|The opening faceoff from the first game. |
On this date twenty years ago -- October 8, 1993 -- the Mighty Ducks played their first NHL game, against the Detroit Red Wings at what was then called the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim.
The Ducks lost the game, 7-2, but more important than the result that night was the birth of a franchise that would go on to reach great heights. Now in their 20th season, the Anaheim Ducks have made nine playoff appearances, including capturing California's first Stanley Cup title in 2007. What was once the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim is now simply now called the Anaheim Ducks, who now call their home arena Honda Center. The original eggplant and jade uniforms with the cartoonish duck-billed goalie mask has given way to black and gold uniforms with an orange trim, a nod to the team's foundation in Orange County.
Much has changed, but it all started on that fateful first night in front of a energetic and eager sellout crowd of 17,200.
Photos from the first game
Scoresheet from the game
A list of Ducks "Firsts"
Terry Yake played in that first game and a few games later at Madison Square Garden would record the first hat trick in Ducks history. He said that first night at the Pond was, "nothing short of electric."
"We came here and the expectation was that most people didn't know anything about hockey," recalls Yake, who makes his home in St. Louis now. "And yet they filled the building for us. For a group of misfits, as we called ourselves, to come here and have a whole town fall in love with us was really awesome.
"It was nothing short of electric. The atmosphere was a true production. I remember walking out of the tunnel that night and it was an amazing show."
Guy Hebert, who officially became the first Mighty Ducks player when he was taken in the June 1993 NHL expansion draft, vividly recalls that first day.
"I remember as I drove into the parking lot, it looked like a Saturday college football game," remembers Hebert, now 46 and living in Newport Beach. "It was just mobbed with tailgaters, and I had never seen that in the world of hockey. I pulled up to the parking booth and tried to explain to the lady that I was actually a player and was playing in the game. I told her, ‘I’m a player with the Mighty Ducks. I’m in the game tonight.’ She said, ‘I’m sorry it’s $8 to park.’ I said, ‘I’m with the team.’ It didn’t work and I had to pay the eight bucks to get into the parking lot.
"I think we got outshot in that game pretty handily. I joke with a buddy of mine, Steve King, that he was really the first guy to score on me in Anaheim. There was a shot from the point that he tried to knock down and he ended up deflecting it over my shoulder for that first goal. I’ve never let him live that down."
Humble beginnings have given way to a proud Ducks legacy, 20 years (and counting) in the making.