Francois Beauchemin may have begun his career as an Anaheim Duck perceived of as an afterthought, but the rugged blue liner would quickly make himself an indispensable ingredient in the Ducks soup as a result of his tough as nails defensive presence and above-average offensive instincts. One moment in particular – a fight against Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla in the opening round of the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs – stands out as being particularly key in his development into an Anaheim regular and fan favorite.
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Early in the 2005-06 NHL season, The Mighty Ducks found themselves trying to offload the bloated Sergei Fedorov contract, and had honed in on a deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets, who were searching for a first line center to play with their young star Rick Nash. In exchange for Fedorov, the Ducks were trying to pry loose veteran center Todd Marchant, but when Columbus GM Doug McLean refused to tell Marchant where he was being traded to, Marchant refused to waive his no trade clause and the Ducks settled on a deal that sent Sergei Fedorov to Columbus for a package including journeyman forward Tyler Wright and unheralded rookie defenseman Francois Beauchemin.
Wright wouldn’t stick with the Ducks beyond 25 games while Beauchemin would go on to develop a solid partnership with Anaheim captain Scott Niedermayer and establish himself as a key cog in the Ducks’ Stanley Cup aspirations. (And of course, the Ducks would pick up Marchant off the waiver wire less than a week later.)
To many Anaheim fans, Beauchemin may have seemed a small, insignificant part of the trade, but Anaheim Assistant GM David McNab knew better – it was he who insisted that Beauchemin be part of any deal involving Columbus and although the man they call Frankie arrived in Anaheim out of shape and was slow to start with his new team, he quickly got himself into better shape and began to prove exactly what McNab saw in the young defenseman.
Beauchemin had an exemplary rookie season (setting the franchise record for points and goals by a rookie defenseman), but it wasn’t until the playoffs later that season that Beauchemin had his real coming out party.
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The 6th seeded Mighty Ducks drew a match-up against the Calgary Flames in the opening round of the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the series quickly grew heated with heavy hitting, after-whistle scrums, and plenty of jawing back and forth. Calgary captain Jarome Iginla and Beauchemin seemed to be battling especially hard against each other, several times having to be separated by officials after accidentally-on-purpose getting tangled up on line changes. Something was brewing…
With the series tied at two, Calgary took the fifth game at home, forcing a Game six showdown in Anaheim. With their backs to the wall, the Ducks wanted to set a physical tone early, and it was the rookie defenseman Beauchemin who would answer the bell, going toe-to-toe with the tough Iginla.
All it took was a surprise left jab and the subsequent knockdown for Beauchemin to work his way into the hearts of Ducks fans forever, and for the entire complexion of the series to shift in Anaheim’s favor. Although Calgary took an early lead in Game 6, the Ducks’ mixture of veteran leadership, youthful enthusiasm, and yes, an attitude partly informed by Beauchemin’s knockdown of Iginla, kept them afloat and in the game long enough for Teemu Selanne to tie it and Scott Niedermayer to win it late in the 3rd period.
The Ducks would return to Calgary for a decisive Game 7 victory to take the series and move on to face Colorado in the Conference Semifinals.
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The arguments against fighting in hockey are valid, but so are many of the arguments for it. Exhibit A: the Beauchemin-Iginla fight.
Prior to the fight, the Ducks weren’t playing poorly, but they weren’t playing well enough to win, either. The team needed an emotional lift and Beauchemin more than provided it. The video of the fight may not completely communicate it, but after Beauchemin knocked down Iginla with the first punch, the roof practically blew off of Honda Center. Fans were on their feet, screaming and cheering and pumping their fists with rabid excitement. I know – I was there, cheering just as loudly as anyone.
Although Iginla may have gotten back up and fought back to a draw, it was the simple sight of Calgary’s leader and best player being knocked down by a single punch that made Anaheim – the players and the fans – believe that, more than anything, they could physically overpower Calgary, dominate them, and ultimately beat them.
That shift in attitude wouldn’t have been possible without the classic moment authored by a classic Duck, Francois Beauchemin.