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Anaheim Mighty Ducks

Anaheim Mighty Ducks

The Anaheim Mighty Ducks first tasted success not on National Hockey League ice, but on Hollywood's silver screen. Disney's "The Mighty Ducks" preceded the NHL team and became an instant success. It starred Emilio Estevez and was a story about a down and out hockey team that turned things around. It grossed over $50 million and led to the release of two follow-up Mighty Duck movies.

The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim played their first NHL game in the 1993-94 season. In the summer of that year, the Ducks drafted goaltender Guy Hebert as the first ever Duck in the expansion draft. In that same year's junior entry draft, the Mighty Ducks selected Paul Kariya as their first ever draft pick. Kariya played his (NCAA) college hockey at Maine and won the Hobey Baker award as a freshman. Though small in stature, Paul Kariya was considered one of the more skilled prospects and he did not disappoint in the NHL, going on to become the Ducks' francise player in their first decade of existence.

Their innaugural season saw them accumulate 71 points in the regular season, though fall short of a playoff birth. Guided by coach Ron Wilson they combined journey men players, with up and coming prospects and solid goaltending to stay competitive in that first year. The 19 road victories they notched in their first year was an NHL record for expansion teams. Their second season was cut short by the NHL lockout, but the Ducks were still very competitive, almost making the playoffs. Paul Kariya, Oleg Tverdovsky, and Guy Hebert formed the core of the team that year. By the next year, it was quite clear that the Mighty Ducks were a very promising team, with excellent fan support and solid ownership. They further solidified their position on the ice by trading for superstar winger Teemu Selanne. Though Tverdovsky was sent to the Winnipeg Jets as part of the deal, Kariya and Selanne would combine to form a potent scoring threat for years to come. The 1995-96 NHL season saw the Ducks improve their record with 78 points, though they once again missed the playoffs.

The Ducks continued to show progress in the following year. By now coach Ron Wilson had found his top notch offensive line, putting together the trio of Teemu Selanne, Paul Kariya, and Steve Rucchin as the club's first line. They combined for a total of 275 points in that regular season and the team finished with a 36-33-13 record, which also saw Anaheim taste playoff action for the first time. They defeated the Phoenix Coyotes in a hard fought six game series. In the second round they met the vaunted Detroit Red Wings; where three of the four games went to overtime, with Detroit winning them all. The Red Wings went on to win the Stanley Cup championship that year, but the experience was invaluable for the young Mighty Ducks team.

After tasting playoff success, the Ducks went back to a more mediocre level of play. After an ugly spat between coach Ron Wilson and the front office, there were wholesale changes and the team was taken over by Pierre Page. Also on the ropes were contract negotiations with budding superstar Paul Kariya, who eventually did not sign until the season started. The Ducks woes were not quite done yet, with Kariya sustaining a serious concussion from an illegal hit by Chicago Blackhawk defenseman Gary Suter. Kariya did not recover that season from the very serious concussion and the post concussion syndrome that followed. The Ducks would continue to underperform without their young franchise player.

The Mighty Ducks did not manage to do anything exciting for the next couple of years. Selanne was dealt to the San Jose Sharks and the Ducks started retooling for a more defensive system that would lead to success under coach Mike Babcock. They emerged as one of the biggest surprises in the 2002-03 season. After a good regular season they stormed through the playoffs, losing only two games in the first three rounds. They handed the defending Stanley Cup champion Red Wings a four game sweep in the first round, and went on to defeat the Dallas Stars in a six game series in round two. The Western conference final saw them face the young Minnesota Wild team. In their second sweep of the playoffs the they made quick work of the Wild and advanced to their first ever Stanley Cup final. The Mighty Ducks were part of a hard fought Stanley Cup final, losing to the New Jersey Devils in seven games. Their goaltender Jean-Sebastian Giguere was the big story, winning the Conn Smythe trophy as the most valuable player in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The following season saw the Ducks go in the opposite direction, missing the playoffs. As the game came back from the lockout, Brian Burke was tapped to manage the team. He signed Scott Niedermayer and the team was back in the Stanley Cup hunt, finishing third in the Pacific division with 98 points. They also made a good impression in the playoffs, losing to the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference finals. They also made one of the bigger off-season splashes by trading for Chris Pronger from the Edmonton Oilers for Joffrey Lupul, Ladislav Smid and two first round picks.

Anaheim Mighty Ducks Overview:
Team name: Mighty Ducks of Anaheim
Founded: 1992
Arena: Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim
Stanley Cups won: 0

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