Summer can be a lot of things for a hockey fan. For me, and most Ducks fans, it's been LONG more than anything, and it only promises to get longer. Between the Kings winning the Stanley Cup, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry's escapades in a Finnish nightclub, the Justin Schultz fiasco, Bobby Ryan trade rumors, and signing Sheldon Souray to a three year deal, it's been a pretty steady stream of crap for us Ducks' faithful. Finally, some relief came when Teemu Selanne decided to give it one more year (again) but the next day news of the NHL's first offer to the Players' Association in CBA negotiations leaked. The never ending summer continues.
In an effort to kill time until hockey returns (whenever that might be) and to momentarily escape the present I'm beginning a summer project. Throughout the summer, I'll be combing through the archives of the NHL Vault on Game Center Live, watching classic games from Ducks history and blogging a sort of stream of consciousness as I watch.
The idea is an Anaheim centric spin off of Ellen Etchingham's Great Historical Games Project on The Score's Backhand Shelf blog, done in the style of John Buccigross' "live blogs" from a few years back (unfortunately I couldn't find a link to one of those, but you'll get the idea).
The NHL Vault contains 60 "Classic" Ducks games from their first victory in franchise history (today's offering) to Teemu's 600th goal in 2010 and every game played from the 2008 season to the present. There are still some glaring omissions, the game that clinched the franchise's first Stanley Cup for example, but the archive has clearly come a long way since its inception with zero Ducks games, and even tripling in size since Arthur wrote this post in 2010.
In writing about Teemu's return to Winnipeg and Paul Kariya's retirement over the past year, I've realized that my memory for the Mighty Ducks days isn't as vivid as I would have hoped. It's basically a child's memory of dressing up as Guy Hebert for Halloween, drawing pictures of Kariya, and sifting through packs hockey cards for Mighty Ducks. My hockey bar mitzvah didn't come until 2003.
I watched every second of the Mighty Ducks' run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final as a junior in high school and learned what it was like to be an obsessive fan, knowledgeable enough to appreciate the game and mature enough to deal with the emotional roller coaster - sort of. Hopefully in the process I'll be able to spark some old memories, soothe some painful ones, inform some faulty ones and/or create entirely new ones.
For each of these games I'll start by laying out any preconceived notions that I may have of the game. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of the inaugural season is a poster that still hangs on the wall of my former bedroom in my parents' house. It has a big Mighty Ducks logo, flanked by the entire roster, pictures of a few players - including Guy Hebert in bright red pads, for some reason - and the following "description" of the first ever game at The Pond:
At the pond in Anaheim California on Friday October 8th, 1993, the first duck call was heard, signaling the inaugural Duck Season.
Five days later the Mighty Ducks were 0-2 in franchise history and hosted the Edmonton Oilers. Other than that, all I know is what the game description tells me: The Ducks win their first game in franchise history. So here we go...
START I've come across my first challenge. There is no score board or clock on the screen. So I'll have to estimate the time remaining in the game by the commercial breaks, and listening closely to the announcers. Seconds in Joe Sacco is pulled down and the Ducks are on their first power play of the night.
~ 0:30 Luckily there are some graphics. The Ducks are 3 for 9 on the PP through their first two games and... OH MY GOD! Craig McTavish is on the ice without a helmet. I was expecting this, seeing as he was the last player in history to go bucket-less but it's still shocking to actually see it.
0:54 MIGHTY DUCKS GOAL (1-0 ANA): As all four Edmonton penalty killers were chasing the puck below the goal line the puck comes to Sean Hill at the point who fires it and Captain Troy Loney slips the rebound past Bill Ranford. Tinkerbell flies in to sprinkle the screen with pixie dust and show a replay. Hard to believe nobody took this team seriously.
1:18 After the faceoff, Todd Ewen of the Ducks squares off with Scott Pearson. Ewen's jersey came off surprisingly easily, showing off some old school shoulder pads and as he puts it back on he reveals that he is an alternate captain. Brian Hayward just got finished saying that the line that Ron Wilson (who looks incredibly young) put out was the Ducks' checking line so I'll withhold my judgment on the wisdom of giving a goon the A until I see him take an actual shift, even though he's labeled a "heavyweight" by Chris Madsen, the play-by-play announcer.
~ 5:00 Anatoli Semenov is robbed by Ranford in the crease. Semenov had all day with the puck right at the top of the crease and looked like he walked right around Ranford, but the Edmonton goaltender somehow made a Tim Thomas-esque save. Of course, it would probably be more accurate to call Thomas Ranford-esque, considering the chronology.
6:14 It's all Ducks. I don't think the Oilers have been able to complete three consecutive passes in the game yet. Terry Yake leads the Ducks on a rush and we find out he is on a two game scoring streak (1-1-2) so he's scored in every game in Mighty Ducks history. Coincidental minors are called behind the play Mighty Duck, Tim Sweeny for hooking and Todd Elik for a retaliatory slash, negating what could have been Edmonton's first offensive opportunity of the game. They show a replay of the Semenov chance (sans Tinkerbell) and we find out that while Ranford got a piece of it, the puck just wouldn't sit still for Semenov in the crease. Bad break, four-on-four coming up.
~ 7:00 Edmonton gets a little bit of offensive zone time four-on-four but no real chances, the most intriguing part about it is the camera angle from underneath the jumbotron at center ice. I've always wanted to see a camera angle like that. It seemed effective enough as long as they switch back to the normal center ice camera panning back and forth when the puck exits the zone. I wonder why no one uses that angle anymore.
8:02 Four-on-four really opens the game up as the teams trade chances. Future Duck, Doug Weight makes a beauty of a saucer pass on a 2-on-1 but Ducks goalie Ron Tugnutt cuts the angle off and makes his best save of the night, even if it would have looked ridiculous in today's game. Somehow the Oilers lead 5-4 in shots on goal.
~ 9:00 Even in 1993 Hazy calls Ranford a throwback for being a standup goalie. Close up of Stu Grimson, who also wears an A. This inaugural Ducks team valued truculence far more than I would have thought. No wonder Wilson was the coach.
10:55 The audio and video are out of sync by about 5 seconds, and it's driving me nuts. Without knowing the numbers of the players, or even the names, it's all I can do to figure out who is doing what. However, Hazy makes a comment that "this Doug Weight kid" is going to make the Oilers fans forget all about Essa Tikkanen. As if that wasn't enough of a reminder that 1993 was a VERY long time ago, a minute or two later they announce a contest to go on a road trip to San Jose where you enter to win by mailing a post card with your name on it.
14:45 The puck possession has evened out, but the Ducks still have the better quality chances, mostly coming from in close. The Oilers are forced to dump and chase and haven't produced much in the way of chances even now that they've had some spurts of offensive zone time.
~ 17:00 We go to a fourth TV timeout in the period. What the hell is going on?
18:12 MIGHTY DUCKS GOAL (2-0 ANA): Steven King, apparently in the lineup due to an injury, peels it off the left boards, splits the D and goes five-hole while being hauled down at the bottom of the circle. Even though the puck when right through Ranford, who dropped to his knees for what seems like the first time all game, it was a great individual effort by King.
~19:00 A Ducks point shot gets deflected over the glass and right into the crowd, which seems totally alien to me now. Going off topic a second, is there anyone else who would like to see Brendan Shanahan's R&D Camp test out what it would be like if pucks that went off the netting were considered still in play? It seems to me like it would produce fewer stoppages and more offensive zone time, leading to more fatigue on the defense and more scoring. Just a thought; back to the game.
19:31 MIGHTY DUCKS GOAL (3-0 ANA): Joe Sacco chops one right through Ranford's feet from the right faceoff dot. To paraphrase J. Walter Weatherman: That's why you don't play goal standing up anymore.
Direct quote from Madsen: "I tell you, Tinkerbell is getting quite a workout here in this opening period."
END First Period (3-0 ANA). Hazy calls it the best period in the Mighty Ducks' short history. In my opinion, it couldn't have been far from the worst in Edmonton history. Iffy goaltending, terrible passing and three Ducks across the blueline at all times made it a nightmare for the Oilers.
START Ranford is pulled in favor of Rookie, Fred Brathwaite to start the second period.
~2:00 Patrick Carnback lays the aforementioned bucket-less McTavish out at center ice. For the second time in the game Hazy is shocked that Carnback, a Swede, can throw the body around.
7:14 MIGHTY DUCK S GOAL (4-0 ANA): Edmonton has cleaned up their game a lot, and have controlled the puck for most of the second period but give up a three on two break. Yake fakes a shot and finds Bill Houlder trailing the play who chips it past Brathwaite.
8:26 Shayne Corson takes on three Ducks defenders and for some reason Semenov decides to hook him down to the ice. It may have been a bit of a dive by Corson, but it was a dumb reaching play by Semenov who had support.
8:54 OILERS GOAL (4-1 ANA): The Edmonton power play passes the puck around the Ducks' zone like nobody's business and Igor Kravchuk zips a wrister past Tugnutt, who just so happened to be about seven feet outside his crease to try and cut off the angle. Ranford may be a throwback to the standup style of goaltending even by 1993 standards, but Tugnutt isn't exactly a butterfly goalie either.
12:00 The Ducks respond to Edmonton's goal with some nice transitional play. I'm having a hard time putting my finger on the difference in the style of play from what we would see today, besides the goaltending of course. The game is definitely slower, but not because of any extreme clutching and grabbing. The players don't seem that much smaller, as one might think based on the constant debates over concussions nowadays, but the collisions do seem less violent.
It seems like instead of doing everything at break neck speed, everyone just has more time and takes more time to think about what they're doing with the puck. Not a long time, but just enough to notice a difference. I can only think that it's a combination of less intense conditioning compared to that of the well oiled machines we call hockey players today and the pre-lockout (2005) rules.
13:15 Ducks Penalty, Myles O'Connor goes off for holding the stick, which according to Hazy is a new rule - or at least a newly enforced rule - for the '93-'94 season.
11:15 The Ducks penalty kill is far more efficient this time, getting back to standing the Oilers up at the blueline and clearing the zone effectively without letting the PP set up for any extended length of time. Randy Ladouceur takes a high stick from Weight and has to get checked out by the trainer, but no penalty is called.
~15:00 I'm loving Carnback. Even though he has no points so far, he's a physical center playing a 200 foot game on the top line, building chemistry with Yake, the team's leading scorer. He'll finish the season with 12-11-23 and -8 in 73 games. Nothing flashy - besides those hits - just a good honest player.
~18:00 Two Line pass sighting. That could be one of the reasons for the game feeling a little slower. It isn't obvious because nobody is trying to bomb a 110 foot pass, but more short passes to work the puck up ice makes the game feel a little less frantic.
END Second Period (4-1 ANA) The Ducks played a much more defensive period, allowing Edmonton to carry the play, but at the blue line and in the zone they were just suffocated by the Ducks defense. Offensively it was all about counter attacking. This period from the Ducks reminded me a lot of today's Phoenix Coyotes; Smart, defensively sound play with a few dangerous rushes up ice at opportune moments.
1:35 Oilers Goal (4-2 ANA): The Ducks start the third very meekly; no Duck has had possession of the puck below the top of the circles in the Edmonton zone. A bad turnover by Bob Corkum as the Oilers cross the blue line catches the Ducks out of position and Vladimir Vujtek wrists one past Tugnutt.
~ 3:00 This period is much different from the previous two. The Mighty Ducks are so passive, backing up and giving the Oilers tons of time and space through the neutral zone. Where they were standing up like a brick wall at the blue line, now they are just allowing Edmonton to waltz right in. The Oilers still aren't getting second chances but the Ducks are just content to chip it out and wait for the next wave to come.
Garry Valk had one opportunity on a counter attack that could have been a two on one, but instead he took a Dan Sexton like slapper on the rush up the left side, it was on net though so it wasn't exactly like Big Sexy. Brathwaite was way out to cut off the angle. I assume that those kinds of shots went in occasionally in those days.
7:17 Alexei Kasatonov takes a major penalty and game misconduct for a nasty high stick on Corson. As Corson was chasing the puck behind the Ducks net Kasatonov reached out and essentially hooked him down by the face. Even though it was an obvious penalty it appears Referee Dan Marouelli was going to let it go until he saw Kasatonov react by looking back for the call, with a guilty look on his face according to the announcers.
~8:00 Semenov blocks a shot out of play on the penalty kill and a strange sight, the faceoff is just inside the blueline. The only time I see a draw take place away from a dot nowadays is in my beer league and even then it takes a while to realize what's going on. Semenov wins the faceoff forward, right out of the zone or as Madsen called it "spanks it the length of the ice." This seems to be some kind of signature. Suddenly "coast to coast, like buttered toast" doesn't seem so bad, even if it still makes less sense.
8:51 Oilers Goal (4-3 ANA): Edmonton gets the power play set up quickly after dumping the puck in and a pass right across the crease is chipped over and/or through Tugnutt's stacked pads by Zdeno Ciger.
Wilson takes a time out to calm the troops down before the remaining four minutes of major penalty kill.
9:20 Shorthanded three on two by the Ducks, Sweeney drops it back to Sean Hill who knocks Brathwaite over with a high, heavy one timer from the top of the circles. My boy, Carnback keeps the goalie honest with a nice center lane drive but can't get to the rebound and falls over Brathwaite.
13:31 The Ducks have killed off the rest of the major penalty by keeping the Oilers to the outside and letting Tugnutt see all the shots coming his way. Anaheim has their best offensive shift of the third period by forechecking for about 20-30 seconds and forcing Edmonton to ice the puck.
15:10 Weight is clearly the best Oiler on the ice. He's made some pretty passing plays, controlled the puck better than anyone else and has scored four goals in his first three games, but doesn't have a point to show for his effort tonight. Edmonton loads up their top line with Corson, Weight and Ciger for a late push to tie it up.
~17:00 Brathwaite is so desperate to keep the puck moving, he makes a glove save and skates it all the way to the faceoff dot before the whistle blows. On the next shift, he comes out to play what looked like an icing for a stretch pass to kick start the Oilers attack, to no avail.
~18:50 Edmonton pulls Brathwaite for the extra attacker. The crowd is really starting to get into it. The Ducks ice the puck with 51.4 to go despite Valk's claim to have touched the puck first.
19:09 The crowd is standing, clapping and stomping to the "We Will Rock You" beat. The drama builds for this defensive zone faceoff. You could cut the tension in the building with a knife. Edmonton has won four of the last five draws and Semenov comes in to take it against Weight.
19:16 Weight wins the draw to Dave Manson for a point shot through traffic, Tugnutt makes a huge save from his knees, stacks the pads to stop Jason Arnott (pronounced ARE-NET)on a glorious rebound chance and covers up. More tension between ensues, but it was a bang-bang play, no icing so relief comes quicker this time.
Semenov shows some serious balls, wins the faceoff forward right through Arnott's legs and out of the zone. Corkum hits the outsside of the empty net from just outside the blueline. Weight drifts one through traffic that's kicked across the goal mouth by Tugnutt. Sacco misses the net again from the neutral zone. The Oilers enter the zone one last time the puck is chipped out to center.
"IT'S HOCKEY HISTORY! IT'S HOCKEY HISTORY AT THE POND!" screams Madsen.
What. A. Finish.
FINAL (4-3 ANA): Madsen's drama building set up for the big faceoff and frantic call of the last 45 seconds makes up for the cheesiness throughout the rest of the game. It shouldn't have been that close, but it made for a dramatic end to an historical game for the new franchise.