PHT Time Machine: The Mighty Ducks and the most insane pregame intro ever


Throughout the season we will be taking an occasional look back at some significant moments in NHL history. This is the PHT Time Machine. Today we look back at the first game of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and their insane entrance into the NHL.

This season the Anaheim Ducks are celebrating their 25th anniversary, with their home opener on Monday night (a 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings — the team they played in their first game) coming exactly 25 years to the day of their debut.

And what a trip that first ever game was.

Over at the Athletic this week (subscription required)  Lisa Dillman, Eric Stephens and Joshua Cooper compiled an oral history on the birth of the Ducks franchise.

Among all of the stories was a video of that first game and the on-ice ceremony that preceded it.

We need to talk about this ceremony a little more because even the Vegas Golden Knights, present day champions of the over-the-top pre-game show, would have looked at this and said “hey folks … let’s tone this down a few notches.”

The Background

The Ducks’ entrance to the NHL was part of the NHL’s expansion boom in the early 1990s that saw the league go from 21 teams to 26 between 1991 and 1994, with San Jose, Tampa Bay, Ottawa, Florida, and Anaheim itself all entering the league. This era set the stage for yet another expansion surge a decade later when Atlanta, Nashville, Columbus, and Minnesota all entered the league.

The Ducks and Panthers were the two teams that entered the league for the start of the 1993-94 season.

What made the Ducks such a unique story is that they were basically a massive hollywood creation masquerading as a hockey team. At least at first. They were originally owned by the Walt Disney Corporation, were set to play their games in the shadows of Disneyland, and were named (originally called the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim) after the hit 1992 Disney movie, The Mighty Ducks.

When all of those storylines met for the team’s first game, things got weird. Really weird.

The Introduction

First, the video. It is 14 minutes long and while I would highly recommend watching every second of it, do not worry if you are short on time at the moment because we are going to analyze the key moments for you.

0:15 -1:30: The whole thing begins with Lumière, the anthropomorphic talking candlestick from Beauty and the Beast, welcoming hockey fans to the Pond for “a new era of sports entertainment.”

He was not kidding, man.

From there, a Disney on Ice show breaks out with a cover version of the song “Be Our Guest” that includes the lyrics:

“Be our guest, be our guest, yes Ducks season has come (inaudible), tie a bird call ’round your neck my friends and we’ll provide the rest.”

And then later…

“Make it loud, stomp your feet, Mighty Ducks we can’t be beat.
Catch the spirit it’s outrageous tell a friend that it’s contagious.
We can skate, we can score, you keep coming back for more cuz the hockey here is never second best.”

1:24-4:09: From there, “The Decoys” get introduced to a more rock version of “Be Our Guest.” And what were The Decoys? They appear to be the introduction to the regrettable and exploitive “ice girls” era in the NHL.

They perform an elaborate choreographed ice for nearly three full minutes before the real star of the show arrives.

4:10-6:54: The arena goes dark.

Some sort of futuristic zamboni-type machine makes its way on the ice. Eerie, ominous music begins to be pumped in. The narrator speaks: “From the depths of the pond … the mighty ice man cometh.”

A silver-painted, guitar-wielding, vocal-chord shredding maniac climbs to the top of the car and attempts to hype up the crowd while Gary Glitter’s Rock And Roll Part 2 blasts throughout the arena.

(As a quick aside: After seeing this I am now one million percent convinced that the IceMan was the inspiration for Charlie Kelly’s “Nightman Cometh” in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Tell me I’m wrong.)

The IceMan, for what it worth, was a spectacular failure and did not even make it through the first game, as delightfully noted by The Detroit Free Press:

There is not, at least based on my searches of the Internet, any video or audio of his rendition of Twist and Shout.

The OC Register profiled the man behind The IceMan back in 2014 when the team celebrated its 20th anniversary.

Anyway, back to this high-priced production…

6:55-9:04: After two minutes of this, it is time to meet the Mighty Ducks’ mascot (no, the IceMan was not the mascot).

It is then that Wild Wing descends from the rafters.

Upon reaching the ice, Wild Wing goes into a two minute ice-dance to the tune of some Ducks themed arena rock song while the scoreboard implores fans to “Rock the Pond.”

Meanwhile, the IceMan makes his return to attempt to hype up the crowd one more time in advance of the formal introductions of the roster, led by goalies Ron Tugnutt and Guy Hebert.

9:04-11:40: The rest of the roster is introduced.

11:41-12:40: There are approximately 240 people skating around the ice, while Wild Wing takes his position on top of a podium at center and plays air guitar with a goalie stick that suddenly begins shooting flames into the air.

(This would be Wild Wing’s most successful attempt to play with fire, having later in his existence tripped and fell into a ring of fire while attempting to jump through it).

The Aftermath

The Ducks went on to lose that season opening game to the Detroit Red Wings by a 7-2 margin, but were we are 25 years later and the team (now just known as the Anaheim Ducks — the whole Mighty Ducks of Anaheim thing was scrapped following the 2005-06 season) is still going strong.

They were reasonably successful in year one (by expansion team standards), winning 33 games and then making the playoffs for the first time in their fourth year of existence. In the two decades since they have been a consistent playoff team, played in two Stanley Cup Finals, and won the whole thing during the 2006-07 season.

Previous PHT Time Machines:
 Remembering the Jaromir Jagr Trade Nobody Won
• When the Blues skipped the NHL draft

 Expansion teams build Montreal dynasty
 The 1991 Dispersal Draft and Birth of the San Jose Sharks
The Eric Lindros Trade That Did Not Happen

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.

Lightning donate $2 million to Hurricane Ian relief efforts

tampa bay lightning
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TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.

The NHL team announced that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.

“This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”

Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.

Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

Rasmus Sandin
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TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

“Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.

Back with Wild, Fleury welcomes big workload as clear No. 1

marc-andre fleury
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ST. PAUL, Minn. — With his ever-present smile, tireless approach and long list of accomplishments in the net, Marc-Andre Fleury has always embraced a heavy workload.

The Minnesota Wild sure haven’t shied away from leaning hard on their new – and 37-year-old – goalie. After arriving in a deadline-day trade in March and re-signing with the Wild in July, the guy everyone calls “Flower” is still fully abloom as he begins his 19th season in the NHL.

“They say, `You play,’ I play, unless maybe I’m hurt or something,” Fleury said. “But other than that, I like playing.”

Wild general manager Bill Guerin initially planned to bring back both Fleury and Cam Talbot, who made the All-Star team and went 13-0-3 in his last 16 regular season starts before being benched in favor of Fleury for the first-round playoff series against St. Louis. The Wild lost in six games, after Talbot got the cold start in the elimination game and gave up four goals on 26 shots.

Guerin changed his mind, though, after signing Fleury to a two-year, $7 million contract. Realizing Talbot’s frustration from the lack of postseason action, he didn’t want to risk any tension or discontent. Talbot was traded to Ottawa for Filip Gustavsson, who will be the No. 2 goalie while top prospect Jesper Wallstedt gets more development in the AHL.

Gustavsson has only 23 career regular-season starts, nearly 200 fewer than Talbot, so it’s a good bet that Fleury will get the majority of the games.

“I was ready to share the load with him, but things didn’t work out and happy to be having the chance to play maybe a bit more. It’s fun to play. It’s more fun than sitting on the bench,” said Fleury, who went 28-23-5 in 56 combined starts for Chicago and Minnesota last season with a 2.90 goals against average and a .908 save percentage.

The Wild reconvened for training camp last week, beginning their quest to recapture the mojo they enjoyed last season while setting franchise records for points (113), wins (53) and goals (305). The only team that finished ahead of them in the Western Conference was Colorado, which went on to win the Stanley Cup, but they never met the Avs in the playoffs because the Blues got to them first.

There’s a strong chemistry in place, at least, to build upon.

“We still have a lot of guys here who were here last year. We’re just trying to make it even better, just trying to listen to everybody,” center Joel Eriksson Ek said. “We want to set a standard and a way for how hard this team’s going to work.”

The Wild start the regular season by hosting the New York Rangers on Oct. 13.


The most significant roster move of the summer amongst the skaters was the inevitable salary-cap-driven trade of second-leading scorer Kevin Fiala to Los Angeles. Fiala had a career-high 33 goals and 52 assists last season. Guerin otherwise dabbled mostly in two-way contracts in free agency for depth. Former Anaheim center Sam Steel signed with Minnesota last month, one day after defenseman Dimitry Kulikov was dealt to the Ducks.


The Wild were done in during the playoffs by abysmal special teams. They went just 4 for 24 on the power play against the Blues, and head coach Dean Evason had the team working on that on the first day on the ice. The penalty kill that lagged last season was a focus of the second practice.

“It has to get better, no question,” Evason said.


Captain Jared Spurgeon has been placed with Jonas Brodin on the first pair on defense, and Jake Middleton has joined Matt Dumba on the second unit. Dumba and Brodin are close friends who’ve been paired together for several seasons.

“Dumbs is a shooter too,” said Middleton, who re-signed for three years and $7.35 million. “It’s pretty exciting. I can get some cookies passing him the puck. That’d be a big plus. I think it’ll work well. He loves hitting guys too. He plays a gritty game as well so I think we’ll be a good combo.”


With Jordan Greenway recovering from offseason surgeries, Tyson Jost will get the first chance to skate with Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno. The departure of Fiala has opened at least one spot for a rookie to make the team, with 2020 first-round draft pick Marco Rossi in line for it.


This is the first time in eight years the Wild will play their regular-season opener at home. After three more games at Xcel Energy Center, they don’t hit the road until a five-game trip that starts Oct. 22 at Boston. The Wild have a season-long nine-game homestand from Feb. 9-21.