Great Moments in Game Operations: Anaheim Edition
It's hard to entertain over 15,000 people for 41 nights a year, but someone has to do it. Today, we have a look at the ninth most popular professional sports team in Southern California: The Ducks.
In 1993, the NHL continued being all aggressive and stuff about expansion. They decided to grow very quickly, and to take advantage of the star power of the league with players like Gretzky and Lemieux. Disney scored a major hit with the Mighty Ducks movies, and felt it wise to buy a real hockey team and place them in a real suburb of Los Angeles, a town already with a hockey team. Against all odds, this team was pretty good and grew up to be a successful NHL club not long after their inception.
But their opening night was legendary. They made some mistakes that very few teams can recover from.
Welcome to the new Arrowhead Pond. It's a gorgeous new building right off the freeway, and not the basketball arena the Kings have been playing in for decades.
I'm pretty sure the Ducks still use this organ music, actually.
We have our first glimpse of hockey in Orange County! Look!
"What? Did you come here for hockey? It's 1993 and we have VHS tapes to sell."
It's no mistake that the Ducks management chose the character with the most outrageous FRAUNCH ACKASENT to welcome people to hockey.
"...a New Era in Sports Entertainment." The Ducks were using that phrase well before the WWE was. At least Vince was able to get in and stake the claim to the "comical nutshot during an athletic contest" well before Corey Perry did.
Then we have a performance of "Be Our Guest". According to Wikipedia, this show cost over $450,000. After adjusting for inflation, that's is very nearly the equivalent of Jason LaBarbera's contract for 2014-15. Both of them will stink on ice.
This lighting is better than Bridgestone Arena's is currently. This was 20 years ago.
Some teams never had ice girls/dancers. The Ducks did from day 1, in addition to having French maids on the ice on day 1.
They changed the lyrics of the song to fit hockey. Take that, Tim McGraw.
"Because hockey here is never second best..." said the dancers skating next to a person in a live-action candle costume.
Again, figure skating is here. We have to remember this was the golden age of skating, with Winter Olympics happening in 1992 and 1994. Role models like Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan made this sport uber popular. Lucky us.
Then Lumière drops a bombshell on us. The maids ARE the ice girls (The Decoys!)
No joke, the maid gear is tossed off and the music changes. The music sounds like a B-side of a Warrant single that never got released.
These guys are just dancing in the dark.
This goes on for a while. And to think, Gretzky and Robitaille are playing across town in Inglewood.
Maybe Anaheim was just trolling us all. "Honey, I'm glad we brought the kids. The Kings games are never this famiWHAT THE HELL??!?!?!"
We're 2:30 in. This is our third music change. Now it sounds like some new age game show music.
Remember when black light stuff was all really cool? Back before investigative reporters started using them?
Still going strong. The guys are in full length eggplant and teal unitards and helmets. The future of hockey is here, folks.
Some folks wrote a 4 minute version of "Be Our Guest" and changed the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth verses to relate to hockey and added in a lengthy saxophone solo. #FamilyEntertainment
Again, this lighting is leaps and bounds better than what Nashville has. People here lost it when they broke out a laser show worthy of the Lewis County Fair.
Has Judge Dredd been deployed to settle the crowd down?
WAIT.... is that a dustbuster?
OR is it a minivan?
Either way, it sucks. *audience laughs*
Are those guards? Who's inside? The announcer sounds like even he's scared. "The mighty iceman cometh." Ok. I'm intrigued.
WHAT? THEY LET HIM HAVE A VAN?!?
What a terrible idea. We just spent what felt like an hour catering to kids.
WOW. I really thought this was Gary Glitter. It's not. That calms me down a little. But this is almost worse; it's a man pretending to be Gary Glitter.
Hey, don't get mad at me. They're playing "Rock n' Roll Part II" on their Casio keyboard, it's a much less powerful version than the one San Jose plays.
He nearly falls over at the 5:15 mark. Things might've been easier for him if he did. He still hasn't gotten a pop from the crowd at all.
"You guys know this song, don't you?"
A thirty-something year old guy impersonating a known pedophile while said pedophile's biggest hit is played on a synthesizer and the performer is standing atop some fake futuristic Ford Windstar. Really.
Iceman now asks us if we're ready to meet the mascot. Glad he could be a buffer for us. I'm really worried now. Up to this point, we've seen a living candlestick, maids that turned out to be ice girls, dudes in eggplant colored unitards, and this guy. I'm not only worried about the mascot, I'm terrified at who they may put together as a team.
Dude is now asking the crowd to break out their duck calls. BECAUSE PEOPLE IN ORANGE COUNTY ALL HAVE THEIR WATERFOWL STAMPS AM I RIGHT?
Oh, a guy who looks like the logo. That's not terrible. A duck that can't fly is by far the least offensive thing we've seen here.
No, I don't know why his jersey has a logo on the back either. If you're going to be asking those kinds of questions about this ceremony, you wouldn't have made it out of the second minute.
Did ol' Iceman get in the 2046 Paddywagon and leave?
Now the Ducks just do what every other 90s expansion team did; make a new "team song" and parade the mascot out. The Preds one is terrible... so bad it only got played right after a period ended.
He's still here? Wow.
This guy was so bad the PA announcer cuts him off to announce player #1....
...Ron Tugnutt! Also introduced that night are future Predators Stu Grimson and Bill Houlder.
As an epilogue, the Ducks opening night lineup cost a grand total of $7.9 million, but still finished ahead of the Kings. Nevertheless, the Red Wings won on opening night 7-2. The Decoys were eventually rebranded as the Power Players. After this game, Iceman was never seen or heard from again until this article.