Saturday, January 28, 2006

Anaheim Faces Reality, Removes "Mighty" From Nickname

The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim have announced that the NHL team will officially alter its name to the Anaheim Ducks.  Ownership indicated that the change will be in effect for the start of next season.  The move was inevitable for a franchise that has seldom been mighty.



The franchise began play in 1993 under the ownership of the Walt Disney Company.  The Mighty Ducks nickname was taken from the 1992 Disney movie starring Emilio Estevez.  Then-Disney chairman Michael Eisner chose the name after deciding against the Pinocchios and the Cinderellas.  The nickname was considered by many critics to be the worst example of corporate synergy in sports history.  News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch nearly took this honor several years later before deciding not to rename the Dodgers the Los Angeles American Idols.



Since its inception, the team has rarely lived up to the “Mighty” label.  The Ducks have only reached the postseason three times in that span and would miss this year’s playoffs if the season ended today.  Particularly hurting the club is its 2-10 record in overtime games this year.  The Ducks appear to be more resistant to overtime than Homer Simpson at the Springfield Power Plant.



The exception to this sub-par play came during the spring of 2003, when the Mighty Ducks made an inspired run to the Stanley Cup finals.  Anaheim even swept the Detroit Red Wings, who have legitimately been mighty over the past decade.  Goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere was brilliant throughout the postseason, leading the Ducks to the brink of a title before falling to the New Jersey Devils in Game 7.  “Jiggy” received the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP, part of a trend of French-Canadians winning major individual sports trophies in 2003.  Dodgers closer Eric Gagne won the Cy Young Award, while the Heisman Trophy went to Oklahoma quarterback Jason Blanc, known to American fans as Jason White.



The Ducks’ mightiness was short-lived, however, as the team missed the playoffs in 2004.  Meanwhile, Disney was looking for a buyer.  Rumors that Donald Trump would purchase the franchise and rename it the Anaheim Donald Ducks proved unfounded.  Ultimately, Broadcom co-founder Henry Samueli and his wife Susan bought the team in 2005.  With the team’s connection to the film studio gone, a change from the Mighty Ducks was considered likely.



The organization conducted research with season ticket holders and evaluated various options.  Considering the team’s lackluster history, the Anaheim Sitting Ducks was a possibility.  Ownership opted for simplicity, settling on the Ducks.  Samueli refused to follow the lead of his baseball neighbors and go with the Los Angeles Ducks of Anaheim.



Now the team will have the same nickname as the University of Oregon.  However, it might be wise for Oregon to pick up the “Mighty” label dropped by Anaheim.  The football program fumed after missing out on the BCS despite a 10-1 regular season.  Being described as mighty could help the school gain more national respect in comparison with Ohio State and Notre Dame.  Alternatively, the program could call itself the USC Ducks of Eugene.



Barring a rally to the NHL playoffs, Anaheim’s last game as the Mighty Ducks will be versus the Calgary Flames on April 17.  Despite the significance of the occasion, do not expect the players to shed any tears.  Just a few teeth.