Throughout the year, the Sip Advisor will alphabetically travel the National Hockey League (NHL), discovering the best and worst each team has to offer in a variety of subjects. We will also feature a drink based off the franchise. Today, we begin this trek with a look at the Anaheim Ducks. Let’s just see how mighty they are:
Establishment Story: The Ducks joined the NHL in 1993 as the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. The expansion team was born from the 1992 Walt Disney Company movie The Mighty Ducks, as Disney looked to expand into the sports ownership world. As of 2005, Disney is no longer behind the franchise and the team has dropped the ‘Mighty’ portion of their moniker, simply going as the Anaheim Ducks.
Stanley Cups: The Ducks lone Stanley Cup came in 2007, when they defeated the Ottawa Senators in five games. They reached the Stanley Cup Finals one other time, losing to the New Jersey Devils in seven games, ending their 2003 Cinderella post-season run. Despite being the Stanley Cup runner up, Ducks goalie Jean-Sébastien Giguère was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs MVP.
Celebrity Fan: Emilio Estevez, star of The Mighty Ducks movie franchise as coach Gordon Bombay, is a fan of the team his movies are responsible for. Estevez often makes appearances in the Anaheim crowd when the team is in important situations, such as the Stanley Cup Finals. From time to time, Estevez also supports the team on his social media accounts.
Super Fan: Given the Ducks beginnings as a popular movie franchise and its Disney connection, fans of the team stretch far and wide. Season ticket members of the club are known as the Orange Alliance. Among the diehards is Ned Marr, who can be easily recognized for his face and head paint (he’s bald after all), which he first donned during the 2013 playoffs. His popularity even led to appearing in a Papa John’s commercial.
Mascot: Wild Wing made his debut with the rest of the team in 1993. His name was picked through a fan vote and he wears the number 93, referencing the franchise’s founding year. In a case of fiction-inspiring-reality-inspiring-fiction, the character of Wildwing Flashblade from the Mighty Ducks cartoon series is based on Wild Wing the mascot. The Ducks very first game featured a secondary mascot, nicknamed The Iceman, but the electric guitar-playing hype man disappeared soon after.
Tradition: Through all incarnations of the Anaheim franchise, Fowl Towels have been a popular fan item, with folks at games waving the towels to cheer on the squad. The towels were originally white, but are now orange, matching the team’s home jerseys throughout the years. Some Ducks supporters also use duck call devices to root on the club.
Appearances in Media: The team’s logo and jerseys appeared in the aforementioned Mighty Ducks movie franchise, as well as its spinoff cartoon series. The reboot TV series Mighty Ducks: Game Changers has included cameos from current Ducks players, such as Trevor Zegras, Troy Terry and Max Jones. Lastly, in the first season of TV show Boy Meets World (a Disney production coinciding with the Ducks inaugural season), main character Cory Matthews wears a Mighty Ducks jersey.
Events/Scandals: Bob Murray’s run as the Ducks GM both began and ended abruptly. He took over the role in November 2008, when previous GM Brian Burke suddenly joined the Toronto Maple Leafs. Murray’s term ended almost exactly 13 years later, when he resigned while under investigation by the team for an alleged history of verbal abuse to players and other staff members.
Rivalry: Fellow California-based teams, the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks, are natural rivals to the Ducks. Anaheim’s feud with Los Angeles is dubbed the Freeway Face-Off. Despite the animosity between the teams and fan bases, the two squads have only met in the playoffs once, with the Kings winning the 2014 series in seven games. The teams have also faced each other for the 2007 NHL Premiere from London and the 2014 Stadium Series at Dodger Stadium.
Tragedy: There are no direct tragedies associated with the Ducks, but fan favourite Ruslan Salei, who played in Anaheim for nine seasons, was among the 44 killed in the September 2011 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team plane crash. The Belarussian was drafted by the Ducks ninth overall in 1996 and once held the franchise record for games played by a defenceman. Salei’s popularity led to the Honda Center, Anaheim’s home arena, being nicknamed ‘The House that Rusty Built’.
Player Nicknames: Corey Perry’s style of play has earned him two nicknames, one on each end of the spectrum. The first, Scorey Perry, was earned for his scoring prowess, including the career-high 50 he potted in 2010-11, earning him the Rocket Richard and Hart Memorial Trophies. The second, The Worm, comes from Perry’s knack of irritating his opponents.
Line: Speaking of Corey Perry, his long-time partnership with Ryan Getzlaf led to a lot of success for the Ducks. The duo played together with Dustin Penner as the Kid Line/PPG Line and with Bobby Ryan as the RPG Line. Another very successful pair for the team was Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne. Their most notable third linemate was Steve Rucchin, a rare player to come to the NHL from the Canadian Interuniversity Sport route.
Captain: Ryan Getzlaf played his entire 17-season career with the Ducks, serving as captain from 2010 until his retirement in 2022. He holds the franchise record for most games played (1,157), points (1,019) and assists (737). Getzlaf was twice nominated for the Mark Messier Leadership Award, but failed to win the trophy. In retirement, Getzlaf is still an active member in the Anaheim community.
Enforcer: While I’d love to put the Bash Brothers (Fulton Reed and Dean Portman) here, from D2: The Mighty Ducks, the honour has to go to Todd Ewen, who holds the franchise records for penalty minutes in a season (285) and in a period (37). Sadly, Ewen commited suicide in 2015, aged 49. He had been suffering from depression for years, with chronic traumatic encephalopathy from his years as a fighter perhaps contributing to his death.
Family Values: Brothers Scott and Rob Niedermayer not only got to play together on the Ducks for four seasons, they got to share winning a Stanley Cup together. It was Scott’s fourth championship – following three with the New Jersey Devils – and Rob’s first. Scott was the team’s captain, while Rob was an alternate. After Scott finished his lap around the ice with the trophy, he passed it to Rob, which Scott described as a highlight of his career.
Returning Players: Defenseman Francois Beauchemin had three stints with the Ducks. He was first traded to Anaheim in 2005, being part of the 2007 championship squad. Beauchemin joined the Toronto Maple Leafs as a free agent in 2009, but was traded back to Anaheim in 2011. His final tenure with the team was for the 2017-18 season, which he announced would be his final campaign, retiring as a Duck.
Short Stint: Dany Heatley’s NHL career wrapped up with six games as a member of the Ducks during the 2014-15 season. While playing for the Ducks minor league affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals, Heatley was traded to the Florida Panthers organization, but didn’t get into any games with them, instead playing for their minor league team, the San Antonio Rampage. Heatley then retired from hockey after a season in Germany.
Undrafted: Chris Kunitz was signed by Anaheim as an undrafted free agent in 2003, following being named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, given to the top NCAA men’s hockey player. He was actually lost to the Atlanta Thrashers on waivers in 2005, but reclaimed weeks later by the Ducks. Kunitz would go on to be a member of the 2007 Stanley Cup championship team.
Trade: Acquiring superstar Teemu Selanne and pairing him with Paul Kariya was one of the greatest moves in Ducks history. To nab Selanne, the team had to part with two former first round picks in Oleg Tverdovsky and Chad Kilger, but it was certainly worth it. Selanne would return to the club later in his career and be part of the franchise’s only Stanley Cup victory. Selanne holds many of the Ducks offensive records, including regular season goals, power-play goals and game-winning goals.
Signing: The signings of Scott Neidermayer and Teemu Selanne (returning to the club) following the 2004-05 NHL lockout, would eventually lead to winning the 2007 Stanley Cup. On the flip side, the signing of Todd Bertuzzi in 2007 to a two-year, $8 million deal was eventually bought out after one season, as the Ducks had players like Corey Perry they needed to resign and were tight against the salary cap.
Draft Pick: The Ducks first ever player selection, Paul Kariya at 4th overall in 1993, was a very good one. Kariya became the face of the franchise for its first decade of existence, with his jersey number retired by the team in 2018. The 2003 draft also yielded great results, with Ryan Getzlaf (19th overall) and Corey Perry (28th overall) being chosen. The pair were integral to the Ducks 2007 Stanley Cup win.
Holdouts: When Paul Kariya’s first NHL contract expired in 1997, he and the Ducks failed to agree on a new pact. This led to Kariya missing the first 32 games of the 1997-98 campaign, prior to inking a two-year, $14 million deal. The holdout meant Kariya, a Japanese Canadian, was absent from the lineup as the Ducks and Vancouver Canucks played a pair of games in Tokyo to open the season.
Buyouts: It came as a bit of a shock when Corey Perry was bought out by the Ducks in 2019. Sure, his production had dropped in recent times, but he’d been with the franchise for 14 years. Another interesting case was that of defenseman Simon Després, who was let loose in 2017, with four years remaining on his contract, due to concerns over his concussion history.
Unique Game: Aside from the above-mentioned games against Los Angeles (2007 NHL Premiere from London and 2014 Stadium Series) and the Ducks travelling to Japan to open the 1997-98 season against Vancouver, the team has also played in destinations such as and Finland and Sweden (versus the Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers, respectively), for the 2011 NHL Premiere. Their contests in Tokyo were the first NHL games outside of North America that counted in the league standings.
Goal: Trevor Zegras is known for his high skill level and many highlight real goals. These include his lacrosse-style tally and batting out of the air a Sonny Milano alley-oop pass made over the net from behind it. Zegras’ flair for goal scoring led to him being invited to the 2022 NHL All-Star Game as a special guest to compete in the Breakaway Challenge. He was also made the cover athlete for the NHL 23 video game.
Fight/Brawl: A rather ordinary December 2001 game between the Ducks and the Calgary Flames took a turn late in the third period, when the teams took turns taking runs at each other’s goalies. The result was the last minute and a half featured constant fights off of each faceoff. By the end of the game, only one substitute player remained on each bench, with 309 penalty minutes recorded. A number of players were suspended or fined in the aftermath.
Injury: During the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals, Devils defenceman Scott Stevens caught Paul Kariya with a crushing open ice hit that knocked the Ducks superstar out cold. In the days before concussion protocols, Kariya would return to the game just minutes later and even score a goal. Sadly, in 2011, Kariya would be forced to retire due to post-concussion syndrome and many point to this hit as one that contributed to Kariya’s issues.
Penalty: During a March 2008 game against the Vancouver Canucks, Ducks defenseman Chris Pronger stomped on Ryan Kesler’s leg after the two had become tangled up. While the NHL originally let the incident pass unpunished, further video evidence resulted in an eight-game suspension for Pronger. Although Kesler wasn’t injured on the play, many thought the punishment was light, compared to Chris Simon’s 30-game suspension for a similar incident earlier that season.
Wildest Story: In the summer following Anaheim’s Stanley Cup triumph, Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe signed emerging forward Dustin Penner to a five-year, $21.25 million offer sheet. Ducks GM Brian Burke responded in the only way a responsible GM should, publically criticizing and name calling his counterpart. This led to the challenge of a barn fight, where a Lake Placid venue was even chosen, before NHL commissioner Gary Bettman stepped in and made sure the bout didn’t happen.
Blooper: Mascots can sometimes be put in dangerous situations, all in the name of getting fans riled up. For the Ducks 1995 home opener pre-game show, Wild Wing was to leap over a wall of fire. While rehearsal apparently went smoothly, when it came time to perform the act live, the mascot fell directly onto the flames. Thankfully, Wild Wing wasn’t harmed in any way and was back to interacting with fans quickly.
Miscellaneous: In the early years of the franchise, Mighty Ducks merchandise sold more than all other NHL teams combined. This was assisted by items being sold at Disney theme parks and in Disney Stores. With Disney World being located in Florida, it’s likely Mighty Ducks items sold better there than their expansion cousin Florida Panthers could ever have imagined for themselves.
Anaheim Ducks: Triple Deke
- Muddled Cuccumber
- 1.5 oz Gin
- 1 oz Watermelon Liqueur
- Garnish with Cucumber Slices
This cocktail is an homage to The Mighty Ducks movies, particularly the first film, when the triple deke move is used throughout. The recipe called for Watermelon Syrup to be used, but I elected to add some Watermelon Liqueur to the mix.