For Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy, entering Dodger Stadium for Saturday’s outdoor game against the Kings was a moment that could happen only in the movies.
Like in "Gladiator," the first comparison that came to mind when he tried to explain what it was like for the two teams to march through the center-field fence, along a path bordered by palm trees, and into a stadium filled with 54,099 screaming fans.
"When Marcus Aurelius says, 'We who are about to die salute you,'" he said. “And they all say that.
"It was so cool coming out. We felt like rock stars. We’re not. We’re simple hockey players but for one night, it was so cool. ... It was the most fun I’ve ever had playing hockey."
That sentiment was shared by Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler after his team’s 3-0 victory.
"It was awesome. It was a great experience, something I’ll remember for the rest of my life," he said.
He also said the ice held up well on a cool, comfortable night.
"The ice was perfect. I treated it just like any other game," he said. "The puck was gliding nicely. Everything felt good. It wasn’t bouncing too much, so in that regard I think they did an awesome job of it."
That’s relative. Ducks winger Teemu Selanne said it was far from ideal but added, "I have no complaints. We are used to not good ice here, anyway."
Selanne did like the beach volleyball court that was set up in left field and was used before the game and during intermissions.
"That’s awesome. That’s what it’s all about," he said. "How California is that?"
The Kings, who lost their fifth straight game, also had praise for the atmosphere and the playing conditions.
“I thought the ice was pretty good. The puck was bouncing a bit but skating-wise it felt good,” forward Mike Richards said. “The atmosphere was exciting, loud. A lot louder than I expected with the crowd being so far away. There was a lot of energy in the building.”
Coach Darryl Sutter said he took time to look around a bit before the game and was impressed.
“It was unbelievable from where we stood to be able to look out and see everything,” said Sutter, who brought his mother, Grace, to Los Angeles to see the game. “It was an incredible experience to see all that.”
He probably would have liked to see more goals from his players. They would have liked it too. The Kings rank 26th in the NHL with an average of 2.38 goals per game.
“I’m 0 for two in outdoor games,” said Richards, who played for the Philadelphia Flyers in a 2010 Winter Classic loss to the Boston Bruins. “It would be nice to get another crack at it and see if we can get a win."