I remember, in a distant way, watching the Mighty Ducks get pounded by the Detroit Red Wings 7-2 on October 8, 1993. I had the privilege of being there. I started playing hockey myself earlier that year, shortly after moving to Orange County, and the Ducks, whatever their iteration at the time, have been a consistent part of my life ever since.
It was a strange time to become aware of hockey in Southern California. My new next door neighbors were naturally fans of the Los Angeles Kings and my honest to god first ever exposure to the sport was watching Wayne Gretzky and Company parade through the playoffs in 1993 (a tragedy almost good enough for the Greeks, really). A first foray into roller hockey followed that summer, and then along with the new crispness of fall came the Mighty Ducks inaugural season and that was that. Having a new, exciting, team playing the sport I was in the middle of falling in love with ten minutes from our front door was almost beyond the pale; I was in.
My level of commitment and interest waxed and waned and changed form throughout the following years; through a hockey life that made the typical progression of street, roller, ice, through college, a variety of early careers (everyone did the bartender, English teacher, insurance salesman thing, right?) and now as a contributing member of Anaheim Calling, but it never really dissipated. The Ducks are one of the only things in my life the ten year old version of me would recognize, and even if they resembled the assorted dumpster fire franchises like Columbus or Buffalo that would be reason enough to support them, though I'm wildly grateful that isn't the case.
One of the most vivid memories of those early Ducks teams for me is the incessant, ubiquitous toughness that was on display in those first lean years of the franchise. Epic battles between Stu Grimson and Bob Probert come to mind, and those were just a few of many. I can't help but look at this through the prism of Shawn Thornton, the one time Duck, who was recently suspended fifteen games for his overt attack on Brooks Orpik of the Penguins.
Sidestepping the recent quagmire surrounding fighting and its place in the new NHL, the incident and recent others like it throw those old and salty Mighty Ducks teams into sharp relief; this is a new era for the sport, and one that it seems Anaheim has been quickly able to adapt to.After the shedding of Brad Staubitz there really isn't a bonafide knuckle-dragger in sight, and it's refreshing that we get to watch a real team full of large and tough men who can actually all skate; signs and wonders of our times, really. It makes me excited.
Anyway, my name is M.W., and I look forward to offering coverage and thoughts on these Ducks and the new NHL, as well as opening conversations and engaging with you all. It should be fun. Thanks for having me.