Southern California hockey once was an oxymoron. Not too long ago, hockey didn’t seem to have a place in the land of blue skies, crashing waves, and cold snaps never dip past 60 degrees. Fast forward to the 1990s, and skating was all the rage and a new NHL team was breaking ground in Anaheim.
Mighty Ducks Spark Hockey Hope in SoCal
In 1992, Disney had reenvisioned hockey for the masses with The Mighty Ducks. The movie raised awareness to a large demographic and caused an explosion in the sport’s growth. The Disney movie, which precluded the official beginning of the Mighty Ducks NHL team, brought a brighter and easy to watch attitude to mainstream audiences not typically viewed in the sport synonymous with violence.
Hockey expansion in Southern California was a huge factor for the hockey industry and the sport’s growth in general. The Ducks offered various hockey initiatives and expanded the sport to a demographic that was no stranger to gritty athletes, skaters and surfers.
The Ducks not only grew the league but grew youth, high school, adult, women’s, and special needs hockey leagues in the region. The organization has worked tirelessly to create an all-inclusive and inviting environment for everyone to enjoy. After The Mighty Ducks movies, the league, and the Ducks worked to expand the sports through various programs for everyone of all ages and abilities to learn about and play.
Hockey in the Heat
In the 90s, roller skating was the newest and coolest sport. Even more than that, however, hockey became something special in the hearts of every sports fan in Orange County. Despite the LA Kings being in the league since 1967, hockey hadn’t grown in the state because it was not viewed as a moderate weather sport. In conjunction with G.O.A.L., the Ducks grew hockey in the community.
Formerly known as Disney Ice, The Rinks is an indoor ice rink in Anaheim that started it all for many in Orange County. This former practice rink for the Ducks first opened its doors in 1995 and boasts architectural inspiration from mid-western rinks.
It truly all began here for Orange County hockey. The Rinks is now a chain of ice rinks across Southern California.
Anaheim Lady Ducks
Interest in the sport knows no gender. The spike of hockey players in Orange County and California grew exponentially especially with The Mighty Ducks movies featuring a female athlete. The Lady Ducks were born in 1999 when 20 women wanted to play hockey in the Orange County area. This league made it possible for women to learn and even play at an elite level.
The Lady Ducks are a competitive league which just celebrated over 20 years of keeping Women’s hockey alive. The league has given girls the ability to play and stay competitive in one of their 13 teams across the region.
G.O.A.L. stands for Growth Outreach and Awareness Locally. According to their website, this program has set out to “develop new ways to keep our community and youth involved in hockey whether it be street, inline, or ice hockey.” With that, the program took those children and adults who were interested in hockey and allowed them to learn and play hockey.
S.C.O.R.E. is a Score for the Community
S.C.O.R.E. stands for Scholastic Curriculum Of Recreation and Education. This program under the G.O.A.L. initiative has raised awareness in the community and allowed children to pick up a stick and pass the puck around. The program also teaches children about science in a fun way, with their Ducks First Flight program.
The Ducks First Flight event is held at Honda Center and brings local elementary schools together to learn science with special appearances by Ducks athletes and similarities to hockey. Since S.C.O.R.E’s induction in 2005, the Ducks have worked to educate in every way.
Hockey in OC
In 2017, Kerdiles was the first Orange County native to play for the Ducks. In an interview with the NHL, Kerdiles said, “…It’s awesome that I was able to grow up here, play my youth hockey here, and eventually get a chance to put on a Ducks jersey, the team I watched growing up. That’s a big honor for me.”
As hockey grows across the country many look back at their time playing on an outdoor rink as where it all started, but in Anaheim and the surrounding areas, it started in those youth programs right at home.