Most of the discussion regarding Paul Kariya’s possible return to the team he once starred for focuses on two questions: 1) do the Anaheim Ducks want him back? and 2) does Paul Kariya even want to play hockey anymore?
But people outside the California area might not realize that there are some fresh wounds to heal between Kariya and Ducks fans. After all, Kariya has been booed during every Ducks game he’s appeared in since his messy divorce from the team after the 2003 season.
Matt Reitz of the great blog View From My Seats brings up the strong point that Kariya might not have deserved such treatment in the first place.
For 7 years, the former Ducks superstar has been booed every time he’s touched the puck inside The Ponda Center. Yes, the very same guy whose last home game saw him do this is booed every time he touches the puck in Orange County. To be honest, it was always something that struck me as confusing. I understand when Kariya’s getting booed at Staples Center-that much seems obvious. But in the city that he meant so much to the organization for 9 seasons, there has to be something deeper there.
The common misconception amongst booing fans at Honda Center is that he somehow screwed the Ducks after the 2003 season. He screwed the Ducks and chose to sign in Colorado with Selanne for far less and left the Ducks to hang out and dry. Would the Ducks really want to bring back that kind of guy to the organization? He’s greedy. He’s had no loyalty. That pretty much sums it up.
What that short story doesn’t tell is that it was the Ducks who chose not to offer Paul Kariya a qualifying offer, which made him a free-agent. When he was a free-agent, he took an offer with his friend to try and win a Cup. Don’t we usually applaud a player when he chooses the opportunity to win over money? What about when we see players around the league forgo extra money so they could play with one of their friends (like Saku Koivu)? Isn’t that something we usually praise as a guy who has his priorities in order? So when Paul Kariya does it, why does it make him different?
Reitz makes a great point about Kariya being booed unjustly (although it’s a little uneven to compare a hockey player taking a 30 percent pay-cut from $10 million to $7 million to someone being paid less money for an office job). Fans can be pretty fickle, although every once in a while they get things right; Los Angeles Kings fans were fairly reasonable for booing Rob Blake and Edmonton Oilers fans should never hesitate to boo Chris Pronger.
My guess is that very fickle nature could make it possible for Kariya to return to Anaheim, though. Sure, fans might be quicker to turn on him if he falters, but chances are the nostalgia machine will be in high gear if Kariya and his former running mate Teemu Selanne skate together again.