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VanMurph's View: Anaheim Analysis

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
Murphy and Vanessa Burch
In just another attempt to bring the fans closer to the team and vice versa, would like to introduce our newest fan blogger, Murphy Burch. Joining YourBlog's Cliff Peeke, Murphy will be writing about his views on the Panthers for this season.

Murphy, an airline pilot originally from North Carolina, is better known as vanmurph on the Panthers message boards and he, along with his wife Vanessa are two of the most vociferous fans at the BankAtlantic Center.

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Editors note: This blog reflect's VanMurph's trip to the Honda Center as the Panthers played the Anaheim Ducks on November 9th

Having witnessed our guys come up short twice in the previous three nights, I wondered if I was a jinx and if I should just catch a flight home; forgoing the opportunity to watch the game against the Ducks.

But going home early would mean I was giving up on the Panthers, and as I’ve stated in previous blog entries, I’m not going to do that. As long as guys like Keith Ballard, David Booth, Craig Anderson, Gregory Campbell, Karlis Skrastins, and Brian McCabe keep coming to the rink and giving 100%, so will I.

The drive from Phoenix to Anaheim took place mostly at night, and even though I was a little down after the loss to the Coyotes, I felt up to making the more than 8-hour trek back to Southern California. Just before heading out into the desert, however, I stopped in a town called Tonapah to fill up the tank and grab some snacks. Once I got back on the highway and headed out into the utter blackness of western Arizona, the first head-bob occurred… I considered pulling over and taking a nap, but thank goodness for a product called 5 Hour Energy! It might as well be called “You Ain’t Sleepin’ Tonight”. That stuff WORKS! Within minutes of drinking one, I was wide-awake and trekking toward the Honda Center singing along to CCR’s “Travelin’ Band” at the top of my lungs…

Hours later, as I approached from the north, I saw the Honda Center and immediately got excited about the game! I drove up and spoke to the security guard at the entrance to the parking lot, and he allowed me to go in and take photos from all around the outside of the arena. Located just off of California Highway 57 across from Angel Stadium, the home of the Anaheim Ducks is a stunningly beautiful hockey arena featuring large arched windows and an aesthetically designed entrance on each corner. It has ample parking, and the lots feature giant palm trees. It’s hard to believe it was built over 15 years ago.

After taking photos of the arena, I decided to drive around the area to look for lunch and an Internet connection. I found both about 3 miles southeast at a restaurant. So I stayed there a couple of hours and headed back out to the Honda Center at 3:00. I picked up my tickets at the Will Call box, and chatted with Ducks and Panthers fans as we waited for the doors to open.  Just as in LA and Phoenix, there was a security screening that took place before entering the building. Unlike the aforementioned arenas, however, the metal detectors in Anaheim were of the handheld variety. You were asked to empty your pockets and hold your items at arm’s length while you were swept with a wand from head to toe. It wasn’t a big deal, and I was done with it in a matter of seconds. I headed inside to wander around.

Notes from the Honda Center:

-There is a large area outside the north entrance to the arena where street hockey rinks, bounce houses, and other fun things for kids were set up.

-The floors and lower halves of the walls in the concourses are tiled with marble. It’s really quite nice.  The concourses are narrow, but with plenty of windows, so it doesn’t seem cramped.

-The restrooms are clean, spacious, and modern.

-The cover of the game program featured Steve Montador. The story inside the program dealt with his charity work in Africa. I’m glad Monty is doing well out in Anaheim. He was one of my favorites in Sunrise.

-The slope of the bowl at the Honda Center is very similar to that of the BankAtlantic Center. The inside of the building is not as massive as the BAC, but it has a very large feel to it. There is one less tier, so the seating capacity is less. Also, the goal zone nets are black, and for the reasons I discussed in the previous entries, I prefer them to the white ones.

-The center-hung scoreboard is large and very nice. The arena also has twin lighted scoreboard rings around the second and third and third tiers. The sound system is the best I’ve ever come across in my travels around the NHL. It features a deep bass that rumbles in the center of your chest just like at a quality movie theater. (Notice the speaker system in the second photo below) They also have giant screens high above each end of the arena, that are capable of showing the same thing being shown on the center-hung scoreboard. (Those screens are visible in the photos showing the attendance in the end zones, further down in the entry)

-Just as in the Staples Center, a detailed evacuation plan for the building was played on the Jumbotron before the game. It showed how to evacuate the Honda Center in an orderly fashion should the need arise. Having felt an earthquake in Los Angeles just a few months ago, I can certainly appreciate the need to keep people informed of the plan should the ground start to move!

-The seats in the arena are brick brown, and they are quite comfortable. One thing they are missing, however, is a cup holder. It may not seem like a big deal, until you have a plate of greasy, over-priced food in your lap, and the only place you have to put your soda is on the floor… Now, each time you lean down to reach for it, you have to take care not to get a stain from your food on your jersey!

-A member of the United States Marine Corp., who’d been injured in Iraq, performed the ceremonial puck drop. He left the ice to a thunderous standing ovation. Then during the Star Spangled Banner, the ice was spotlighted with American flags and bright white stars. It was simply beautiful.

-There are no escalators, only stairs, for the masses to get to the upper floors in the Honda Center.

-There are no souvenir cups to take home, and the price of a large soda is the same as the large souvenir cups in the BAC (I now have about 247 of those… Vanessa is threatening to start throwing them out when I’m not looking). The food is similarly priced, and is of nearly identical quality as what we’re used to in Sunrise.

-There are dedicated out-of-town scoreboards, and they would periodically show scores from the NFL.

-During a TV timeout they had a game up on the scoreboard that is similar to the stock attorney shuffle we have in the BAC. Instead of coconut shells with money under them, the Ducks have three pucks that race around a cartoon arena and then stop in a straight line. Then you yell out which one you think has the logo on it. The crowd went ape for this, just like our crowd does!

-There are no vendors in the aisles. The lines for food during the intermissions were long.  All of the food courts are integrated into the concourse, unlike the BAC where the food courts are recessed outward away from the concourses. The setup we have in Sunrise is superior to any place I’ve visited in the NHL. When the concession stands are located directly on the concourse, it makes it difficult to move around due to the long lines blocking your path.

-There is no in-arena host, and very little PA activity during stoppages in play. The arena announcer is very good at his job, and he has an awesome voice like a typical radio guy.

-No sponsorships for the Power Play, Penalty Kill, or Icing. The only thing said right before a Power Play is: “Alright Ducks fans, you know what to do. It’s a DUCKS POWER PLAY!!!”

-The blimp in the Honda Center is super cool. That thing can go really fast, and I kid you not, the guy flying it was pointing the nose at the roof and climbing it straight up! He was almost doing loops with it! As someone who can appreciate feats of aerobatic wonder, I was pretty impressed!

-The first intermission entertainment was just like the one we have at the BAC. Two fans inside giant clear balls race on the ice for prizes. The second intermission entertainment was also similar to what we’ve seen in the BAC. They pulled a Honda SUV to center ice, turned off the stadium lights, and just shone a spotlight on it, with Honda logos lit up around it.

-A lot of the fans had little duck calls they would blow into periodically throughout the night. I thought they sounded terrific, and they were a cool piece of uniqueness from our fellow hockey fans out in Anaheim. I also heard a cowbell during the game…

-The music played during the pre-game skate and during the game is very similar to what we hear in the BAC. It’s also played at a similar decibel level. They actually had a pretty good selection of Classic Rock tidbits during the game, and nothing pumps up a crowd dominated by guys in their 30’s – 50’s like some good ol’ Zeppelin, Foghat, or AC/DC!

-The parking fee is not included in the price of the ticket. It cost me $15 to park, and it took about 33 minutes for me to exit the parking lot once I got into my car. If I had to pay $15 to park 41 nights at the BAC, I would seriously consider taking the bus…

-The goal horn in the Honda Center is a very loud foghorn. Fortunately for me, I only had to listen to it once, just a few minutes into the game. When the Ducks scored their only goal, the sparse crowd really came to life. (Monty got an assist. If it had to be anybody, I’m glad it was him)

-The attendance wasn’t as good as I thought it’d be for a late afternoon weekend game. If you are tired of catching flack for the attendance problems in the BankAtlantic Center, just look at these photos and realize that things are bad all over.

-Miller Lite sponsored the girls who clean the ice during timeouts, and the same type of wide shovels used in LA and Phoenix were implemented in Anaheim. The girls wore long black pants and a mid-cut t-shirt.  The pattern they used when cleaning the ice was almost identical to the ones used in LA and Phoenix.

-Just outside the Honda Center’s south entrance is a bronze statue of the Ducks’ mascot, Wild Wing.

-During the evening, I noticed a dozen or so Panthers jerseys in attendance. The hometown fans were gracious hosts, and there wasn’t a single person who was unpleasant to me. I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all wearing my team’s colors. The Ducks’ fans are smart hockey people, and they love their team. They cheered even when down 3-1, and they stayed behind them all night. When leaving the arena, I didn’t sense a huge disappointment in them; more like an “oh well, we’ll get ‘em next time” attitude.

-The drive to LAX after the game was quick and easy. Being a Sunday night, there was hardly any traffic, and there were no construction delays. It took a little less than 40 minutes.

-Much the same as in Los Angeles and Phoenix, the public transportation options are limited at the Honda Center, so if you’re out here, my suggestion is to rent a car. Anaheim is reachable by numerous airports; the most convenient in terms of non-stops from Miami is LAX, but for minimal ground transportation times, the best airport is Santa Ana Orange County John Wayne International. 

The game itself was AWESOME. David Booth’s hat trick was all the offense the Panthers needed. After Booth scored his third goal, apparently the crowd had seen enough and they began to loudly boo. I had to smile at the irony of the crowd booing after BOOOOOOOTH notched a trifecta on ’em! In the BAC, that booing would’ve meant something altogether different! Also worth mentioning was the rock-solid play of Craig Anderson. Andy was incredible in the net, and it appeared his teammates appreciated it. After the first period, several players skated from the bench out to greet Andy and skate with him back toward the bench. It was really nice to see our guys showing such an outstanding display of sportsmanship and camaraderie. 

Pardon the quick plug here, but if you don’t currently own an iPhone, I’d humbly suggest you go out and get one TODAY! I have always been rather technologically challenged, so my choices of phones in the past have been on the lame side. This time though, I decided to go the distance and get the phone I’d seen so much hype about, everywhere from the Internet to foreign TV. The long and short of it is, I drove from Phoenix directly to the Honda Center without once making a wrong turn, and I even found specific restaurants and gas stations along the way using the GPS and other features on my phone! I also read my email and surfed the net when I stopped for restroom breaks, food, and gas! After the game, I plugged in “Honda Center to LAX” and I traversed the LA freeway system like I OWNED that thing! Pulling into the Avis lot, I picked up the phone and called Vanessa to brag about the decision to finally get new phones for us! (Hey, iPhone tech guys, here’s an interesting application someone should invent for your phone: A time-zone notification for idiots…) It was after midnight in Cooper City… Sorry sweetie.

I’d like to mention a few folks I met while out in Anaheim. Some of you may recognize the name Greg Hanessian; he worked for the Florida Panthers as a ticket representative from 1993 to 1997, and he now resides near Anaheim. He’d like all of his former clients to know that he now “lives out in Orange county, spent the last 10 years as a tennis pro and financial advisor, plays hockey, and, of course, has kept the Panthers very close to his heart!”

Also, one couple I met at the Kings game, Dan and Karlee Bernal, made the trip up from their San Diego home to watch the Panthers play the Ducks. I had the pleasure of sitting next to them during the game, and I look forward to seeing them again when they visit their families in South Florida.

One last thing: Regarding my recent summary of the Staples Center, I received a lot of positive email about it, and one email came from a gentleman I met in LA named Christian Allen. He pointed out that there is, in fact, an easy way to get to the arena from LAX on public transportation. Christian advises: “Take the Los Angeles MTA ("Metro") Rail from Aviation Street near LAX (the Green Line to Norwalk) and transfer to the Imperial/Wilmington Station which is a transfer point to the Metro Blue Line to Downtown Los Angeles. Once you board that train, stay on until you arrive at PICO Street--that is the train station that will drop you off 1 block away from STAPLES Center.”  Also, the goal horn in the Staples Center is actually from a Metrolink train, and NOT a ship horn, as I’d stated. Thanks to Christian for the information!

Thank you for stopping by the blog.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this arena summary.

Take Care,

If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, or if you just want to say Hi, I can be reached at:

Thank you to everyone who emailed me after the Detroit blog entry. It generated more email traffic than any other entry to date, and I’m still in the process of answering it all. My visceral reaction was shared by 99% of the people who wrote to me.

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Here are some photos from Anaheim:



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