By Adam Brady
It doesn’t quite compare to the unforgettable goals – Kariya vs. New Jersey in ’03 or Niedermayer and Selanne vs. Detroit in ’07 – but it remains one of the more iconic moments in Ducks franchise history.
This May 1 marks the nine-year anniversary of Francois Beauchemin’s fight with Calgary’s Jarome Iginla in Game 6 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals at what was then known as the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim. The personnel has drastically changed – no Flames from that 2005-06 team (including Iginla) still remain – and the Ducks aren’t called “Mighty” anymore. But with Anaheim facing Calgary again in the playoffs, the memories of that bout have been rekindled.
As fights go, it’s probably the most important one in the 21 years of Ducks hockey, since it undoubtedly shifted the momentum of a series in which the seventh-seeded Ducks eventually vanquished the Flames in seven games. Anaheim went on to sweep Colorado in the next round but were downed by Edmonton in the Western Conference Final, thanks to an otherworldly performance by Oilers goalie Dwayne Rolson, (who just happens to now be Anaheim’s goaltending consultant).
|“It was my first year, and not many guys knew I was lefthanded,” Beauchemin recalls. “You could catch guys by surprise with that, and I did that time.” |
That playoff run gave a Ducks team with plenty of impact youngsters the postseason playoff experience that paid off the very next season. “For a lot of us, it was our first time in that playoff atmosphere,” Beauchemin says, “and we were really excited about it.”
With much the same roster – bolstered by the addition of impact defenseman Chris Pronger – the Ducks went on a 16-5 blitz in the 2007 postseason that culminated with the franchise’s (and California’s) first Stanley Cup.
Nine years later, as the Ducks find themselves in the middle of another hopeful Cup run, Beauchemin reflected on that fight, admitting he has never really put into perspective the impact it had on the franchise.
“Not really, but looking back at it, it gave us that experience,” says the now 34-year-old who is in his 10th NHL season. “I think there were five or six guys who were in their first year. We had that three rounds of experience that carried over to the following year, where we had a lot of confidence going into it. We added Prongs and had four great lines, six good Ds. Jiggy [goalie J.S. Giguere] was out there making all the great saves. That was just a great team.”
But who knows if that team would have had the requisite playoff know-how if it hadn’t been for a fight that ignited the Ducks early in that Game 6, with the Ducks trailing Calgary 3-2 in the series.
The combatants: The 25-year-old Beauchemin, who had come to the Ducks in a trade with Columbus in November of that season, vs. the 28-year-old Iginla, a Calgary icon who was in the ninth season of an eventual 16-year run in Calgary.
Just over a minute into the game, Beauchemin laid a hard shoulder-to-shoulder check on Iginla in front of the Anaheim bench, a hit Iginla objected to immediately. The two pushed and shoved before simultaneously shedding their gloves and squaring off, Beauchemin pointing at his helmet to get Iginla to take off his. Though neither player had a reputation as a fighter, and fights in the playoffs are rare, they were both ready to rumble.
“We were down 3-2 in the series,” Beauchemin recalls, “and I had nothing to lose.”
Beauchemin, a southpaw, appeared to start the fight with a righthander’s stance, then quickly shifted before landing a hard left to Iginla’s head. Iginla scrambled to his feet before Beauchemin threw a flurry of lefts, landing half of them before wrestling Iginla to the ice by the neck.
“It was my first year, and not many guys knew I was lefthanded,” Beauchemin recalls. “You could catch guys by surprise with that, and I did that time.”
As the two skated to their respective penalty boxes, a deafening roar rose from the capacity crowd, an energy that carried through well afterward.
|“It was a great moment. Anytime you can take their best player off the ice for five minutes, it’s always a good thing for your club. The way the fight went, it was just a good momentum change for our team.” |
“I remember that,” Beauchemin says. “It was a great moment. Anytime you can take their best player off the ice for five minutes, it’s always a good thing for your club. He was their captain, their leader, their best player, so it was good for our team at that time. The way the fight went, it was just a good momentum change for our team.”
Undoubtedly spurred by Beauchemin and the reaction of the crowd, the Ducks got goals from Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer and limited Calgary to just 22 shots in an emotional 2-1 victory. Two days later, in a raucous Pengrowth Saddledome in Calgary, Ducks goalie Ilya Bryzgalov saved all 22 shots he faced in a 3-0 series-clinching Anaheim victory.
Much has changed in the nine years since that series and that fight. Iginla has since played for three other teams the past three seasons. For the Ducks, just Beauchemin, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are still on the roster, though Beauchemin spent two seasons in Toronto before returning to Anaheim in 2011. The Arrowhead Pond is now called Honda Center, and Pengrowth Saddledome is now Scotiabank Saddledome. The Mighty Ducks are now just the Ducks, with the former egglplant and jade uniforms replaced by those of black, gold and orange.
What definitely hasn’t changed is the unbridled intensity this playoff matchup will once again elicit in both cities. Here in Anaheim, Ducks fans are hoping to rekindle the magic of those ’06 and ’07 runs. In Calgary, a frenzied red-clad fan base will continue to spur a team that hasn't advanced to the second round since a run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2004, a series the Flames ultimately lost in seven games vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Beauchemin, who still recalls how loud Game 7 was in that building those nine years ago, says he expects the same thing this time around and an atmosphere similar to what the Ducks just saw in Winnipeg.
“Obviously a lot of our guys looked at [Calgary’s] last game against Vancouver, and it’s going to be pretty similar to Winnipeg,” Beauchemin says. “Except instead of the white, they’re gonna be in the red jerseys.
“It’s great fans, great atmosphere, a great building to play in. But so is ours. We’re looking forward to it.”