|Tale of two cities: Fired-up Ottawa, laid-back Anaheim|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 27 May 2007 14:42|
Although there were a dozen or so fans lined up outside Honda Center to get Anaheim players' autographs as they arrived for practice Sunday, there aren't many indications elsewhere in Orange County that the home team is playing for the Stanley Cup.
Unlike Ottawa, where a pep rally drew some 15,000, and where there are signs plastered all over congratulating the Senators, to say nothing of a 60-foot banner with team captain Daniel Alfredsson's picture on it, the Ducks aren't getting much notice in Anaheim.
They do have a solid, hard-core base of fans, and the usual late bandwagon-jumpers are getting on board. When tickets for the finals went on sale Saturday, they disappeared in 10 minutes.
Anaheim general manager Brian Burke noted that the Ducks are in a crowded market, with their competition for attention including the Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Things are different for Ottawa, he said.
``Hockey is not a sport in Canada. Everyone knows that. It's a religion. It's not going to change,'' the Ducks' GM said. ``So the coverage we get, while it's excellent, is obscure, camouflaged and often lost.
``It's different in Canada. First off, there's not this plethora of other teams to cover, and there's that cult following of the game of hockey - which is a good thing for our league.''
Defenseman Chris Pronger, acquired by the Ducks in a trade with Edmonton last July, said he believes the team is slowly but surely getting more recognition, and that he's being noticed more when he's out and about.
``We're certainly drawing a lot better this year as a product of a lot of hard work last year,'' he said. ``And it's always going to be a process. Hopefully, we can continue to build on the buzz we have right now and the energy that's in the building.
``That's what's exciting about this market - just waiting to find a winner and a team to root for, and hopefully we'll be that team.''
EMERY'S EATS: Ray Emery's style off the ice creates a lot more buzz than his fine play on it. Even his Ottawa teammates try to push him as far as they can.
One night in Carolina, Emery saw the cash on the line and stepped up to the plate - or whatever a cockroach is served on.
``The boys had some money up who would eat the cockroach,'' the goalie said Sunday on the eve of the Stanley Cup finals. ``So I ate the cockroach.''
Squeamish laughs filled the room as Emery was asked how it tasted.
``It was all right,'' he said matter of factly, cracking up teammates Chris Phillips and Mike Fisher. ``I guess I'm a bit different. I'm interested in a ton of different things. I tend to kind of leave the game at the rink just because that's how I deal with things.
``When I'm at the rink, I enjoy being there. In order to appreciate it more I kind of try to mix it up a bit in what I'm interested in and what I do away from the rink. I guess I've gotten some attention for just being different with boxing or what I wear or different things like that.''
NIEDERMAYER AND NIEDERMAYER: Four years ago, Scott and Rob Niedermayer were also in the Stanley Cup finals together, only on opposite teams.
When Scott became a free agent before the 2005-06 season and had a chance to join brother Rob in Southern California, Burke stepped in to make it happen.
Scott, a Norris Trophy winner and three-time Cup champion with the New Jersey Devils, talked to Burke and was presented with a unique offer. Although the Devils offered more money than the Ducks, they just couldn't meet some very important terms.
``I met with Scott and I said, 'What's your list?,''' Burke said. ``He said, 'I want to play in the West. I want to play on a team that has a chance to win. I want some privacy away from the rink. I want to play with my brother.' There's only one GM that can check off everything on your list and you're sitting with him. Let's get this done. So we did.''
Niedermayer, the 2004 Norris Trophy winner, is a finalist for another this year along with defense partner Chris Pronger. Long gone are the tough memories of the handshake line following the 2003 finals when Scott had to console Rob after the Devils beat the Ducks for the Cup.
``It's been fun,'' Scott said of being his brother's teammate. ``We've been apart since I went to play junior hockey when I was 16 and he was 15. We've been apart every winter since then. To get together and spend more time together has been great on and off the ice for sure.''
CORVO'S BACK: Joe Corvo is in Southern California playing for the Stanley Cup. Just not with the Los Angeles Kings.
``It's definitely weird to be back in California,'' he said. ``It's exciting.''
The defenseman signed with Ottawa as a free agent in July after spending parts of three seasons with the Kings.
``We never did anything special. It was a lot of disappointment,'' he said. ``I wanted to put myself on a team that would make the playoffs.''
Corvo scored the game-winning goal in double overtime against Buffalo in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.