After Disney had released a movie named “The Mighty Ducks,” it didn’t take long for Disney Chairman Michael Eisner to put together the non-fictional version of the movie. It was twenty years ago yesterday, that Disney was awarded the right to an expansion team in the city of Anaheim, California.
Ironically, the $50 million franchise fee that Disney forked over to make this happen was around the same ballpark the movie had grossed for Disney. Somehow based on on popularity of the movie and the fandom from the Los Angeles Kings, Disney believed they had it made with the name and location.
As the name of the team was solidified, the Mighty Ducks experienced the brunt of constant ridicule and were the laughing stock of the NHL. Not only was the team named after a movie –coached by Emilio Estevez and led by captain Joshua Jackson — it was owned by Disney. It also didn’t help that there is nothing intimidating or “mighty” about a Duck and that Orange County was a far cry from being recognized as a hockey city.
Ron Wilson had the honor of coaching the team in its inaugural season — at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim — and it was Paul Kariya who was the team’s first ever draft pick. Their second overall pick was Steve Rucchin — also known as “Ruuuuuuuuu-ch” — who definitely left an imprint on many fans back in the day. In 1996, the team made a blockbuster trade with the Winnipeg Jets where they acquired a player who has impacted the city and the team the most; Teemu Selanne. It wasn’t until the ’96-’97 season when the Ducks had a taste of the playoffs where they unfortunately lost in round two to their now rivals the Detroit Red Wings.
Oh, how things have changed in Southern California.
Even after the team shook off the “mighty” after a change in ownership in June ’05, the team and its fans haven’t seen a complete end to the mockery and they may never will.
It wasn’t too long ago that the Anaheim Ducks made it to the finals in ’03 and lost in a Game 7 to the highly-skilled, veteran-loaded New Jersey Devils. Sadly, bringing the first Stanley Cup championship not only to the West coast, but to the state of California — a state where hockey is the black sheep of sports — wasn’t enough for them to fully gain respect from hockey fans even after accomplishing a feat not many in the hockey world fathomed.