Surprise! SoCal junior hockey game gets NHL treatment (VIDEO)
Editor’s note: On Dec. 21, FOX Sports West & Prime Ticket surprised the players and fans at a Junior Kings and Junior Ducks game with the full NHL experience, in the first-ever "Junior Freeway Faceoff." The families and kids were stunned to see the Ducks and Kings mascots and in-game entertainment crews, announcers, FOX Sports analysts and a massive influx of fans descend upon the rink for a truly epic game. The teams showed the Kings vs. Ducks crosstown rivalry exists, not only between the pro squads, but extends to the junior level, as well, in this intensely-contested matchup.
For more on this story, check out ‘Kings Weekly’ (Thursday, Jan. 8, 10:30 p.m. on FOX Sports West) and ‘Ducks Weekly’ (Friday, Jan. 9, 10:30 p.m. on Prime Ticket).
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — It seemed like just another game between two rival junior hockey clubs.
The typical assortment of parents and siblings dotted the crowd.
Then, in the stands a processional of sorts came through. Dozens of fans clad in orange with signs filtered in chanting "Lets go Ducks", followed by more in purple and black shouting "Go Kings Go".
The PA system blared as did the music. This was no ordinary junior hockey game — it was now a big-league matchup.
"Unbelievable," said Eetu Selanne, stealing a word his father, former Ducks winger Teemu Selanne, was known for using. "This was very surreal."
In the first-ever FOX Sports West & Prime Ticket ‘Junior Freeway Faceoff’, the networks that carry both the Kings and Ducks staged a surprise for the rival junior teams and their fans. They provided the same in-arena entertainment as Kings games at the Staples Center with arena host Carrlyn Bathe MC’ing the festivities and Daryl Evans and Kent French calling the play-by-play for the crowd and providing analysis.
"It was a total shocker," said junior Duck Tyse Teague. "It gave everyone a huge adrenaline rush. It kept us up the whole game. To play in front of a crowd like that was something that we’ve never seen before."
Teemu Selanne, one of the most legendary Southern California hockey players who will have his jersey retired by the Ducks on Jan. 11, passed on the torch to his son, who stole the show with a game-winning goal for the Junior Kings in the waning minutes, earning the games First Star.
It was a move reminiscent of one his dad might have made back when he was helping the Ducks win — except for the fact that Eetu was wearing purple and gold instead of orange and black.
"I got lucky there," Eetu Selanne said. "I got a good outlet pass, got in my glove and put it down and I was going one-on-one with the defenseman, I made a little toe-drag move around the defenseman and put it top shelf. I think with his quickness my dad probably would have flown right around the defenseman though."
It was the biggest crowd most of the kids have played in front of before. It reminded a few of international competitions in Canada and the Canadian junior teams that the Kings and Ducks squads strive to be like.
"It’s unlike any game that we’ve ever been to here," said Dan Lincoln, the father of Junior Ducks goalie Sean Lincoln. "We’ve seen some things like this in Canada, but in California, this is pretty crazy."
With the recent success of both the Kings and the Ducks and their current position in the standings, the spotlight has shone as bright as the SoCal sun on the southland hockey world. The kids put on a show on par with the raucous atmosphere and they feel junior hockey in this area could soon become just as popular as other sports.
"This is really cool that other people are coming to look at us," said Junior Duck Tyse Teague. "It’s really cool that we’re showing people around the world that Southern California boys aren’t just surfer boys, we can play hockey."