Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Hockey Orphan: Anaheim Ducks (Sleek's take)

Hello, friend.

Apparently you’re a person with no franchise affiliation, looking to make a lifelong investment in an NHL team. I’m here to give you seven good reasons why you should choose the Anaheim Ducks. To make things easier to remember, I’m going to list them out in dual-alphabetical order – AA to GG. Why? To prove to my mother that my Masters Degree in Alliteration wasn’t just a dumb dream.

Seven reasons you’ll want to be a Ducks fan:

Alphabetical Advantage – That’s right. List out 30 NHL cities and who comes out first every time. Anaheim. And I don’t care if the NHL expands to Las Vegas, Kansas City, Hamilton, Stockholm, or Tokyo, Anaheim’s not going to lose that edge. That means first position in dropdown menus, first page in the team-by-team previews, and first in various spreadsheets sorted by city name. Let the losers waste time scrolling to find their teams and debating which should come first, San Jose or St. Louis. Note to NHL: Please don’t expand to Albuquerque.

Brian Burke – Seriously, is there a more entertaining personality in hockey today? He’s a loud-mouthed lawyer who loves his headlines, and is certainly passionate about his hockey. He’s not afraid to speak his mind, and not afraid to lock horns. Whether or not you admire the guy, he’s going to keep things interesting in the front office, that’s for sure. He makes brash statements and gutsy trades, and he’s gotten stellar results in Anaheim, at least.

Cheesy Cartoons – You can draw a duck, right? Well, even if you don’t think you can, you probably have a better shot at drawing a duck than drawing a thrasher, or a ranger, or a canuck, or an oiler, or a red wing. While there’s certainly a lot of tradition in hockey team names, very few of them can actually be cartooned very well. Try drawing a capital, or a flyer, or a blue, or a wild. It’s tough! With Anaheim, it’s very easy to convey a range of ideas through duck-themed cartoons. Even if you can’t draw a duck yourself, there’s at least plenty of source material to steal from.

Dangerous Division – Since the lockout, the Ducks have been in a three-way Pacific battle with the Dallas Stars and the San Jose Sharks. These teams probably represent three of the best five or six in the league over that span. It makes for some fantastic regular season hockey, as all three teams try to outpace each other, often head-to-head, for the Pacific Crown. The Phoenix Coyotes are fast improving, too, and even though L.A. is in the basement, the Kings don’t slouch when playing against the Ducks.

Excessive Elbows –The Ducks are not afraid to bend the law, that’s for sure. Whether it’s elbows, foot-stomps, speeding tickets, back-dating stock options, or taking a drunk swing at a rent-a-cop, chances are there’s a Duck who’s done it. The Ducks are like Mos Eisley Spaceport – a wretched hive of scum and villainry. Look, I know we’re all human and we all make mistakes, but rooting for the Ducks? Your mistakes might not look so bad.

Friggin’ Fights – Yup, that’s one of the beauties of rooting for a team from a non-traditional market – the Ducks use fighting as almost a marketing tool, because even if SoCal fans can’t always appreciate the artistic angle of the dump-n-chase, everybody appreciates a punch to the face. Anaheim has a long list of fighters throughout their history, and even if they weren’t always winners, they were always heroes. In some regions, fighting is in decline, which is a shame. Fighting will always be a part of Anaheim hockey, though – Ducks fans love their sideshows.

Guessing Games – There’s never a dull offseason when you’re a Ducks fan, especially when retirement’s on the line. With other teams, the summer can be a long and empty one, with maybe a bit of interest around July 1st but then general dreariness the rest of the offseason. With the Ducks, it’s always a soap opera. One summer guys can retire, and replacements can be brought in. The next summer, the same guys can unretire, and replacements can be shipped out. It’s a never-ending cycle-drama, and the summer of 2009 promises even more fun: half the team (and the GM) will be free agents! I can’t wait – I’ll be glued to my TV set this summer with a bowl full of popcorn while other hockey fans spend their time yawning and waiting for their calendars to turn to October.

So there you have it—sounds pretty cool, right? Regrettably, though, I haven’t been fully honest with you; there are some drawbacks to being a Ducks fan also. In full fairness I’ve decided to disclose them.

Seven drawbacks to being a Ducks fan:

Alphabetical Advantage – It’s not always good to come first in the alphabet. Right now I’m typing in the wee hours of the morning because some publisher-dude wants to run Anaheim’s segment first. Ever considered a team in Albuquerque, Bettman?

Brian Burke – I have spent a lot of man-hours defending this guy from his billion haters on the internet. Burke rubs a lot of people the wrong way, and they’re not shy to mention that in a blog’s comments section. There will definitely be times when you’ll wish that the Ducks GM were a little less Penn and a little more Teller, that’s for sure.

Cheesy Cartoons – Ah yes, traditionalists. It’s been more than a decade since Anaheim entered the league, but there is still a vocal segment of hockey fans who still cannot get over the Disney logo infiltrating their proud Original Six traditions. They’ll hate Anaheim, its players, its fans, its management, and its weather, all because of the insolence of one cartoony duck-goalie mask. Of course, by now the traditionalists have mostly won—now the team sports a text-only jersey design—but a lot of the hate still lingers.

Dangerous Division – Just one year, I want to play in a shitty division, just to see what it’s like. The cut-throat Pacific Division is a pain in the ass sometimes with all its goddamn on-ice excellence.

Excessive Elbows – Oh yeah, and you think I’ve spent a lot of ink defending Burke’s mouth? Try Pronger’s skate. Or his right elbow. Or his left. If you have any tendency towards moral guilt, Anaheim might not be the team for you. The Ducks’ list of crimes is so impressive that even rooting for the team might even be considered a form of abetting.

Friggin’ Fights – After a while, the thrill of nightly fights does fade, and you might start noticing things about Anaheim’s fighters – notably their general weaknesses in actually playing hockey. Yes, I understand why the Ducks cling to the tradition of enforcers, but there are certainly days when I wish the Ducks would move past that outdated mold. Unfortunately, with the punch-happy fanbase in Anaheim, that sort of change is very unlikely.

Guessing Games – Drama, drama, drama. Can’t the Ducks just have a tidy, boring offseason one of these years? You know, no retirements, no salary cap issues, and generally very little reason for Burke to be a loudmouth to the press? That would be nice.

So there you have it. Seven upsides and seven downsides to being a Ducks fan. It’s not a path for everybody, I’ll grant you, but it can prove rewarding. For instance, I’d never be a blogger if I were an Oilers fan—there’s about 100 quality Oilers blogs on the internet that would discourage my participation. As a Ducks fan, however, my competition is real slim – I just have to type better than Pronger.

Go Ducks.


Kirsten said...

You want a tough division to win? Try the northwest.

jamestobrien said...

The NW is tough, but I think the Pacific is a bit tougher.

Granted, in the NW there really isn't a soft team like Los Angeles. At the same rate, there isn't a team in the NW that I'd say is a Stanley Cup favorite - the Pacific has 3/4 of the West's best teams.

The NW vs. Pacific is a quality versus quantity discussion IMO.

That being said, I'd rather be in the Central division any day of the week (even if it's basically a battle for second behind Detroit).

Kirsten said...

This is true. Beating up on three of my other divisionmates would really not be such a bad life. Who knows, maybe Detroit will implode or something. *fingers crossed*

Now that the Oilers got better, things just got more interesting. I'm thinking we could see 4 NW division teams in the playoffs.

The Pacific is tough to be sure, but I'm just waiting to see Dallas follow up on last year, and Phoenix acually do something. I say the division crown will be a two team race this season between the Sharks and Ducks.

Earl Sleek said...

Yeah, there's not many easy nights in the Northwest, that's for sure -- as James said, though, the top teams in the Pacific are in the conversation for top teams in the league.

It's cool, though. I imagine if the Ducks were in the Central Division I'd like it for one year and then get bored silly by year two. One thing about tough competition: it at least keeps you interested.