Southern California -- for once, it's about the Ducks.
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In Southern California, hockey fans often feel like they simply do not belong. The Lakers and Dodgers win championships routinely, even if it's been nearly two decades for the latter. Even the Angels have a World Series to their name, and they are a franchise considered cursed by many fans.
Sure, the Kings made the Stanley Cup Finals in 1993 and the Ducks made it a decade later. Wayne Gretzky played in SoCal and still has a home in the area.
Yet it has never been about hockey. The game has been relegated to the back pages of the sports section, highlights are non-existant on television, and Ducks clothing is rare on city streets.
All the more reason for fans to enjoy what is at hand. For only the second time in history, a SoCal team has a chance to win the Stanley Cup Wednesday night.
And for the first time, the game will be in Southern California.
Do not be confused -- this series is not over. In fact, it is far from over. Any player or coach will tell you the fourth win is the toughest to get in a best-of-seven series, and Ottawa won the Eastern Conference for a reason.
Still, it does not matter. For the next week, this is your time. This is the time for hockey fans to control this region of 20 million people.
Oh sure, everyone knows it will not last, and by July, Vladimir Guerrero will be bigger news than Chris Pronger. Again, it does not matter.
If the Ducks wrap up the series Wednesday night at the Pond -- Ducks play on a Pond, regardless of the arena's new name of Honda Center -- it will touch off a celebration unmatched in the Southern California hockey community.
If the Ducks lose game five, the celebration could come Saturday. And if it goes seven, it could come Monday in a decisive game seven.
Or the celebration could not happen at all. If the Senators win the next three games, it will be Sens' Mile that will be rocking in a week.
Even if that happens, the Ducks have achieved an incredible feat while taking a 3-1 lead in the Stanley Cup Finals. The next week will focus around hockey one way or the other, and that is unprecedented in the region.
For once, the Ducks are front page news. No, not front of the sports, but front page. The Orange County Register has a four-page Ducks section wrapped around the front news section the day after every Stanley Cup Finals game, and on occasion, the team has made the front page of the Los Angeles Times.
Local sportscasts all lead with several minutes of Ducks highlights. At least some sports stores -- not as many as you would like, but not bad for the region -- have large displays of Ducks apparel.
When Kobe Bryant debated himself as to whether or not he wanted to stay with some local basketball team -- what's their name again? -- it made only brief news locally.
Yes, for one week, hockey has arrived in Southern California.
Nobody believes this will last long term, yet the Ducks have 14,000 season ticket deposits for next season. Considering the team was reported to be in the range of 5,700 season tickets at the time of the lockout, this is no small feat.
Enjoy it, Southern California hockey fans. It does not matter if you cheer for the Ducks, the Kings, or another team. This is what you have been waiting for.
If only for a week, hockey has arrived in Southern California.
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