Thank You Paul Kariya and more …

As predicted the Draft last week was less than exciting.  The Ducks traded down in the first round to get a bottom six type center at the number 30 slot and made some moves to end up with two extra picks that they didn’t have going in.  So we’ve got that going for us, which is nice, but again nothing like two no-brainer picks in the first round last year.  Still this week was another big one  in terms of summer Ducks news.  It all went down on Wednesday, whether we knew it or not. 

First was the news of Todd Marchant’s retirement and that he will stay with the club as Director of Player Development.  I’ve always appreciated Marchant’s game, he was a solid faceoff man, a great penalty killer and back checker and now that I think about it probably the one player who my game most resembles in the Adult League, but to be a fan of Todd Marchant is to be a fan of his character.  This is a guy who would do anything he could to help the team even if it was something as small as design T-Shirts while sitting out of the playoffs with an injury.

My best Todd Marchant memory has to be the 2007 Fedorin Cup charity hockey game at Anaheim Ice.  Having never been to Anaheim Ice before we were looking for a parking spot, but apparently we were in the player parking area because there was Todd Marchant setting up traffic cones around his SUV.  It was just one of those moments where you think, only in hockey would a player have to set up his own cones around his car. 

It was also shortly after the Ducks had signed Todd Bertuzzi.  Bert was playing in the game for the Canadian team while Marchant was on the Americn team, and a woman in the crowd, either pro-american or anti-Bertuzzi, kept cheering “Go Todd …. Marchant!”  From that day forward any time he did something cheer worthy Amy and I carry on that tradition.

Before I get to the big Ducks related news of the week there was also a Teemu update.  Yesterday Eric Stephens of the OC Register confirmed that Teemu had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Wednesday in Finland.  The OC Register report says that it may have been exploratory, I’ve also heard that it was to remove some loose cartilage (an apparently minor procedure) but anything having to do with Teemu’s knee is scary considering that’s what nearly ended his career around the time of the lockout.  The good news is that Teemu had some issue with this knee earlier in the season but it didn’t show much if at all so hopefully it’s not a big deal.  The procedure will delay his decision on whether or not to return to the NHL for an 18th season.

Sandwiched between those pieces of news was the announcement via Eric Duhatschek of The Globe & Mail that Paul Kariya will retire after having missed all of last season with post-concussion syndrome.  According to the story Kariya is symptom free but has been advised by doctors that the risk of further concussions is too great for him to play.  Kariya also had some strong comments to make about the NHL and its lack of action when it comes to concussions.  It’s a sad story for Ducks fans who were hoping for a Teemu/Paul reunion and a sad story for a player whose career and potential was cut short by injury, regardless of the fact that we’ve already known that for years.

Part of me was hoping that he would come back just to get the sour taste out of some of the fans’ mouths but I’m now that it’s official, I’m glad that he didn’t come back to the Ducks because it wouldn’t have been the same Paul Kariya.  It would have been interesting to see what he could do with Teemu and Saku at this stage, but it wouldn’t have been the same. 

402 goals and 989 points in 989 games makes him a marginal Hall of Famer in the Eric Lindros category of what could have been, and hopefully both of them get in some day, but he was and always will be a Ducks legend.  The face of the franchise, lending legitimacy to what most hockey fans saw as a laughing stock of corporate advertising.  I hope that one day we’ll be able to look up into the rafters of the Pond and see an eggplant and jade number nine. 

Anaheim Calling has three different Paul Kariya tribute posts up.  While reading those I tried to think of how t0 frame mine.  I was never as angry as most other Ducks fans at Kariya’s departure in the summer of 2003, though I did change my favorite player to Teemu when Paul held out in 1997.  But while reflecting on his career I realized that I don’t have as many vivid memories of Paul Kariya in his prime as I feel like I should.  The image of him lying on his back and lurching back into consciousness and the fog on his visor after being crushed by Scott Stevens in the ’03 Cup Final will haunt me forever, but apparently I was too young and/or too new to the game to fully appreciate what he did in those great years with Teemu by his side.

Last summer I remember flipping through the channels and stopping on the NHL Network to watch Classic Series:  1997 Western Conference Quarterfinals Anaheim vs. Phoenix and being shocked at how fast Paul Kariya was back then.  In his prime I remember being able to tell that he was on the ice just by his stride.  He could be wearing an all black, numberless/nameless jersey and a 10-year-old kid could tell “THAT’S PAUL KARIYA!” just by the way he skated.  After multiple concussions and years away from Anaheim that faded in my memory.  Now that those days have become hazy I have this faint feeling that I’ve missed out a little bit, if only I could have seen Paul Kariya in his prime, while I was in my prime as a fan.There’s no use in wishful thinking like that though. 

I was born in the perfect storm to become a Ducks fan:  Young en0ugh to enjoy the movies, living close enough to watch the games on TV and go to a few as a kid, and I had Paul Kariya to follow as I learned the game.  He was on the cover of the program of the first Mighty Ducks game I ever went to, I had his hockey cards, I had his posters on my wall, I still have a T-Shirt with his name and number on the back and I even remember drawing pictures of the guy.  To have an icon like that as a young child is something you can’t replace.  Much like BoC’s Earl Sleek and Jen from Anaheim Calling and every other Die Hard Ducks fan, Paul Kariya made me who I am today and I’ll never be able to thank him enough.  Now I have to stop writing before my misty eyes break out into full on sobs.

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