ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - The Anaheim Ducks had their moment in the Southern California spotlight. Because of Paris Hilton, that's pretty much all it was - a moment.
Hilton's release from jail early Thursday subjugated the Ducks to afterthought status just hours after they reached the pinnacle of their sport - winning the Stanley Cup.
That's the curse of being a team struggling for an identity outside of its hard-core following, and in an area where celebrity rules.
Star goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere admitted he can go to dinner or hit the mall without much fanfare. Teammate Ryan Getzlaf said Canada is "a whole different world" when it comes to the popularity of his sport.
"I live right there and I didn't even know they were playing. That's sad," said Sherrie Robertson, a 34-year-old housewife lined up for the $6 early-bird special at the All-Cloth Anaheim West Car Wash on Thursday. "Southern California and ice, they just don't mix, do they?"
Perhaps a bit more now after the Ducks beat the Ottawa Senators 6-2 on Wednesday night to win the NHL championship series in five games and become the first California team to win the Cup.
"I have a bunch of friends who never watch hockey, and now they're watching it, calling me after the game," Robert Isambert, a 20-year-old student from nearby San Clemente, said some three hours before Wednesday night's game as he scrambled to buy a ticket in the parking lot.
The Ducks sold out their final 22 regular-season home games and all 13 home playoff games.
Giguere tried to be diplomatic when asked about the difference between the people in Anaheim and Ottawa.
"It's not the same. Ottawa is such a small town," he said. "They have only one professional team. But hockey's well and alive in this part of the country."
Giguere paused when asked about fan recognition when he's out and about.
"A little bit," he replied. "It's getting more and more."
Getzlaf said much the same thing.
"It's gotten better throughout the year. The NHL's so big in Canada; I'm sure we would be recognized there," he said.
Athletes like the Lakers' Kobe Bryant, the Angels' Vladimir Guerrero or the Dodgers' Derek Lowe, for example, would find it impossible to spend much time in public without being approached by numerous fans.
"Nobody in California cares about hockey," Brian Mylius, a construction worker from Buffalo, N.Y., said near Venice beach. "It's a great sport, but people don't get it. All they want to talk about is the Lakers and Kobe."
Sean O'Donnell, who once played for the Los Angeles Kings before joining the Ducks, doesn't see it that way at all.
"Everyone talks about 'hockey market this,' and 'hockey market that.' The energy around Orange County for this, and the Kings fans when the Kings were doing well, it's just a great hockey market," he said. "There's so many people here that you're not going to get the same energy you would in a small Canadian city, but it's a great hockey place and I'm so happy I've been able to play here for eight or nine years now with L.A. and the Ducks."
In downtown Los Angeles, lawyer Mike Colmenarez said he believes Anaheim's championship will give hockey a boost locally.
"I haven't been to a hockey game in more than 20 years, but we'll probably go see a Ducks game now," said Colmenarez, a resident of Orange County. "Anaheim is a small market. That's why the Angels call themselves the Los Angeles Angels."
The Angels were known as the Anaheim Angels nearly five years ago when they won their first and only World Series championship before being honoured with a parade from the hockey arena to the parking lot of Angels Stadium.
There won't be a parade for the Ducks - instead, a two-hour rally is planned Saturday night at the Honda Center.
Jan Matson said at the Anaheim car wash that her neighbours went wild with lawn signs and car decorations when the Angels made the playoffs two years ago.
Not so for the Ducks.
"In our neighbourhood, the Angels are a much bigger deal," she said.