This year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs extend to the clear skies of California with all three Californian teams taking over the Pacific Division this year.
At least one Californian team is guaranteed a spot in the second round with the San Jose Sharks playing the Los Angeles Kings in the first round. The Anaheim Ducks are also viewed as serious contenders for the Stanley Cup and will face the Nashville Predators. If the Ducks win, the second round will feature two Californian teams fighting to play in the Western Conference final.
Hockey is continuing to grow in the Golden State because of the success from all three teams. Anaheim reached the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season and won the Pacific title for the same amount of seasons as well. Los Angeles has the most Stanley Cups out of all Californian teams, with only one more than Anaheim’s one cup. Both the Ducks and Kings have top-ranked defenses that contribute greatly to their success. San Jose had a rebirth this year in their new coach, who led the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup Final and lost to Los Angeles in 2012. The team posted the best road record in the league, which is a tough feat considering all the traveling teams have to do.
Not only is hockey successful at the professional level in California, but also at the junior level. In 2014-15, California had 26,383 male players and 2,029 female players registered with USA Hockey. There are 1,095 more males and 204 more females playing hockey compared to 2013-14, which makes California one of the fastest growing states for hockey.
The Ducks even have their own league for high school teams in the area called the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League (ADHSHL). This year the league has 48 high schools participating from Orange County, Inland Empire, San Diego County and Los Angeles County.
In the San Jose area, 27 teams play for the Sharks High School Ice Hockey League, which has been around for 16 seasons. High school hockey is just starting to begin in Los Angeles with eight teams in the Kings’ high school league.
California’s love for hockey was broadcasted throughout North America when the Ducks played the Kings at Dodger Stadium in 2014 and the Kings played the Sharks at Levi’s Stadium in 2015. Over 54,000 fans showed up at Dodger Stadium and over 70,ooo went up north to Santa Clara, Calif. Times are changing in California’s sports scene as the level of playing becomes better all around for hockey out here. Even though the temperatures remain warm in California, hockey has still found a way to stay cool with Californians.
The playoffs begin in Los Angeles on Thursday at 7:30 PM and reach Anaheim 7:30 PM on Friday.