Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Anaheim Ducks: A Mighty Paradox

For the first 13 years of its mostly forgettable existence, Orange County’s National Hockey League franchise was known as the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. In June, the team formally simplified its name to the Anaheim Ducks. So far this season, the Ducks have dominated the NHL, with just three regulation losses in their first 34 games. The development has brought up an interesting paradox. Once they stopped being called Mighty, the Ducks actually became mighty.

The Ducks continued their stellar play Wednesday night with a 2-1 road victory over the Atlanta Thrashers. Star forward Teemu Seelane scored both goals, and goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere won his ninth straight start. Anaheim’s 12-1-2 away record is the best after 15 games in NHL history. The 1951-52 Detroit Red Wings had set the previous mark – after changing their name from the Potent Red Wings.

This excellence was rarely seen when the team was known as the Mighty Ducks. The franchise only made the post-season 4 times in 13 seasons with that name, highlighted by a 2003 run to the Stanley Cup finals led by Giguere. The nickname was so misleading, the Anaheim broadcasters reportedly used quote signs whenever saying the word “Mighty.” The name, of course, came from a 1992 movie from Disney, which owned the team until 2005. No professional sports franchise has ever been successful when named after an Emilio Estevez film. The NBA still has nightmares over the disastrous Cincinnati Breakfast Clubs.

With Disney no longer in the picture, management determined that the “Mighty” part of the name was no longer necessary. Like the University of Oregon, Anaheim was happy to just be the Ducks. The revision also helped the team’s public image. Not only did “Mighty Ducks” bring snickers from sports fans, but it was also a reminder of the AFLAC duck’s notorious steroids scandal.

Good things happened almost immediately after the name change, as star defenseman Chris Pronger was acquired from the Edmonton Oilers less than two weeks later. The spirit of change also extended to the team’s home arena, as the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim was renamed the Honda Center. Surprisingly, the switch had nothing to do with corporate sponsors. It was made because most actual ducks like to drive Civics.

After observing Anaheim’s great play on the ice, others are considering dropping “Mighty” from their names. Producers of one 1998 box office disappointment feel that they can earn big bucks by re-releasing it as simply Joe Young. Also, Mira Sorvino is confident that changing Mighty Aphrodite to just Aphrodite could elevate her Oscar-winning performance from Best Supporting Actress to Best Actress. The rights to any lost “Mighty” names will reportedly be assumed by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, who plan to reunite as the Mighty Mighty Mighty Mighty Mighty Mighty Mighty Mighty Bosstones.

The Ducks look to continue their hot streak this Saturday against the Sharks in San Jose. By demonstrating their mightiness after dropping “Mighty” from their name, the Ducks have shown that actions speak louder than words. Or if you prefer, slapshots speak louder than quacks.