The Mighty Ducks take the ice for the start of their first training camp this morning at Anaheim Arena, only six months after the NHL expansion team announced it would play this season.
But first, the players had to spend Thursday filling out forms and undergoing an elaborate battery of fitness tests and medical exams that included X-rays and a trip to the dentist.
“Like Russian cosmonauts,” said defenseman Alexei Kasatonov, who played 12 seasons for the Central Red Army team before joining the New Jersey Devils for the last four.
The Ducks, preparing for a Sept. 18 exhibition opener against Pittsburgh at Anaheim Arena and the regular-season opener Oct. 8 at home against Detroit, have 45 players in camp, only 19 of whom spent much of last season in the NHL. They’ll be trying to avoid the dismal 10-victory example of the Ottawa Senators last season and the eight-victory record of the 1974-75 Washington Capitals.
“So far, we look great, we’re undefeated,” said Coach Ron Wilson, a former Vancouver assistant.
With only one 20-goal scorer on the roster--former Hartford center Terry Yake--General Manager Jack Ferreira has a philosophy of making up for a shortage of skilled players with an abundance of big ones. There are 17 players taller than six feet and weighing more than 200 pounds, including 6-5, 227-pound Stu Grimson, a former Chicago Blackhawk enforcer who has joked that he prefers the nickname “Muscular Waterfowl” to Mighty Ducks.
“Physically, we’re as big as any team in the league, but our skill level is deficient compared to the other teams,” Wilson said. “We’ll try to level the playing field with size and hard work.”
The only player who did not report was Russian winger Valeri Karpov, a third-round selection in the entry draft who was expected to contribute this season but has not agreed to contract terms.
Many practice sessions are open to the public at no charge, including today from 8 a.m.-1 p.m and Saturday from 8-2:30.