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The Kariya-n War

In the short history of Anaheim Calling, we've managed to rub some people the wrong way. There was, of course, the time Jen rattled Joffrey Lupul. Then there was the time Daniel and I claimed Brent Seabrook was complicit in his own concussion after he put a high hit on Corey Perry. Blackhawks fans loved that one (but my response remains: 'applesauce'). However, our most memorable dust-up, for me at least, came just five days into our existence, when Daniel and I discussed Paul Kariya. The actual flame war happened on another site, so it's not preserved for posterity as far as I know, but the person (who claimed to be a fan during the 90s) was trying to convince me that Ducks fans were happy with how well Paul Kariya was protected after the Suter incident. Oh, really?*

What has always irked me about the way Ducks fans hate Paul Kariya is that it's often built around a lot of revisionist history, like a twisted oral tradition. And apparently, it's irked the OC Register's Randy Youngman as well. After receiving a letter on Friday that cites the apocryphal "handshake agreement" between Paul Kariya and Bryan Murray in 2003, wherein the star forward supposedly promised to return to Anaheim for less money after not being qualified, Youngman debunked the "original season ticket holder's" assertion that the agreement existed. What's more, as the story was initially reported in the OC Register, Youngman simply consulted his old notes in order to tell the reader that the story the fan has been repeating for seven years is not the story the reporter wrote.

In his article, Youngman recalls what I reminded our readers of last year, that then-Ducks GM Bryan Murray never said there was an agreement. In addressing Kariya's claim that he was 'surprised' not to be qualified, Murray responded that he informed his star player of a strategy that involved bringing Kariya back for less money and that the veteran responded that money wouldn't be an issue for him. Kariya has never confirmed this, and even based on Murray's story, it's unclear if Kariya was aware of how committed the general manager was to this strategy:

But Murray also conceded that Kariya's agent, Don Baizley, warned the GM his client would at least explore his options if Kariya was not qualified. A few days later on June 29, Kariya called Murray at a hotel in Canada and informed him, "Bryan, if you don't qualify me, I think I should look around." When Kariya and Selanne signed with Colorado on July 3, Murray was upset that he didn't get a chance to make a counter-offer, as Baizley had promised he would.

-From Youngman's Register article

Why did the Ducks' general manager bank on a strategy to which he knew his player was not equally committed? Did he not consider that when Kariya said money would not be an issue that the left wing was contemplating the CBA loophole that guaranteed him UFA status before the age of 31 if he took a paycheck below the league average? Or was he more honest when he described Kariya as "disappointed" and the Ducks as "restructuring" on July 1st?

Regardless of what Bryan Murray was thinking, he took his lumps in retelling the story, and he never painted the situation as negatively as Ducks fans have. Youngman's article is an example of how fans, sometimes even original die-hard fans, have managed to misremember events to conform with their hatred. Recently, one of our readers said that, as he recalled, Selanne didn't want a raise, but the Ducks forced the money upon him without exchanging numbers in negotiation in order to give him as much as Kariya. Those are the kinds of tall tales we're dealing with here, people!

Of course, there are reasons to dislike Paul Kariya that exist in the factual realm, and maybe those things make it easier to apply a little hyperbole to recollection. He wasn't the warmest guy, as Jen will attest. Also, and this may be the root of the hatred of many fans, it's entirely possible that he didn't want to play here, and for many fans, lack of enthusiasm for the crest is a cardinal sin. Before the draft, Kariya said he wouldn't mind playing for an expansion team, but he was greeted rather soundly by an expansion team that didn't want to spend any money. He was rumored early on to be unhappy with Disney's dealings, and his contract in Colorado shows he was frustrated by an RFA system that kept him the property of one team until the age of 31.

I wonder, then, how Ducks fans will remember Bobby Ryan, who seems dissatisfied with what the Ducks are willing to spend on him, dissatisfied with how negotiations are progressing and dissatisfied with the distance the CBA has placed between him and unrestricted free agency. Is the first cut the deepest, or will Ducks fans again attribute a money-hungry-never-wanted-to-play-here attitude to their star and concoct campfire canards of his greedy exploits? I hope Eric Stephens doesn't throw away his notes.

*if that video doesn't play on the link, here is an embed: