How Duckie! Anaheim Wins the Stanley Cup

6 06 2007

With 4 wins in 5 games, the Ducks win their first Stanley Cup.

Poor Senators.

Story & Photo Source – NY Times

The Anaheim Ducks got their Disney ending after all.

They were named 14 years ago for a children’s movie. Their uniform colors were eggplant and jade. They had more mascots than any team in the history of sports. An animated Tinkerbell danced on the scoreboard after goals, sprinkling imaginary pixie dust.

To many sports fans, they will always be the Mighty Ducks, owned by Disney. But, in fact, they were sold two years ago. Their name was simplified. Their uniforms were changed. Their mascots — most of them, at least — were dismissed.

The 2007 Anaheim Ducks were hardly a Disney production. They slugged their way to the Stanley Cup, ruling the National Hockey League with their fists. They led the league in penalties, fights and, in the end, knockouts.

Anaheim beat the Ottawa Senators in Game 5 on Wednesday night, 6-2, killing one of sports’ most tired jokes. The Ducks are no longer funny. They are scary.

“It’s kind of surreal right now,” said Randy Carlyle, the Anaheim coach, who might have been speaking for hockey fans everywhere. “Honest to God, it’s like: ‘It’s happening.’ ”

This is not just the first Stanley Cup in Anaheim history. It is also the first Stanley Cup ever won by a team on the West Coast. The N.H.L., which has long tried to make inroads in California, now has one success story.

In the closing seconds of the third period, orange confetti fell on fans wearing orange T-shirts and waving orange towels in Orange County. The crowd bellowed as if the Angels were winning the World Series across the street.

“Hockey has gained a lot of support in California,” Anaheim right wing Teemu Selanne said. “I think this will be a huge, huge boost.”

It was hard to determine which player was most overjoyed to hoist the Stanley Cup after the game, but there were three obvious candidates:

¶Goaltender Jean-Sébastien Giguère, who started this year’s playoffs on the bench, distraught because his son was born with a deformed right eye.

¶Defenseman Chris Pronger, who lost in the finals last season with the Edmonton Oilers and then asked for a trade.

¶Selanne, who had played 15 N.H.L. seasons without a championship, including eight seasons with the Ducks.

“We have to wait a long time for something unbelievable,” Selanne said. “It makes it more special. I’ve been dreaming for that moment so many times. Finally, it’s in my hands.”

The 2007 Stanley Cup prompted a lot of reminiscence about 1993. It was in 1993 that the Los Angeles Kings made it to the Stanley Cup finals and that the Anaheim Mighty Ducks were founded, sparking a hockey boom in Southern California.

It was also in 1993 that the Montreal Canadiens beat the Kings in the finals, the last time a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup title. In recent years, the Cup has traveled to untraditional destinations: Tampa Bay, Carolina, and now Anaheim.

The Sun Belt cities are still warming up to hockey, but they clearly appreciate the winning. For the past two months, the Honda Center has been among the loudest buildings in the N.H.L.

The roar reached a peak Wednesday night when Scott Niedermayer passed the Stanley Cup to his brother, Rob. Scott, an Anaheim defenseman, has won four Cups. Rob, a center, won his first.

“You can only dream of passing it to your brother,” said Scott, who was also awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs. “To be able to do that is definitely a highlight of my career.”

The decisive game was emblematic of the entire series, with Anaheim controlling the action from the opening face-off. The Ducks scored two goals in the first period, two more in the second and two more in the third.

Twice in the second period, Ottawa’s Daniel Alfredsson cut Anaheim’s lead to one goal. But both times the Ducks responded almost immediately, wiping out any of the momentum that Alfredsson tried to build.

Chris Phillips, an Ottawa defenseman, was partly to blame. In the first period, Phillips let a goal bounce off his skate. And in the second, when Phillips tried to take a puck from behind his own goal, he wound up putting it in the net.

For most of this year’s playoffs, Ottawa was practically flawless. The Senators lost only three games through the first three rounds. But Ottawa looked unnerved in Anaheim and made a series of uncharacteristic mistakes.

“We had some guys that didn’t play to what they were in the playoffs,” Ottawa Coach Brian Murray said. “I think that’s the most disappointing. And that’s what we and they have to live with through the summer.”

Anaheim, meanwhile, is planning a celebration with its fans Saturday. It will not need a party at Disneyland with a lot of furry characters.

This season, the hockey was enough.



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