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A Los Angeles King and an Anaheim Duck getting after it during one of their five clashes this season. Photo courtesy of kings.nhl.com

 

HERE IT IS – SOCAL SPORTS ANNALS’ FIRST INTERVIEW!

WE FEEL IT’S ONLY APPROPRIATE THAT THE HONOR OF BEING THE FIRST PERSON INTERVIEWED FOR THIS WEBSITE IS OUR “HOCKEY LADY”, NICHOLE CHOICE, WHO WAS SO ENTHUSIASTIC IN HER COVERAGE OF SOCAL’S TWO NHL TEAMS.

SO CHECK OUT WHAT NICHOLE HAS TO SAY NOT ONLY ABOUT THE KINGS AND DUCKS’ FATES THIS SEASON, BUT ALSO A LITTLE ABOUT HERSELF…

 

SOCAL SPORTS ANNALS: Tell us about your background. Where do you hail from/grew up? Where did you matriculate for college? Did you play any sports growing up?

NICHOLE CHOICE: Hello, SoCal Sports Annals! First I want to say it has been such a joy and delight to cover the NHL in Southern California for the 2015-16 season. I have learned and grown so much as a writer, as well as the sport! And what a thrill ride it was and continues to be for the rest of the season, admittedly.

As for me, I was born in Central California (Stockton), and subsequently lived in Northern California (Oakland, San Francisco and Sacramento) prior to my matriculation in the Inland Empire at Scripps College in Claremont, CA, where I studied film production and dance as a double major.

Scripps College is part of the five college conglomerate known as the Claremont Colleges (aka the Ivy League of the west coast), and our sports teams are combined. So our track and field team, for example, is known as “Claremont Mudd Scripps Track and Field  (referring also to Claremont McKenna College and Harvey Mudd College).

That’s the team I dropped out of, after the first practice; I can admit it! Furthermore, that’s not the first track and field team I quit, I’m willing to confess. The first time was when I was in elementary school; I have no speed!

The irony is that my beloved father is an esteemed Olympics Track & Field pre-trial qualifier! Needless to say, it appears that particular athletic gene skipped right over me. But I do enjoy participating in dance, swimming, yoga, and other low/no impact sports very much!

But that hasn’t inhibited me from being a passionate spectator of sports, and that’s what I feel gives me a strong connection to the excitement and enthusiasm that is this site!

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Kings fans heading for a game at Staples Center in downtown L.A. Photo courtesy of kings.nhl.com

 

SCSA: How did you become such a sports fan? Did anything happen in childhood that turned you into one?

NC:  Again, I have to go back to my father. I grew up around not only him, but also his Olympic track and field friends. I’ve seen the track meets on television as well as in person. I’ve witnessed many athletically miraculous physical accomplishments.

We also watched and played a lot of tennis in my household. My freshman year in college, I took an early morning tennis course three days a week that really upped my game, and was a great way to start the day in spite of my parents’ protests that tuition was far too high for me to be out there playing tennis, LOL!

SCSA:  Who/what were your sports influences? Who was your favorite athlete growing up, and why was he/she your favorite?

NC:  Great question! Not necessarily growing up, but during the Lakers’ heyday with Kobe and Shaq, it was Lakers, Lakers, Lakers all day and night!

As a dancer, I’d never seen such poetic and graceful athleticism in a basketball player until the great Kobe Bryant. I studied tons of ballet in college, and watching Kobe opened my eyes to a concept of competitive sports that I had never conceived of before.

Kobe is my favorite athlete, and he also a fellow Virgo, so I feel I have some insight into the perfectionist and competitive nature that we witnessed from him so consistently during his incredible career. Much respect for the Black Mamba!

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A very nice shot of Honda Center all decked out for the playoffs, with a Ducks’ car flag adding a nice accessory. Photo courtesy of ducks.nhl.com

 

SCSA:  How did you become such a hockey fan? What was the event that converted you into such a hockey follower?

NC:  Truth be told, it was my association with this site that has fueled my fascination with the sport of hockey!

As a Southern California resident, I’ve been surrounded by much fanfare and hoopla, particularly during hockey season. The fact that we have two teams has definitely created a rivalry that is almost palpable at times.

Admittedly, and it may sound silly, but Emilio Estevez is one of my favorite actors, so when I heard we were awarded a team that shares a name with his 1992 film, “The Mighty Ducks”, I thought it was so cool and immediately began to take note! It also doesn’t hurt that their rink (Honda Center) is right around the corner from Disneyland, so it’s a win/win!

As for the Los Angeles Kings, I am attracted to their concept of royalty. And they are an incredible, incredible team…usually!

 

A clip of the Kings’ 2-1 win in Game 3 of their series with San Jose; their only postseason win:

A clip of the Ducks’ 5-2 win over Nashville in Game 5 of their series, putting them up three games to two:

 

 

SCSA:  Talk about the very first game that you ever saw in person. Who did you see, where, with who, who won (if you remember), your impressions of that game? Any other memories that stick out, i.e., at you ate, any souvenirs that you bought?

NC:  Okay, I have another confession to make. And we’ll just keep this between you, me, and our zillions of readers, OK?

I haven’t been to a pro hockey game yet! As you know, the recent Freeway Faceoffs were incredibly hard to get tickets for; I will not miss out next season, that’s for sure. I watch tons of hockey on television, and also read voraciously about the season.

However, I did have the privilege to attend a Pasadena Maple Leafs matchup around three years ago! According to their website,                http://www.pasadenamapleleafs.com, this hockey club is a “Volunteer-Run Youth Sports Organization”.

And those little tykes were awesome! I tagged along with one of their coaches. Strangely enough, I didn’t realize how cold it would be in the rink (duh!), so I remember shivering quite a lot!

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Jonathan Quick (#32), Jeff Carter (#77), and some of their Kings teammates celebrating some good fortune. Photo courtesy of topbet.eu

 

SCSA: Regarding the early playoff exits of our two NHL teams, what did you think about that? What do you think went wrong?

NC:  Yeah. That. Sigh.

I think the Kings had a long-term problem of lacking consistency, which is out of character for them in my opinion.

The Ducks, on the other hand, seemed to have experienced a strange, self-sabotaging case of stage fright or something.

Now please don’t get me wrong, I know all the guys in the league play their hearts out on the ice, and sweat blood and bullets to accomplish what they do. I certainly don’t knock that.

If anything, I think what both teams really need to focus on for next season (because I see this season as more of a speed bump and certainly not a future trend) is this:

Performing consistently.

The Kings have a tremendous legacy – their own! – to live up to, and it’s futile to let that psychologically seep into their psyche! It doesn’t matter who their opponents are, and it shouldn’t matter!

And the Ducks sometimes remind me of the little engine that could…but doubted itself. I think they have to believe harder and, like the Kings, remember that your opponent is irrelevant.

 

April 17, 2016; Anaheim, CA, USA; Anaheim Ducks center Rickard Rakell (67), center Ryan Kesler (17) and center Nate Thompson (44) react as the Nashville Predators celebrate the 3-2 victory after game two of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

April 17, 2016; Anaheim, CA, USA; Anaheim Ducks center Rickard Rakell (67), center Ryan Kesler (17) and center Nate Thompson (44) react as the Nashville Predators celebrate the 3-2 victory after game two of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports  Photo courtesy of toomanymenonthesite.com

 

SCSA:  What do you think about the (now former) Ducks’ coach Bruce Boudreau getting fired? What kind of coach do you think the Ducks need going forward? A players’ guy like Boudreau or a no-nonsense type?

NC:  Now that’s a tough question!

First, I want to thank Bruce Boudreau for what he tried to do with the team, and I certainly wish him the best with the Minnesota Wild (he’s going to need it!) He’s so well-respected, and is never unemployed for long,

That being said, I don’t think he was a match for the Ducks. At least, not anymore.

Our five years with Boudreau were heartbreaking at times. Something seemed to fall apart regularly in those crucial game sevens, and we can’t have that.

I know there’s no time frame for a replacement, and that’s a good thing. We need to think long and hard about this. Going forward, do we need a “player’s guy” or someone more “no-nonsense”? For some reason, all I can think about is: Zen! WE need a strong, steady focused coach so that the Ducks can be liberated from these apparent jitters that cause them to collapse and explode.

SCSA:  What do you think the Kings need to do going forward in order to avoid losing in the first round the way they did?

NC:  Somehow, it seems that the Los Angeles Kings are suffering from an inferiority complex. Granted, this particular franchise has a lot to live up to, but this cannot interfere with performance.

I don’t know what’s crippling them. I wish I did, because their greatness, at times, is undeniable and historic. These Kings, unfortunately, have a very long off-season to coagulate.

 

OF COURSE IT GOES WITHOUT SAYING THAT THIS HOCKEY LADY’S ENTHUSIASM FOR SOCAL’S KINGS AND DUCKS HAS BEEN QUITE BENEFICIAL TO THIS SITE, AND NOT ONLY DO WE AT SOCALSPORTSANNALS.COM OFFER MUCH THANKS FOR ALL HER EFFORTS THIS SEASON,

WE ARE VERY MUCH LOOKING FORWARD TO HAVING HER BACK NEXT FALL!

 

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 5: Drew Doughty #8 of the Los Angeles Kings controls the puck against Ryan Kesler #17 of the Anaheim Ducks on March 5, 2016 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Juan Ocampo/NHLI via Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***

LOS ANGELES, CA – MARCH 5: Drew Doughty #8 of the Los Angeles Kings controls the puck against Ryan Kesler #17 of the Anaheim Ducks on March 5, 2016 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Juan Ocampo/NHLI via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Photo courtesy of lakingsinsider.com

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