Disney on Ice met the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, and the Penguins felt it.
In the head. On the face. Across the shoulders. In the back.
Introducing . . . the Mighty Physical Ducks.
A friendly crowd of 16,673 looking for a team to love thronged to the Mighty Ducks’ first exhibition game at Anaheim Arena to see how the Walt Disney Co. does hockey.
Let’s just say the Ducks upset a few teacups.
Midway through the third period of Pittsburgh’s 5-2 victory, these were the key numbers for the Ducks: Fights 3, Goals 0.
With the crowd chirping on duck calls and crying out every time a Duck shot was stopped, defenseman Bobby Dollas went to the net after a Patrik Carnback shot was turned away and stuffed in the rebound at 11:31 of the third.
Ducks score, crowd goes wild.
“It was like we won the Stanley Cup,” club President Tony Tavares said.
Dollas pumped his fist, his teammates mobbed him, and the crowd kept cheering.
“You could kind of tell it was coming. They were really humming, wanting us to score,” said Terry Yake, who had the Ducks’ other goal. “They cheered every time we had a chance. Any time we stepped over the blue line, they got on their feet. I’m glad we scored and sent some of them home at least partially happy. We scored, but we didn’t win. It’s a great crowd. If we get that kind of support all year, we will definitely have a home-ice advantage.”
Duck management still has to work out some kinks before the season-opener Oct. 8 against Detroit. Vendors sold out of programs long before the game ended, as fans clamored after a first-exhibition souvenir. It was no wonder: Team officials had only 2,000 printed, and Tavares said that number should have been at least doubled.
“We just blew it,” he said.
Disney has a solution: Fans who didn’t even go to the game can buy first-exhibition-game programs at the team store at the arena starting Monday.
Other problems included a shaky spotlight operator who botched the introductions when the spotlight kept landing on the Penguin players as the Ducks were being introduced. Adding to the insult, the Penguin starters were never introduced.
The scoreboard video was also spotty.
“That silent movie? It wasn’t supposed to be silent,” Tavares said.
The biggest potential problem--a parking lot that has only about 4,000 stalls for an arena that seats 17,174 for hockey--didn’t turn into a snarl because of an early-arriving crowd and shuttles from other lots.
Fans wary of an oppressive Disney presence needn’t have worried. The only signs of who owns the team--besides the Mighty Duck name--were a scoreboard ad for Disneyland, extremely well-trained ushers, and the sight of Disney Chairman Michael Eisner sitting in a crowded luxury suite.
There will be more apparent Disney influence at the regular-season opener, where officials are promising “a real Disneyland send-off.” Intermissions are also likely to be Disneyfied, and animated scoreboard videos are in the works. But Tavares promises rock music, not the best of “Aladdin” and “Beauty and the Beast.”
Todd Ewen, Robin Bawa and Stu Grimson all fought their first fights as Ducks, and served notice that the team with the silly name has a tough side, too.
“With any club, up until they drop the puck, you read in the paper, what this guy has to say, what that guy says,” Ewen said. “But when they drop the puck, it’s six against six and you have to beat your guy. It doesn’t matter if you’re wearing a chicken suit.”
Center Martin Straka had a hat trick for Pittsburgh. . . . A fan, Kimberly Stover of Garden Grove, was struck in the mouth by a puck and will probably lose a front tooth. She was sitting about 13 rows from the ice. . . . Right wing Robin Bawa required four stitches for a cut on his lip. Center Bob Corkum did not play because of tendinitis in his right knee. Defenseman Alexei Kasatanov did not play because of illness. . . . Troy Loney served as captain, assisted by Stu Grimson and Todd Ewen. Coach Ron Wilson will name the Ducks’ first captain about a week before the season-opener.