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Where Everyone Is a Die-Hard

Longtime Ducks fans find tickets scarce now that the bandwagon is bulging, but at a Pond screening of Game 1, few admit being new.

May 28, 2003|Kimi Yoshino and David Haldane | Times Staff Writers

With tickets to the Stanley Cup finals gone in 70 minutes, it seemed obvious to die-hard hockey fans Tuesday that scads of newcomers had jumped on the Mighty Ducks bandwagon.

Last year, the home team finished last in the Pacific Division, not only in points but also in overall attendance. Now that the decade-old team has made the finals in hockey's equivalent of the World Series, however, the few home-game seats up for grabs at $1,000 a pop are the hottest tickets in town.

"I'm the vice president of the booster club, and I couldn't get a ticket to the finals," said Kim Risberg, 46, of Anaheim. "I was a little upset. I was crying Saturday morning but, you know what -- it's good for the team."

Yet at Tuesday's broadcast of the first game of the best-of-seven series against the New Jersey Devils from that team's home arena, hardly anyone would admit to being new.

"I jumped on the bandwagon way before all this happened," said Joey Mennella, 21, of Northridge, eyeing the huge video monitor mounted above the ice at the Anaheim Pond. "I just decided to start watching hockey."

Mennella said he'd been to five games this season and told his roommate early on that the Ducks would win the Stanley Cup. "People laughed at first," he said.

But among the estimated 1,500 fans who paid $5 -- which will be donated to charity -- to watch the Ducks lose their opening game, 3 to 0, were at least a few obviously new to the game.

Lucille Najera, 40, of Baldwin Park had dragged her boyfriend to the Pond. "I never followed hockey," said Art Castro, 34. "I like the Lakers, but they got eliminated."

The only reason he came to the game, Castro said, was because "ever since she heard they'd be showing it here, she's been bugging me to come."

But does Najera know anything about hockey? "Not really," she said. "I'm learning."

Did she know of Jean-Sebastien Giguere, the hottest goalie in the game and a recent guest on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno"?

"I've heard of him," Najera said.

She was, however, wearing a Ducks jacket, which she said was a gift from her boyfriend's brother. And she did have one thing to say about the team she was getting to know: "I'm just so proud of them."

That seemed to be the consensus.

"This is what it's about," said Larry Harrison, 52, a season-ticket holder since Anaheim hockey began. "This is why you stick with the team -- for all the good times."

Phillip Bryant of Los Angeles, nodding at all the new fans, said: "This is great. I don't know where they all came from, but the more the merrier."

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