I bleed Eggplant, Jade, Orange, Gold and Black.
October 2nd, 1992; Disney unknowingly unleashes one of the single greatest factors of my life onto the world. A little movie about a drunk attorney who coaches a group of rag tag misfits into a hockey power seemed pretty lame, not good at all. Oh how they were wrong. The Mighty Ducks, starring Emilio Estevez, was a box office hit and earned over $50,000,000. It is credited for helping the Early 90’s Sunbelt Expansion in the NHL and popularizing hockey in America.
However, it wasn’t the movie that changed my life; it was the team that spawned from it. The Anaheim Mighty Ducks (now known as the Anaheim Ducks) joined the NHL in 1993, and was owned by Disney until 2003. So how did a kid from Toronto, who some consider the hockey hotbed of the world, not cheer for his hometown team and cheer for a team from Anaheim, California? Find out how after the jump.
I was born in 1991. I’m still pretty young, and as a Canadian birth right, I love hockey. I am a walking hockey encyclopedia, and pride myself being a hockey fan. I cheer for the Anaheim Ducks, and will die a Ducks fan. I grew up in a town outside of Toronto, and still live there today. My friends and I are all hockey fans, and talk about it all the time, but the one factor that makes me different from them is that I do not cheer for the Toronto Maple Leafs (/spit), but cheer for my Ducks.
I became a duck fan in during the 94-95 season. I was the ripe age of 3, and with the pressure from my father (a die hard New York Islander fan), chose a team other then the Leafs (/spit). I chose the team that my favourite player at the time, Paul Kariya, played on. I never understood why I liked him so much when I was younger, but he just seemed awesome to me. Him and Teemu Selanne made an awesome duo, and helped fuel my love of the Ducks.
The Anaheim Mighty Ducks were never good during the 90’s. They made a few playoffs here and there, but never made any big news. But I still cheered for them and went to almost every game when they were in Toronto. I was ridiculed by my friends and even teachers for being a Duck Fan. I still have my first Mighty Ducks Jersey, and I remember proudly parading it around after the Ducks beat Toronto. They always asked how many Stanley Cups the Ducks won, and I could only say none. It always hurt a little when they would laugh, but I persevered and kept my faith in the Ducks
In 2003, the Anaheim Ducks became the first Cinderella team in a decade. In the 2003 NHL playoffs, the Ducks, ranked 6 in the Western Conference, single handedly knocked off the Top 2 seeds and made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. Behind the play of J-S Gigueire, they pushed the heavily favoured New Jersey Devils to Game 7. I could taste the Stanley Cup. There, for the first time in my life, my team had a shot at Lord Stanley’s Mug. I could see me telling all the Leafs fans to shut up and parade around with my Championship Ducks hat on. However, that day never happened. The Devils won Game Seven 2-0, and my dream of a cup was shattered. I didn’t attend school the next day and wallowed in my room. We were so close. After a week of sulking, I turned my attention onto the next season, and hoped for repeat trip to the finals. It was then that a bombshell was dropped on my Duck loving heart.
Paul Kariya, my favourite player in the NHL, jumped ship and decided to sign with the Colorado Avalanche. My adolescent brain couldn’t believe it. Captain Duck himself, the pride and joy of the team, decided to leave! Especially after leading them to a final, I thought he was nuts. For the first time in my life, I questioned my allegiance. My favourite player changed teams, so shouldn’t I do the same? After some thought, I told myself that he is an idiot, and doesn’t deserve my Ducks. This was it; if my favourite player changing teams couldn’t make me change my allegiance, nothing will. I hoped for a better future, though I had no idea what was in store.
In 2006, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks were sold by Disney to a California Investor. This man single handled changed the face of the Ducks in one season. His first move was firing Bryan Murray, and bringing in the saviour of the team, Brian Burke. Burke is, in my opinion, the best GM in the NHL at the moment. His deals seem calculated, and perfect. Burke’s next move was a wake up call to the NHL. Scott Nidermeyer, the King of the Devil’s blueline, signed with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, and gave the Ducks a true bonafied star. “Nieds” (his nickname) had won 3 cups at that point, and was the best offensive defense-man in the league. The Ducks faired well in 2006, making it to the Western Conference Final, but ended up losing to the Cinderella team of 06, the Edmonton Oilers. The loss was not in vein; as this was a learning experience for a fairly young team. The best was yet to come, and I was going to love every minute of it.
The 2007 season was the season that defined my love of the Ducks. Gone was the eggplant and jade of the Mighty Duck Era, and in was the orange, gold and black era of the Anaheim Ducks. The team was poised to do some damage before the season even started, and Burke decided that he didn’t quite have enough power on the blueline. So what does a man who already has one of the best defense-men in the NHL do? He gets an even better defense-man, Chris Pronger, for nothing. The Anaheim Ducks, a team once ridiculed for having two stars, now boasted two of the best blueliners in the NHL. The Ducks and I only had one thing on our minds, the Stanley Cup.
The Ducks boasted the best record in the NHL during the 06-07 season, and came into the playoffs as favourites to win. They played perfect Canadian hockey, and physically outplayed every team. Losing only 2 games through the first 3 rounds, they were on a tear. The next team in their sights, the Ottawa Senators, had better have been trembling.
The Final was categorized as Finesse vs. Strength. Ottawa was a team based on speed and finesse and severely lacked any physical presence. That fault hurt them in the final. The Ducks out-played, out-hit and out-muscled the Senators to a Stanley Cup Final Win.
Ecstasy was all I could feel. They did it, We did it. We won a cup. A team based after a Disney movie won a Stanley Cup. I rarely cry, but I cryed for hours after they won. I could not believe it! IT HAD HAPPENED! My Ducks, my team, had did what many of my peers thought was impossible. The next few days were some of the best of my life, as I went to every Leaf fan I knew and told them to STFU.
It has been a tumultuous 15 years as a Duck Fan, but my undying love of them came through at the end. I was born a duck fan, my kid will be a duck fan, and I will die a duck fan. When I play hockey wearing my Duck jersey and I get cut, I don’t bleed red; I bleed eggplant, jade, orange, gold and black.