NHL Stadium Series jerseys

This morning was the unveiling of the jerseys for the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks for next month’s Stadium Series game at Dodger Stadium.

Taking a look at both, I think the Kings are the clear winners here. Their design mixes the crown (which I MUCH PREFER over their current home plate logo) with a gray as the dominant color (another nice touch) and black sleeves for a traditional look. LA is featured on the shoulder. My one beef is their website only posted a slow-loading unveiling video, not photos (at least not right away). You can check that out here. I would love to see the Kings turn this into their primary home/road jersey scheme and ditch the current models all together.

The Ducks went all in with the Orange while keeping the giant webbed-foot crest that inhabits their third jersey (which I think should become their primary one as their current home/road jerseys are among the drabbest in the league). The Ducks, who provided a photo gallery of their jersey, have OC on the shoulder and their current color scheme in stripes on the sleeves. It’s really bright but could make a nice third jersey in the future.

Nonetheless, both jerseys are winners and positive editions to the franchises’ jersey catalogs.



New Year book update

I have a pile of California minor hockey news and stories to post, and I hope to do so in the next few days. But first I wanted to provide an update on the hockey book.

As some of you might be aware, for the past four years I’ve been researching and now writing a book about the history of hockey in California. During this process I’m continually learning more from the people I speak to, and so the direction of the book has changed from initially being one that solely examined the game’s growth here, to one that does that but points to key events, teams and people who were part of its emergence and growth along the way.

So while history is part of it, and there are nods to many of the state’s pro teams, it really focuses on how these events added more kindling to the “hockey fire”.

I’ve spoken to roughly 400 people associated with the game’s history from the late 1930s until now, and the words of many of them will appear in the book. Their stories — to me — are priceless.

At this point I’ve written or nearly written approximately 18 chapters. I hope to complete another 12-15 in the next 3-4 months. At that time, I’ll evaluate what I have (again) and submit it to an editor. As of yet, I do not have a publisher for it, but if it needs to be self-published, I’m preparing to do that.

As the Stanley Cup Playoffs commercial asks, “Is this the year?”

Happy New Year, and keep your head up and stick on the ice.

Defensemen going different directions

With the New Year came news about two moves being made by young defensemen with ties to California.

Former San Jose Jr. Sharks defenseman Ben Paulides has committed to Miami, Ohio. Paulides has brought a physical style of play to the USHL’s Youngstown Phantoms the past two seasons. Read more about his season here. The RedHawks regularly reside near the top of the Division I polls.

Meanwhile, former LA Selects defenseman William Wrenn, a 2009 draft pick of the San Jose Sharks, decided to leave Denver University at the semester break and sign on with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL, meaning his NCAA eligibility is gone. You can read Portland’s take here.

Wrenn will have the benefit of playing for former LA Kings assistant Mike Johnston in Portland, who has led the Winterhawks to the top of the U.S. Division.

Wrenn had played in 18 of DU’s first 22 games with one assist and a minus-7 rating for the nation’s No. 7 team. You can read the Denver take here.

Well-deserved first NHL goal

Alec Martinez‘s first NHL goal drew scant notice outside of the Los Angeles Kings’ broadcast and a mention in the LA Times a couple days after the fact.

Martinez, who played three seasons of youth hockey in Northern California for the Santa Clara Blackhawks and San Jose Jr. Sharks, scored during a 4-1 Kings loss at Montreal.

While happy to get his first NHL marker, Martinez — as one would expect from a hockey player — chose to focus on how that was secondary to the Kings not winning.

I’ve spoken with Alec a couple of times, mainly for some work with California Rubber Magazine, and have come away impressed. He enjoyed his time playing in California, and his youth coach — Larry Cahn, now of the San Diego Jr. Gulls — told me Alec is an example to all young players to keep working hard because you never know how things will turn out.

(For more on that, click here for a story and audio interview with Martinez at calirubber.com)

With the Kings’ offense slumping (and it has too much talent to stay that way, so take heart Kings fans), Martinez’s abilities are a nice fit.

Here’s hoping he sticks. After all, he’s already accomplished one goal of everyone who ever laced up skates.

Kings, Ducks, Sharks observations

We’re two weeks into the 2008-09 NHL season, and a few things are standing out to me about California’s three teams.

Los Angeles Kings – The Kings are young, and on some nights it shows. However, I sense a higher effort level across the board than I did most nights last season. Yes, there have been some defensive breakdowns, which were evident against Colorado on Monday. However, the young players such as D Drew Doughty, Fs Wayne Simmonds and Alex Moller have performed well in stretches. 

Anaheim Ducks – The Ducks may yet regret dealing defensemen Mathieu Schneider and Sean O’Donnell. The current group beyond Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger and Francios Beauchemin has not been overly impressive. The big issue, however, is the Ducks’ best forwards (Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Chris Kunitz, Brendan Morrison, Teemu Selanne) are not scoring.

San Jose Sharks – The Sharks have opened things up under new coach Todd McCellan. Games such as Wednesday’s 7-6 game at Philadelphia would have been unthinkable under last season’s coaching staff. While more exciting to watch, this approach probably puts a lot more pressure on goaltender Evgeni Nabokov night in, night out.

California’s NHL prospects

Several players with California ties remain in NHL training camps:

Anaheim Ducks – Defenseman Brian Salcido and winger Bobby Ryan

Atlanta – Winger Brett Sterling

Colorado – Defenseman Raymond Macias

Dallas – Forward Landon Wilson and defenseman Garrett Stafford

Detroit – Defenseman Chris Chelios

LA Kings – Center Gabe Gautheir

Nashville – Defenseman Jonathon Blum

New Jersey – Forward Ryan Murphy

NY Islanders – Right wing Richard Park

Toronto – Forwards Ryan Hollweg and Robbie Earl

Notable: Earl scored a goal in Toronto’s 7-4 victory over Buffalo on Monday night. … Gauthier played in the Kings’ 2-1 victory over St. Louis on Monday night. It was the first NHL game held in the new Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. … Detroit returned defenseman Cameron Cepek (Huntington Beach) to Prince George of the Western Hockey League. Cepek, a 2006 Montreal draft choice, had been in Red Wings camp as a free agent.

View from above

Thursday night I was high above the Staples Center ice, where the LA Kings are playing host to the Phoenix Coyotes.

The Kings rode a burst of three goals in 6 minutes during the second period and the outstanding goaltending of rookie Erik Ersberg to a 4-0 victory.
The action wasn’t limited to the ice, however. The arrival of the Coyotes means the return of a certain hockey player that some of you might have heard of … Wayne Gretzky, as well as a staff that would comprise a pretty good team.

Consider that the Phoenix coaching staff includes Hall of Fame goalie Grant Fuhr, possessor of five Stanley Cup rings, former defenseman Ulf Samuelsson – a two-time Cup winner, former forward Rick Tocchet, who also has a Cup and four All-Star appearances on his resume. But it doesn’t end there. If the Coyotes needed to make a change in net, they can always go with TV color analyst Darren Pang. If they want more toughness in the lineup, they can turn to radio analyst Louie DeBrusk. (A side note, why anyone in their right mind would want to mess with someone of his size is beyond me. But, as is often the case, tough guy translates well into nice guy off the ice.)And for good measure, Cammi Granato, the most recognizable U.S. women’s player was on hand.

… The press facilities at Staples Center are impressive, have an excellent view, and like everything else at that building, large! Interestingly, they’re substantially larger than those at the Ponda Center (yes, that’s what you get when you combine the Pond and Honda Center) in Anaheim.

While I’m comparing, the highest press box view I’ve ever had was in San Jose at the Shark Tank (proper name: HP Pavilion). Whomever coined the phrase bird’s-eye view probably covered a few games at the Tank. It’s not bad, it’s just up there, way up there.

A practice report is coming soon.