Wednesday, June 30, 2010

2010 NHL Draft Weekend Day 3: Rounds 2-7 and our patience is rewarded

You know, it's funny sometimes how things can work out. After our previous success with getting photos with some of our hockey heroes on Friday, A.J. and I came up with a plan to see if we could find more people from our target group to get photos with and maybe even an autograph or two. At the very top of A.J.'s wish list was Brendan Shanahan. If anyone knows A.J. for any length of time you soon find out that A.J. is a HUGE (I mean HUUUGE) Shanny fan. He wears #14 every season of hockey, he collects Shanny cards and memorabilia. He even owns a Shanahan Rangers jersey. A very close second for A.J. is Steve Yzerman. The Captain is the very definition of leadership and humility. He is the standard by which all captains in the NHL are judged. After that, it was all about getting the opportunity to see and get photographed with as many of our heroes and hockey people that we liked or admired.

On Saturday morning, the 2nd round of the draft was scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. A.J. and I decided that we would leave our house at 8:00 in order to perhaps catch a few players and management on their way to the Staples Center. We arrived at Staples and parked by 8:55 a.m. We gathered our gear and headed towards the Ritz-Carlton. I had my trusty Canon 50D and A.J. had his backpack full of jerseys and player photos.

We went over to the Ritz-Carlton and did not see much activity. We thought we should take a stroll down towards Pico (our "T"-route we employed on Friday) and had no luck there, either. We then proceeded to go back towards Staples and check out the bus entrance. When we arrived at the bus entrance, we walked up on a small group of people talking and noticed that one of the guys was Red wings assistant coach, Brad McCrimmon. Brad has very distinctive hair, so he can't hide if he wanted to. We asked for a photo and he kindly obliged. Day 3 was off to a good start.

                            A.J. with Brad McCrimmon

There were a lot more recognizable players and management, but they were lining up to go inside for the draft. We decided we should try to get a good seat so we went inside to check it out. We had lower bowl seats for the final day, but still not close enough to get a good look at each team's draft table. Our seats were right above a tunnel entrance to the draft floor, so we were able to see an occasional media member pass by, but no actual NHL types. Our hopes were that we would see Brendan Shanahan (we hadn't seen him the day before) and maybe find a way to get an autograph or two. While we were settling in and getting ready for the draft to get going, a tall, dark-haired man came out of the tunnel right below us and stood gazing out at the draft floor. I leaned forward in my seat and said, "Ooh!" (yes, brilliant words often come flowing from my mouth) and pointed him out to A.J. It was the man himself. Mimico, Ontario's own Brendan Frederic Shanahan! Literally 20 feet from us! A.J. started to reach into his backpack for his Red Wings Shanahan jersey and just like that, he went back into the tunnel and disappeared! Oh no! Gone! A.J. did his best to not look disappointed, but I was really bummed. How often do you get such an opportunity on the West Coast? How about never? Man.

So, we settled in to listen to the draft and it started to move along pretty quickly. A.J. had heard that Kings captain Dustin Brown was signing autographs, so he went up to seek his swag. After a while he returned with autographed photo in hand and since it was getting near lunch time, I went up and overpaid for pizza and soft drinks and we dined. Meanwhile, A.J. had been looking through my zoom lens and saw that Shanny was hanging around the opposite side of the arena near a tunnel just to the left of the stage. He suggested we move over to that side to see if we could get closer and perhaps get an autograph opportunity. When we got over there, the entire front row was wide open, so we eased into two great seats. Standing maybe 10 feet away was Shanny. Wow. Right in front of us. His back was to us and he was talking with a few media types. When he finished his conversation, he headed back towards the tunnel. This was A.J.'s big opportunity and I was afraid he was going to blow it. I was about to get his attention, when from my right comes this booming voice, "Hey Brendan, would you sign my jersey?" Shanny looks up, makes eye contact with the questioner and says, Sure". A.J. then tossed down his jersey and a Sharpie, and just like that, the biggest autograph of A.J.'s life was secured.

                               Brendan Shanahan making A.J.'s day

After that, I snapped maybe 25 more shots of Players and NHL celebrities. The big autograph secured, everything else would be gravy. We still held out hope for an Yzerman auto, but he was on the other side of the arena with no signs that he would end up on our side. The draft ended a couple hours later and the teams all started to pack up and head out. There were a few young guys in suits still sitting in the audience after the draft had ended. I felt really bad for a few of these kids. Imagine getting all dressed up for perhaps the biggest day of your life and nobody picks you. The disappointment was evident on the player sitting nearest to us. I guess Shanny noticed him, too, so he came up into the crowd to talk to him for a minute or two. I thought that was pretty cool and the kid seemed to feel better when Shanny finished talking to him. A.J. and I were watching this unfold and I told A.J. to go over there and ask him if yo can take a photo with him (remember, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity). We were sort of "out of bounds" by this time, but hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? Shanny sees us coming and he hesitated. A.J. walked up and asked for the photo. He said yes and I snapped away. Not my best shot, but it was definitely a keeper!

                                      A.J. and Brendan 

Everyone looked tired  and like they just wanted to go home. A.J. fit nicely into this group. We hung around a little bit to see if we could get Bruce Boudreau to sign A.J.'s copy of "Gabby". Alas, it was not to be as we were ushered out of the stands by Staples personnel. We started to leave the arena and I suggested that we go wait near the buses to see if we can get some last minute photos and autographs.  It was sunny and hot and we were tired but remember, this is a chance of a lifetime, so we decided to hang out for a few minutes. We walked out and ended up near a bunch of Montreal Canadiens Execs. They were in the process of dressing up a little Canadien's fan in a draft day '10 jersey and hat. This little boy was so excited and babbling on in French, now sporting a jersey that hung to his knees. The Canadiens guys were hanging around the bus waiting to leave.  I noticed head coach Jacques Martin standing among them, so we did our usual, "can we get a photo" routine. Of course, being a hockey guy, he said yes. Not our top choice, but a good guy, nevertheless.

                                    A.J. and Jacques Martin    

The Canadiens execs discovered a box of draft hats and dove in. They were all laughing it up and trying on the hats like little kids. Just then someone came over and said something to them in French and they all went off to a different bus. As they walked away, A.J. walked over to the front of the bus and made a startling discovery: The bus had a Red Wings logo right in the window! This is no coincidence, my friends. Providence has led us to the ultimate opportunity for two die-hard Red Wings fans. It was clear that this was the bus that was to take the Red Wings entourage back to their hotel. It was what we were waiting for. We stood there not believing our luck and waited...and waited. About ten minutes later, three guys came up to the bus and boarded. It was not any of our wish list, so we let them pass. About 5 minutes later, here came a bunch of guys in suits. Could it be? It was. The Red Wings brass was headed our way in a group. First one in our direction was the architect of 4 Red Wings Stanley Cup Championships, Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland.

                                A.J. and the best G.M in the NHL 

Next in the group was Senior Vice President and 2010 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, Jim Devellano.

                                    A.J. and Jim Devellano  

Finally, completing our coup, Red Wings Assistant G.M. Jim Nill.

                                   A.J. and Jim Nill

Not one other autograph hound had seen them! After posing for pictures, they all boarded the bus, unseen by the others. It was incredible. We had waited for two days for this chance and our patience paid off. I was so happy for A.J. (and for me). I remember thinking to myself, "That was so cool, I can't imagine it getting any better!"

I was wrong.

A.J. and I decided to call it a day and head home. We couldn't believe our good fortune. The Red Wings brass walked right by us, and we got pictures, besides!

As we walked back towards the Staples Center, A.J. noticed a man walking with a young woman. He said, "Dad, is that Steve Yzerman?" I said, "I don't know, it could be."  Sure enough, it was Stevie Y walking with his daughter, Isabella. Again, nobody notices him and we have him all to ourselves. We got a quick photo and A.J. wasted no time whipping out his Yzerman jersey for an autograph.

                                    A.J. and Stevie Y

He was quiet and humble. He answered question in one word sentences and smiled when A.J. talked to him. Here is a guy who was just named GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning, had just finished an exhausting two day draft and he took the time to make a couple fans happy. Ironically, he headed towards the Red Wings bus, but got a good look at the gaggle of autograph seekers standing just past it and thought better of it. He headed back our way with his daughter in tow and crossed the street towards the Ritz-Carlton hotel. As he crossed the street and we watched him go, a woman wearing a Red Wings sweater with about 50 signatures on it, started running after him. He made the corner with the woman in hot pursuit. She caught him and, being the gracious man he is, he signed her items for her.

On the way back to the car, A.J. and I agreed that this weekend was everything we hoped it would be and more.

We saw some of the future stars of the NHL.

We met a broadcasting icon.

We met some Hall of Famers.

We met the Red Wings brain trust.

We met NHL Head Coaches.

We met A.J.'s favorite athlete, bar none.

We met the man who epitomizes the Red Wings and is the standard of what a Captain should be in the NHL.

Thank you Los Angeles Kings for hosting this weekend. Thank you NHL for bringing this important event to the fans in California.

Not too bad for the price of a FREE admission ticket.                                                                 

2010 NHL Draft Weekend Day 2: First Round Part 4: The Draft

The draft itself was allegedly suspenseful as the Edmonton Oilers never let on who would be the #1 pick. A.J. and I figured it would be Taylor Hall of the Windsor Spitfires. It would either be him or Tyler Seguin. When the drat began at 4:00, the Oilers surprised very few by taking Taylor Hall. Tyler Seguin went 2nd to the Boston Bruins and Eric Gudbranson went #3 to the Florida Panthers. These are 3 players we had seen and photographed at the Prospects camp. The other two players we saw (Cam Fowler and Emerson Etem) went to the Ducks in the first round. In actuality, the draft itself played a secondary part to us, since we were more interested in seeing the famous hockey players and management team form the Detroit Red Wings. As day 3 approached, we had no idea that our hopes and persistence would be rewarded.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

2010 NHL Draft Weekend Day 2: First Round Part 2: Scottie

After we ate lunch, we began our "T" circuit again. We strolled towards Pico again and noticed Scott Niedermeyer standing alone texting. We asked for a photo and he kindly obliged. Here is a recently retired NHL star and sure-fire Hall of Famer and he is as nice and soft-spoken as you could imagine. We took our quick photos, thanked him and moved on. Here is photo number 2. It was getting good, now.

                                                                            

2010 NHL Draft Weekend Day 2: First Round Part 3: Bob Miller and Daryl Evans

After we saw Scott Niedermeyer we headed back to make our "T" circuit. When we walked back towards Pico Ave., we saw Kings radio broadcaster Daryl Evans. I asked him if he'd mind posing with A.J. for a picture. He said, sure, let's walk this way (toward the L.A. Live area). We started talking to him about hockey and the playoffs in general. We talked for about 10 minutes and then A.J. posed for the picture with him. We continued to talk hockey when this guy walks up and introduces himself. "Hi, I'm Bob", he said. It was none other than Kings Hall of Fame announcer Bob Miller. We shook hands and then talked hockey for about 5 more minutes. Here is a Hall of Fame  member and he just walks up and start chatting with two fans (one of whom was wearing his 2008 Detroit Red Wings Stanley Cup Champions t-shirt proudly, I might add). He is a real nice, classy man. Here is photo number 3.

                                                                      

2010 NHL Draft Weekend Day 2: First Round Part 1: Gabby

On Friday morning, we drove up to Staples Center at around 11:00 a.m. The NHL had set up booths and vendors at the L.A. Live area across 12th street from Staples Center. These booths were in the plaza area right in front of the ESPNZone. We decided to walk around to get a feel for the place. We guessed that a lot of players would be staying at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel adjacent to the plaza where all of the booths were located. We walked over near the hotel entrance to check it out. As we approached, we noticed that a group of hard core collectors had amassed about 100 feet from the hotel entrance. This is the group I will refer to from now on as Adult Men Who Live In Mom's Basement (AMWLIMB). Imagine a group of 40 year old overweight men without real lives. They traveled in a pack and it was never more evident than when someone marginally famous would approach. They would descend on the player/former player/media star and get autographs. They carried boxes of cards and 3 ring binders with more cards and a few photographs. We decided to turn and go the other way so as not to be associated with these folks. We strolled back towards Lawry's on Pico Ave to see if we could spot anyone interesting. This became known to A.J. and me as the "T" circuit. While on this stroll, we decided to have lunch at ESPNZone and headed back that way. As we were walking back, A.J. said to me, "Hey look. Isn't that Bruce Boudreau?" Sure enough, there he was. Bruce Boudreau is the Head Coach of the Washington Capitals. He is nicknamed "Gabby" because he is very talkative and gregarious. He wrote a book that A.J. and I read (titled "Gabby"). He is basically our favorite NHL coach outside of Red Wings coach Mike Babcock. He was talking to a few fans, who were also taking a few snapshots of him. He seemed to be in a hurry to go somewhere, so we had to act fast. I asked him if we could get a photo of him with A.J. He said he had to go, but he'd be glad to take the picture with A.J. I snapped off two quick ones, thanked him and off he went. It turns out he was in a hurry to have lunch at Wolfgang Puck's with former NHL coach John Anderson. We later saw them eating (and talking) on the patio. Nice guy. Our first real photo of the day.

                                                                       

Saturday, June 26, 2010

2010 NHL Draft Weekend Day 1: Prospects Clinic at Toyota Center in El Segundo.

Since the day the NHL announced that the 2010 Entry Draft would be held in Los Angeles, A.J. and I had planned to attend as many events as possible. The plan was that we would go to all of the festivities and mingle with the NHL players, coaches and Media. These are the people whom we admire from afar and never ever get the chance to see in person unless we attend a game. Even then, access is restricted and you have to act like a stalker just to get a photo op or an autograph. Our plan was to get out there and hopefully get some pictures and even a few autographs.

At Toyota Center

We had originally heard that the Prospects Clinic was closed to the public. When I got home on Wednesday night, I found that the clinic was open to the public and that a few of the top prospects would be there. I thought it would be pretty crowded, so we got there early to beat the crowds. When we arrived, there was plenty of parking available, so we parked and made our way towards the arena. There were a few photographers and a couple fans hanging around outside, so we hung out with them on the steps to the facility. While we were standing there, Luc Robitaille goes walking past. A couple people said Hi and he said hello. Nobody rushed him and it looked as if he was leaving. Then he came walking past again and went back in the building. He came right back out and I told A.J., "Now's your chance". A.J. approached him and got Luc to sign his Kings puck. Below is the pic.

                                   A.J. and Luc

A few minutes later, the Prospects began to arrive. There were 5 players who were present. Taylor Hall (#1 overall pick by the Edmonton Oilers), Tyler Seguin (#2 overall pick by the Boston Bruins), Eric Gudbranson (#3 overall pick by the Florida Panthers), Cam Fowler (#12 overall pick by the Anaheim Ducks) and Emerson Etem (#29 overall pick also by the Anaheim Ducks). The players took to the ice with about 50 kids ranging from about 5 to around 12 years old and went through some drills and played a short scrimmage at the end. They stayed on the rink for about 45 minutes and the kids had a great time. We had a great location to observe and I got a few good shots, considering we were behind the Plexiglas. After the clinic, the players were whisked away in a van and off to other media events. These kids have got to be dog-tired at the end of this week. Below are a few shots I took at the clinic.


                                  Taylor Hall and Eric Gudbranson


                               Tyler Seguin

                        Cam Fowler (L) and Emerson Etem (R)


                                Taylor Hall

                                    Eric Gubranson

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sunsets

Death Valley 

 Grand Canyon


San Clemente




Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Milky water

I took this one at the Fullerton Arboretum when we were taking AJ's Senior Pictures. I've been trying to get a few of these milky effect pictures since I like the look. I hope you like them, too.

Waterfall at the Fullerton Arboretum

Waterfall near Death Valley

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Verity

Verity and Grandpa
More cuteness

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Strawberry Festival Garden Grove, CA

Ferris Wheel looking patriotic