Thursday, June 16, 2005

Mighty Ducks sale approved: Samueli's take control

For the first time in history, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim do not belong to Disney. The NHL's board of governors approved the sale of the team to Henry and Susan Samueli yesterday in an unanimous vote.

LA Times story on the sale

First of all, I will say that I am thrilled with this. The Samueli's are self-made billionaires that are from Southern California, they own the Pond and they have already expressed a commitment to keep the team in Anaheim. To have owners that answer to themselves and not stockholders is fantastic, and I am very excited about the future of this organization under the Samueli's leadership.

Secondly, I feel I must address the end of the Disney era. Disney is the sole reason that there even is a Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, and for that I will be forever thankful. Without them I would never have gotten to go to the Ducks playoff game against the Coyotes in 1997 with my dad, I would never have gotten to go crazy at a Stanley Cup Finals game with my wife and I would never have gotten to be the hockey fan that I am today. I became a Mighty Ducks fan the day the team was announced, but since that coincided with my move to Fresno for college, I did not get to follow the team on a day to day basis until 1997. By then, Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya were torching the league on a nightly basis while Guy Hebert stood tall in net. Again, for that I have Disney to thank.

However, not all of Disney's ownership was good. They turned the team into a punchline as soon as they named them after the movies. Now, I have never had a problem with the name, (Red Wings has never exactly been a great name and if they were an expansion team right now people would ridicule that name to no end), but I could see where other people viewed it as a joke. Then there are the things that Disney did early on, with Tinkerbell on the scoreboard after every Ducks goal, etc. Embarassing. They were trying to make it like a Disneyland attraction instead of making it like a hockey game. They stopped that stuff early on, but the damage was already done to a lot of fans.

Then there were the stockholders. These are people that, because they are one of millions of people who own stock in the company, feel they have a right to tell the company what to do. They pressured Disney to keep the budget low for the Mighty Ducks, which made the product suffer, which lowered attendance, which made them lower the payroll even more. Disney also refused to ever hire anyone with any real hockey background until they hired Bryan Murray to be their coach. Before that is was a series of people that had no experience at the NHL level - aka cheap labor. Murray coached the team well and then took over as GM and built a confernce champion in just one year. Amazing what having proven NHL people running things can do, eh Disney!

In the end, I am grateful to Disney for bringing NHL hockey to Anaheim and to Orange County. The Mighty Ducks have given me a great deal of joy over the years, and they are the reason for that, so thank you. But at the same time, it was time for a change and a fresh start. With the Samueli's owning the team now, and with Brian Burke on the verge of being named the GM, the future of the Mighty Ducks is very bright and I am as excited as I've ever been about the team. I really think the Mighty Ducks are going to become one of the elite teams in the NHL and I am thrilled to be a part of it.


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