun came from Boudreau, who joined hosts Steve Carroll and Kent French as an in-arena analyst. He didn’t hesitate to rip his own guys, taking a shot at Matt Beleskey
’s long hair and saying of Sheldon Brookbank
during the breakaway event, “I can see why Sheldon hasn’t scored a goal this season.”
As several Ducks looked impressive during the Accuracy Shooting, Boudreau had last night’s 3-2 loss to Columbus on his mind when he cracked, “Where were these guys last night?”
That accuracy event was seized for the second straight year by, of all people, George Parros
. Georgie nailed all four corner targets in a row
, the second straight year he’s done that. “I’ve won three years in a row,” said Parros, including the skills competition at the First Flight Field Trip event for kids. “That’s no coincidence … Not everyone is cut out for this event though.”
Perry immediately matched Parros by hitting the targets with his first four shots, but there was some controversy because he didn’t actually break the first one. “Corey Perry
shoots muffins,” Selanne said, “and he can’t even break the coin.” (I like that Teemu calls the foam target a "coin." It's a little bigger than that.)
Of Parros' victory, Boudreau said, "It just goes to show that anybody can win at anything."
Some other highlights:
- Perry pulling out the mini-stick
(just like at last weekend’s skills competition at the All-Star Game) to score during the King of the Breakaway event. Remarked Boudreau, "It's great he could score with Jason Blake
- Cam Fowler winning the Fastest Skater
at 14.06, edging Lubomir Visnovsky
(14.07). Said Fowler, "He'll probably just tell you he was tired or that he didn’t have his legs." (By the reaction of his teammates, that’s a common Lubo line.)
- The new Nothing But Net event, which required one player to flip pucks from the crease to a teammate trying to catch them in a basket attached to a stick
. Both the Perry-Nick Bonino and Beleskey-Parros duos got four out of five.
- During the Hardest Shot, Selanne challenging Saku Koivu
, then edging him 92.5 to 91.6 Ryan Getzlaf won the event with a 99.3 mph shot
, leading commentator Brian Hayward to ask him if that might convince him to shoot more. That brought a huge roar from the crowd.
- Team Black capturing the Obstacle Relay (players zig-zagging with the puck through cones) and hanging on for the 12-10 victory, with Selanne holding up the ceramic pig and the team posing for a rather Stanley Cup-like group phot
o with it.
“It was similar to when I hoisted the Stanley Cup,” said Selanne with only a hint of sarcasm. “It’s pretty heavy too, but again, you have to earn this. This little pig came home.”
For Boudreau, it was his first time being involved in an event like this, as they hadn’t adopted it in Washington. “That was pretty cool,” he said. “Especially in Southern California, where we’re trying to grow the sport, it’s great to have events like this. With my personality, I wanted to be involved and make it as interesting as possible for these fans. The guys had smiles on their faces and showed how much they love doing it, even after a tough game last night. They came out here and did a great job. That’s what hockey players are all about.”
Said Selanne, “It was a fun day. It was great that so many people showed up again. It’s nice to have fun and give a little extra for the fans.”