Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Ducks Beginnings: Paul Kariya

Paul who? Although Anaheim Ducks great Teemu Selanne has been voted the best player in the team’s franchise history, many do not know that Selanne would not be where he was today without the help of the second-highest scoring Mighty Ducks forward, Paul Kariya.

The first player drafted into the Ducks franchise history as the fourth overall pick in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, Kariya went on to spend nine seasons with the club, leading the team to its first ever Stanley Cup Finals appearance just ten years into the franchise’s existence. With the Mighty Ducks, Kariya notched 669 points, and alongside Selanne, formed one of the most formidable one-two punches the game has ever seen.

One of the most memorable moments of Kariya’s time in a Mighty Ducks sweater was the hit he suffered against New Jersey Devils defenseman Scott Stevens in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals, in which Kariya miraculously came back from losing consciousness, and scored a goal to help the Mighty Ducks win to force a Game 7. The Mighty Ducks would lose the series, but the run they had as a seven-seed put the team on the hockey world’s radar for years to come.

After the team’s cinderella-like playoff run, the Mighty Ducks had been forced to let Paul Kariya go to free agency due to a lack of cap space to afford one of the most sought-after superstars of the game. The 2003-2004 season was a letdown year for the Mighty Ducks, who failed to qualify for the playoffs.

Although the Ducks’ parting from Kariya was difficult for fans and lovers of the game, the team’s limited salary cap (around $40 million at the time) could not afford Kariya at a hefty price, $10 million. What would anger Ducks fans the most, however was the fact that Kariya, who had not been resigned by the Ducks due to his expensive contract, would go on to play for the Colorado Avalanche at only $1.2 million.

Thus, the tradition of the booing of Paul Kariya had continued, and many young Ducks fans at the time, including myself, had believed that Paul Kariya was a sinner that did not deserve the respect of Ducks fans (which may or may not be true, depending on which Ducks fan you talk to).

Years after Kariya’s playing days, Ducks fans should be thankful for and appreciate Kariya as a person and as a player. Thanks to Kariya, the Mighty Ducks team had been exposed to increasing media attention, and for arguably the first time in the club’s existence, players had wanted to play for the Ducks. Add on top of all these factors an increase in popularity of the sport, and you have yourself the gradual birth of a hockey hotbed for Southern California, one which has seen the rise of players such as Nic Kerdiles and Emerson Etem, amongst others. Kariya’s indelible mark on the (Mighty) Ducks will be one that is certainly worthy of a jersey-retirement discussion.

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Tags: Anaheim Ducks NHL Paul Kariya Teemu Selanne

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