Ducks’ Coach Well Aware That He Faces a Mighty Job : Hockey: In his introduction, Ron Wilson shows sense of humor, something this expansion team will need.
A sense of humor might be one of the most crucial qualifications for the coach of an NHL expansion team that could lose 60 games in its first season. And Ron Wilson, introduced as the first coach of the Mighty Ducks at a news conference Wednesday, seems to have one.
“We’re going to be the butt of a lot of jokes, I imagine. I hope it won’t be for our performance on the ice,” said Wilson, 38, a Vancouver Canuck assistant who admits his first reaction to the nickname was, “How can they do this in the National Hockey League?”
Wilson appeared in an Anaheim Arena conference room wearing the same Donald Duck tie he wore to his first interview with General Manager Jack Ferreira and to the NHL entry draft Saturday in Quebec City. He swears he has owned it since Christmas.
“You probably think, ‘No way. He bought that tie last week,’ ” Wilson said. “I have about five of these Disney ties. At least I don’t have to change my wardrobe.”
Wilson, who agreed to a multiyear contract, was chosen to head the Walt Disney Co.-owned hockey team from a group of about seven candidates, including former King coach Mike Murphy and Coach Al Sims of the minor league Ft. Wayne Komets.
“He’s quick, he’s got a quick wit and he’s a bright guy,” Ferreira said. “He’s an upbeat person, and he’ll transfer that to the team. I didn’t want anyone who would dwell on the negative. We’re going to have enough negative.”
Ferreira said Wilson came highly recommended by Pat Quinn, the Vancouver president, general manager and coach, who at first refused Ferreira permission to speak to Wilson because Quinn considered him a candidate to coach the Canucks if he decides to step down later this summer.
Lou Lamoriello, New Jersey general manager, who coached Wilson at Providence College, and Brian Burke, Hartford general manager and co-captain with Wilson on the Friar hockey team, also recommended him.
“Brian Burke was just adamant that he was the guy for me to hire,” Ferreira said.
Lamoriello called Wilson an “honest, direct, sincere person,” and praised him for what he described as an intuitive feel for the game.
A former NHL defenseman who also played professionally in Switzerland, Wilson is the son of one former NHL coach and the nephew of another. His father, the late Larry Wilson, coached the Detroit Red Wings briefly during the 1970s. His uncle, John Wilson, was briefly the coach of the Kings during the 1969-70 season and also coached Detroit, Pittsburgh and Colorado.
With Vancouver, Wilson worked extensively with computer analysis of players--one of his idols is Oakland Athletic Manager Tony La Russa--and also created what he calls motivational videos for the team. By splicing together game film with clips of movies such as “Animal House” and war films, he made comic movies meant to stir the team.
Wilson promised a Duck team that will be aggressive, but that will eventually emphasize skill--especially with first-round draft pick Paul Kariya expected to join the team late next season or in the second year. Wilson was no fighter, compiling only 68 penalty minutes in seven NHL seasons. Even his two teen-age daughters make fun of him for talking to the goaltender instead of participating in fights.
“However I feel, what I do know is that fighting is part of the game,” Wilson said. “I feel in 10 years that fighting will be eliminated in the NHL. In the meantime, if fighting is part of the game, you’ve got to have people to go out there and stand up for their teammates.
“I’m not particularly in favor of fighting for fighting’s sake, but if a team is getting carried away, you have to have people to respond.
“Not a soul in our division or the league is going to touch Paul Kariya. We’ll get that taken care of right from the get-go.”