If you’re looking for a team that accepts bandwagon fans with open arms, look no further than the Anaheim Ducks.
Although blessed with recent postseason (and regular season) success, the Ducks are still a very small hockey market with a fan base that struggles to fill the stadium. Against more popular NHL teams, Ducks fans often barely outnumber their opposing teams’ fans. Against fierce rivals, such as the Los Angeles Kings, the scale may be tipped more in the opposing fans’ favor.
Despite that, the passionate fans the Ducks do have, have a lot to be excited about. As young players begin to come into their own, the Ducks window to earn their second Stanley Cup is wide-open.
Without further ado, here’s a fan guide to the Anaheim Ducks:
Mighty Ducks History with Hollywood
In 1992, Disney released a movie about a ragtag youth hockey team called The Mighty Ducks, starring Emilio Estevez as the teams’ coach. Later that year, the NHL expanded to include two new teams, one based in Miami that would become the Florida Panthers and the other that would share Southern California with the Los Angeles Kings. And in 1993, The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim were born.
Founded by Disney, it made sense that the Mighty Ducks decided to play their home games in Disneyland’s backyard; Honda Center, formerly and aptly named the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim, is mere minutes away. For a decade, The Mighty Ducks proudly sported jade and purple jerseys displaying a old-school goalie mask in the shape of a duck head, until Disney sold the franchise in 2005 and their jerseys changed to display another part of duck anatomy: a webbed foot.
Henry and Susan Samueli bought The Mighty Ducks and changed their colors to orange (as a reference to Orange County, where the team is based), gold, and black and their name to simply the Anaheim Ducks before the 2006-07 season. The new name apparently brought the Ducks some luck as they went on to win the Stanley Cup that post-season. They were the first California team to win the cup.
A Relentless Rivalry
During their road to the Stanley Cup, the Ducks easily brought down the Minnesota Wild and the Vancouver Canucks, both in five games, to make it to their third trip to the Conference Finals, where they would face off against the Detroit Red Wings.
When contemplating the best rivalries in the NHL, the Battle for California should always be mentioned. Three teams, the San Jose Sharks, the Kings and the Ducks, all fight for attention and dominance in the nation’s most populated state. Yet, a fierce rivalry that is hardly mentioned anymore was between the Ducks and the Red Wings. The rivalry began as quickly as possible; the Ducks’ first ever game was a 7-2 smack-down by the Wings.
Multiple playoff series have created bad blood between the two fan bases. During the 1997 playoffs, the Ducks were newcomers to the post-season and were obliterated by the Wings. Two years later, the Ducks and Red Wings matched up again with the same result.
It wasn’t until the 2002-03 season that the Ducks/Wings rivalry got in full swing. The Wings were considered heavy favorites as the second seed. After all, they had just won three cups in six years. But, thanks to a stellar performance by Ducks’ goaltender, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, the Ducks swept the Wings. During the Ducks’ 2007 cup run, once again it was the Red Wings they had to dispatch in the conference finals.
Six times the Ducks and Red Wings faced off in the playoffs before the Wings moved from the Western Conference to the Eastern Conference after the 2012-13 season.
During the Ducks’ short history, there have been two eras with two different sets of dynamic duos. All four players make up the top four slots on the franchise points, goals and assists leader lists.
Drafted in 1993 by the Ducks as the fourth overall pick, Paul Kariya would soon become the face of the franchise. He served as the Ducks’ captain for seven of the nine seasons he spent with the Ducks. Early in his career, he drew comparisons to Wayne Gretzky due to his puck-handling and skating abilities.
He was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a member of the 2017 class, alongside his former teammate and other half of his dynamic duo, Teemu Selanne, whose former number, eight, is the lone jersey retired by the Ducks.
Although he was selected 10th overall by the Winnipeg Jets in 1988, Selanne didn’t make it to the NHL until 1992. Three years later, during the 1995-6 season, he was traded to the Ducks. The next season, he and Kariya brought the Ducks to their first postseason appearance.
During his rookie season in 1992-93, Selanne won the Calder Trophy after scoring an NHL record 76 goals. He later became the first recipient of the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy, awarded to the league’s leading goal-scorer, when he tallied 47 goals in 75 games in 1998-99. However, in March of 2001, the Ducks were struggling and decided to trade Selanne to the San Jose Sharks. In 2003-04, Selanne signed a one-year contract with the Colorado Avalanche, where he was joined by Kariya, despite the fact that Kariya had promised to bring the Ducks back to the Stanley Cup Final after losing to the New Jersey Devils the season prior.
Selanne returned to the Ducks in 2005. Although he considered retiring after the team won the cup, he stayed with the Ducks until he finally retired in 2014.
However, during his second tenure with the Ducks, Selanne no longer needed to be the center of attention. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry were drafted 19th and 28th overall in the 2003 Entry Draft.
Both made the Ducks’ roster during the 2006-2007 season, the two, alongside Dustin Penner, made up the “Kid Line” and helped the Ducks to their Stanley Cup. At times, they were considered the best line due to their effective offensive production.
Early in their careers, Getzlaf and Perry were inseparable to the point where they were nicknamed “The Twins.” Along with the Stanley Cup, they earned Olympic gold medals with Canada as members of the same line with interchanging left wingers. However, now head coach Randy Carlyle often sees successful when splitting the two up.
Now 32 years old, both Perry and Getzlaf aren’t as productive as they once were, even though Getzlaf had a stellar showing this past post-season. After a few years, the Ducks will have to look towards their young players for success. Lucky for the Ducks, they have a plethora of young talent.
On offense, the Ducks will look to right wingers 24-year-old Rickard Rakell, who recently had his best season with the Ducks after scoring 33 goals, and 26-year-old Jakob Silfverberg. Silfverberg typically plays on the shutdown line, the Ducks’ second line that is centered by Ryan Kesler. He also had a career season with the Ducks this past season and scored 23 goals.
Even younger are 21 year olds Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase. Ritchie has to learn to control his temper and not take as many stupid penalties, but as a tenth overall pick, Ritchie shows a lot of promise. He scored 14 goals during his first full season with the Ducks. On the other hand, Kase was drafted way lower, during the seventh round and 205th overall, but may turn out to be a steal if he can find a spot on the Ducks’ roster.
As for the defense, with the exception of aging Kevin Bieksa, the Ducks’ defense is filled with talented players under 25 years old. Cam Fowler recently signed an eight-year contract with the Ducks after scoring a career-high 11 goals for the Ducks last season. Hampus Lindholm is an underrated defenseman who will only get better.
Goaltender John Gibson will also improve with time. At 24 years old, Gibson hasn’t reached his prime as a goaltender, yet he is still considered one of the best American-born goalies in the league. Because of him and many other reasons, Ducks fans have a lot to look forward to next season.