I’m a Flyers fan above all else, but I can say this with full confidence: if it weren’t for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim – two players on their team more specifically – I wouldn’t be nearly as big of a hockey fan as I am now.
On Monday night, Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, and both spots were well-deserved in the eyes of myself and many others.
Their careers had more than their fair share of ups and downs, but by the time it was all said and done, they had the numbers, accomplishments, and one hell of an impact on the hockey world to put together their case for the Hall of Fame.
As a duo, they moved the puck up the ice like it was nothing, which created a star in Kariya and further solidified the star status of Selanne once he came over from Winnipeg, all while helping to make this weird expansion team that Disney named after one of its movies relevant.
Then they moved on.
Selanne was traded to San Jose in 2001 and Kariya, after leading the Ducks on a Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2003, left for Colorado. It was there that he reunited with Selanne to join an already stacked Avalanche team on paper (in practice, the injury bug bit them hard).
The Finnish Flash returned to Anaheim after the 2004-05 lockout, where he rebounded from knee problems and finally won a Stanley Cup in 2007. Kariya found himself in Nashville for two very productive seasons, followed by St. Louis, where concussions eventually forced him to hang up his skates.
There will always be talking points about how things could’ve gone differently (especially in Kariya’s case), but the NHL was left different from the way Kariya and Selanne found it once their careers came to a close. On a more personal note, they played a huge part in creating a lifelong hockey fan when a four-year old kid from Philadelphia saw them play on TV for the first time.
My introduction to the Ducks (I’m sure like many other people in their 20’s and 30’s), and hockey itself, started with the Disney movie. Seeing Kariya and Selanne lead the real-life Ducks as a kid, however, is what got me to beg my parents to put me on skates, and quickly led to me watching the Flyers to get a constant hockey fix.
I have fond memories of watching guys like John LeClair, Eric Lindros, and Mark Recchi (who was also inducted into the Hall on Monday), like most Flyers fans do. But at the same time, there are also memories of my family keeping track of the national TV schedule and being sure to get Flyers tickets when Anaheim was in town, just so I could see the Ducks’ top duo play.
Because of Kariya and Selanne, I was the weird kid that showed up to school in a Mighty Ducks Starter jacket while everyone else had local teams. Picking teams back in the old NHL games was never a problem, because I was always happy to jump right to Anaheim while my friends were quick to call dibs on the Flyers.
I play hockey, I watch hockey, I coach hockey… Hell, I’m here on this site right now writing and talking about hockey. All of that can be traced back to the younger version of me wanting to see Kariya and Selanne play whenever he could.
Every hockey fan has that one moment that sold them on the sport. For me, it was seeing these two guys make the whole thing seem effortless.
Although they will likely never see this, for that I say: Thank you.