Earlier this afternoon Hall of Fame Los Angeles Times writer Helene Elliott dipped back in to the Times vault to share a pair of stories that ran in the December 11, 1992 edition reacting to the announcement of the Orange County hockey franchise that has become the Anaheim Ducks.
It's quite a snapshot to read both takes from Mike Penner and Mike Downey, with one throwing the inciting hot take bombs that seems to characterize the modern 'everything is an argument' media, and another with remarkably prescient sense about where the franchise would ultimately go. Both are well worth the read to go back and get a sense of just how far the NHL has come, as well as how the concerns about the league, as well as the Anaheim hockey market, have evolved over the years.
Some highlights from Penner's piping hot piece:
This Board of Governors, it has to get a grip. Bruce McNall and his rinking buddies have been over-the-top giddy ever since do-nothing President John Ziegler resigned and ESPN agreed to broadcast NHL games, live and in prime time, instead of the traditional way--3 a.m. tape-delay, right in between "Body By Jake" and "Celebrity Rodeo Billiards."
For newer hockey fans, yes, there was a time when ESPN both broadcasted and semi-seriously treated hockey.
Realistically, this is the only way it could have happened for Anaheim. For months, the city tried the existing-franchise route, only to be used by the Winnipeg Jets, the Hartford Whalers and the Minnesota North Stars to gain public favors and enticements to stay put. And even if an existing team had agreed to move, McNall, as owner of the nearby Kings, would first have to allow it.
Think McNall could get excited about sharing the Southern California hockey market with the North Stars, current leaders of the Norris Division, or the generally competitive Jets?
An expansion team is different. An expansion team will offer no threat to McNall's Kings for three, four, five years. The San Jose Sharks went 17-58-5 in their inaugural season. The Ottawa Senators have played 31 games so far. Three of them have been Ottawa Senator victories. Expansion was thought to be out of the question after the triple dip of '91 and '92, but McNall needs the money--his Kings have one of the league's heaviest payrolls, and his Toronto Argonauts have lost $7 million in two CFL seasons--and the NHL needs the money. McNall saw a quick $25 million to be made (his fee for waiving territorial rights) and the NHL saw many uses for the remaining $75 million Anaheim and Miami will have to dole out. So Thursday, they decided to expand away.
That's right, the Arizona Coyotes, Carolina Hurricanes, and Dallas Stars all could have come to Anaheim. Considering the modern politics of NHL expansion, which continue to play out with the likes of Las Vegas and Quebec City while other locales like Kansas City and Seattle occasionally pop in, one still occasionally hears the howls of "cheap money grab", but nowhere near as heavy-handed as this.
And then there was Eisner's suggestion of a team nickname: "The Mighty Ducks," a mighty plug for the Disney movie of the same name, about Emilio Estevez and a bunch of hapless pee-wee pucksters.
" 'The Mighty Ducks' has been unbelievably successful, almost a $50-million box office," Eisner said. "That," he joked, "was our market research."
Anaheim can't call its professional hockey team "The Mighty Ducks."
Oh, it can't?
Downey's piece is much more supportive:
If you can call a hockey team the Penguins, you can call a hockey team the Ducks.
What else would you call a Walt Disney hockey team? The Devils? The Flames?
No, you need a cute, cuddly name, like Penguins, or Bruins.
The California Ducks.
Granted this was still around the time of the California Angels, so it would make sense that the Anaheim hockey club would follow the naming convention of the era. Just took them ~15 years to get to an approximation of it.
Next, the new team must pick out a color scheme.
Why, orange, of course.
I like the image of a team on ice dressed in orange. The players are going to look like Dreamsicles.
These aren't exactly dreamsicles, but after 22 years, again, just about nose-on.
Orange County is every bit as deserving of a hockey team as the Big Apple. Orange County's fans have been true blue, giving their hearts, souls, lungs and dollars to a baseball team, the Angels, and a football team, the Rams, that very rarely give anything back.
What do you bet Orange County wins a championship in professional hockey before it does in baseball or football?