By City News Service
The Anaheim Ducks defeated the Los Angeles Kings, 3- 0, tonight before a capacity crowd of 54,099 at Dodger Stadium in the first outdoor regular-season NHL game played in the United States west of the Mississippi River.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said "in terms of everything we hoped and dreamed of in Southern California, tonight met our expectations. But more importantly, the crowd reaction, it's clear there are lots of enthused and excited hockey fans in Southern California and that's what this is all about."
While "hockey in Southern California has been thriving at all levels" according to Bettman, tonight's game, brought "a level of attention and excitement to the game that I think is going to bode very well for the future," he said.
"I think there are a lot of people who may have given us a look-see who weren't hockey fans before and were intrigued and excited and entertained by what they saw," Bettman said.
The regulation 200-foot by 85-foot rink was laid out from first base to third base, with one goal in shallow right field and the other in shallow left field. The ice was built in a process developed for the league's Winter Classic, an outdoor game played annually on New Year's Day since 2008.
To Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller, who made 36 saves for his fourth shutout of the season, "it was definitely not the quickest game."
"Passing was pretty tough," Hiller said. "The puck seemed to bounce. I think they did a good job with the ice, but especially at the end of the period, there was a lot of snow on it. The puck seemed to be a little slow, which I think threw some of the players off a little bit.
"It was definitely warmer than a usual game. You could feel the humidity. I was sweating a lot, but found a way to keep hydrated."
The players were surrounded by the USC Marching Band as they entered from center field. Legendary Los Angeles Dodgers announcer Vin Scully told fans, "It's time for NHL hockey," a takeoff on his familiar "It's time for Dodger baseball."
Wayne Gretzky, the NHL's all-time leading scorer, dropped the puck for the ceremonial faceoff.
The game started the four-game NHL Stadium Series, an attempt by the league to broaden its following and bring hockey to the masses. The remainder of the series consists of games Sunday and Wednesday at New York's Yankee Stadium and March 1 at Chicago's Soldier Field.
The Stadium Series was inspired by the Winter Classic, in such northeast outdoor venues as Boston's Fenway Park and Chicago's Wrigley Field, drawing huge crowds and hockey's largest U.S. regular-season television audiences.
While the elements customarily figure heavily into the Winter Classic, tonight's game was a celebration of the Southern California lifestyle.
A sand beach volleyball court was set up in left field with Olympians Kerri Walsh, April Ross and Phil Dalhausser among the players playing before the game and during the first and second intermissions.
A street hockey rink was next to the hockey rink, with players from the Kings and Ducks NHL Street hockey programs playing on it before the game and during the intermissions.
Center field featured palm trees and a pond with the Ducks logo on the bottom. A sand sculpture of the Kings logo was embedded in the beach volleyball sand court.
The legendary rock band KISS performed on the stage in right field before the game and during the first intermission.
The Ducks took a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by Corey Perry and Matt Beleskey en route to their second victory over he Kings in three nights. Anaheim defeated Los Angeles, 2-1, Thursday at Honda Center.
Kings center Anze Kopitar was awarded a penalty shot midway through the first period when referees ruled that he was hooked by defenseman Ben Lovejoy on a breakaway, but Hiller made the save.
Perry opened the scoring two minutes, 45 seconds into the game with his 28th goal of the season, off an assist by Ryan Getzlaf. Beleskey scored at 8:12 off assists by Nick Bonino and Teemu Selanne.
Andrew Cogliano added an empty-net goal with 1:29 left, helping extend the Kings losing streak to four games. Anaheim improved its league-best record to 39-10-5. The Kings are third in the Pacific Division, sixth in the Western Conference and ninth overall at 29-18-6.
While tonight's game was the first outdoor regular-season NHL game played in the United States west of the Mississippi River, the first in California and the southern-most, NHL teams have played outdoors in the West.
The Kings and New York Rangers played an outdoor exhibition game in the parking lot of Caesars Palace hotel and casino in Las Vegas in 1991. The NHL's first regular-season outdoor game was played in Edmonton, Alberta in 2003.