When you work for a sports team, you get used to players coming and going, constantly being reminded that it's a business after all and not to get too attached. But when the news came to us recently that the Ducks would be parting ways with Corey Perry, it hit just a little bit harder.
Perry started with the Ducks in 2005, the same year I did, and he and Ryan Getzlaf have been mainstays with the organization for all 14 years I've been here. Nobody has played more games in a Ducks uniform than Perry (988 in all), and nobody better represented the grit, determination and dignity of being a Duck than he has.
He was quiet, but not unfriendly. Shy, but not antisocial. He determinedly did his job each and every night, focused primarily on scoring goals, getting under opponents' skin and -- ultimately -- winning hockey games.
There are two players in the history of the sport who have won the Stanley Cup, Olympic gold medal, World Championship, World Junior Championship, Memorial Cup and World Cup. Scott Niedermayer is one. Corey Perry is the other.
Wednesday afternoon I wanted to look up some stats on Perry, and it was a strange feeling when I went to the team roster on the Ducks website and didn't see his name there. Bob Murray said it best when he called buying out Perry's contract, "One one of the toughest things I've done. The guy epitomized what we've been for the last 14 years."
He was the guy you hated unless he was on your team - even his teammates called him "Worm" - because he did things like this…
And probably a thousand other things we never saw. "You loved him as a teammate because he would do anything to win," former Ducks teammate Sean O'Donnell said in a story in the OC Register. "You didn't like him as an opponent because he was a pain in the butt."
I won't pretend that Corey and I were overly close, but he was always easy to work with and professional, like the time earlier this year when he was out with his knee injury and still did several takes of this, coming up with the same expression each time:
He had a practice before every home game where he would sit on the floor in the same spot in the hallway outside the Ducks locker room and do his stretches. I used to joke that he and I had a choreographed routine where every time I walked by while he stretched he would completely ignore me. Finally one time our PR guy said, "Maybe he tells other people that every time he stretches there, Brady completely ignores him."
And while he's gone, the memories of what he did here will always live on for me:
- There were the strange routines he would do before every game, tapping all the sides of the doorway before heading down the tunnel. He'd always make sure he was the last to leave the ice after warmups, usually flipping a puck the length of the ice toward the net 180 feet away.
- There was the hammered one-timer off an Ottawa turnover with three minutes left on June 6, 2007 that slammed the door on Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. It wasn't until that goal that we truly felt like winning the Cup was going to happen. A few minutes later, it was Perry and Getzlaf jumping on J.S. Giguere near the Anaheim net before getting mobbed by the rest of the guys.
Video: 2007: Anaheim Ducks capture first Cup for California
- There was the 50th goal of the 2010-11 season he scored in the final regular season game against the San Jose Sharks, a tap-in off a Teemu Selanne feed that he celebrated feverishly in the corner of the Honda Center rink as the cheers rained down. Oh, and it happened to complete a hat trick.
- There was that June night in Las Vegas, when they announced his name as the winner of the Hart Trophy and shocked so many of us who thought the so-called East Coast bias would keep him from winning. Even Perry said, "Wow, I didn't expect this" when he reached the stage before thanking his teammates and parents, getting a little emotional as he ended the speech abruptly.
- There was the game-winning goal in double overtime of Game 5 vs. Edmonton, the capper of the Comeback on Katella. Perry got loose in the slot and Getzlaf of course found him, as Perry showed incredible patience before slipping the puck by the skate of goalie Cam Talbot. More than the goal was the jubilant celebration afterwards, Perry throwing both arms in the air before getting piled on by his teammates. I'll never forget the feeling of being inside Honda Center that night, and Perry helped make that happen.
- There were the countless times he and Getzlaf connected on the ice, two linemates who looked like they were born to play together. And of course there was the Maverick and Goose high-five-low-five they did after every win as Perry was always the last to skate off the ice.
They did it one final time on the night of last April 5, following a 5-2 victory over the Kings that concluded a tough regular season for both the Ducks and Perry on a high note.
When I think back about Perry's time with this organization, I won't think of yesterday. I'll think of those memories. And no matter where he ends up next season and beyond, for us he'll always be a Duck.
Video: Our tribute to Corey Perry