MIGHTY DUCKS NOTEBOOK : Boo Birds Fail to Ruffle Feathers in Exhibition

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Mighty Ducks experienced another first at the San Diego Sports Arena on Saturday.

They got booed.

"They're Gulls fans. We're the enemy," Duck Coach Ron Wilson said after a laid-back 5-1 exhibition victory over a San Diego Gulls team that has been practicing only five days.

The exhibition--really more of a scrimmage between the Ducks and their minor league affiliate--drew a crowd of 10,508. They cheered anything in a Gull uniform, including Duck left wing Trevor Halverson. He switched uniforms to even the sides and scored the Gulls' only goal.

Joe Sacco scored two goals for the Ducks, but the only player in a Duck uniform to get much of a reception was defenseman Bill Houlder, who played for the Gulls last season and was the International Hockey League's best defenseman.

"I think we had a good team last year, and personally, my year went well or I wouldn't be here right now," said Houlder, who had 24 goals and 72 points for the Gulls, who reached the Turner Cup finals. Only about seven players from that team are Gulls this season.

Houlder had a short-handed goal and an assist against his former teammates, lifting a loose puck into the net from the slot on a delayed penalty.

"That was just to rub it in," Houlder said. "They were giving me (a hard time), saying I was sitting in the goal crease and I'm supposed to be a defenseman."

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Among the players who didn't make the trip were most of the Ducks' big forwards--Todd Ewen, Stu Grimson, Jim Thomson and Troy Loney.

"We didn't bring in the heavyweights," Wilson said. "They play one way--bang and crash. That wouldn't be fair to San Diego. And we don't want to wear our guys out. It's going to be a long season."

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It was a long night for goaltender Allan Bester, who played for the Gulls and faced 50 shots.

"It wasn't too bad," Bester said. "It was tough on them--a lot of those guys haven't been on the ice very long."

Mikhail Shtalenkov was in goal for the Ducks.

"I thought both goalies played well," Wilson said. "Allan faced a lot of rubber there for a while."

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Ken Wilson, vice president for sales and marketing, is no longer with the Ducks.

"Basically, we've separated," said Tony Tavares, club president. "The bottom line was it was just a decision we kind of knew had to be made--both of us."

Though Wilson's departure leaves the marketing-intense Ducks without a department head only weeks before the start of the season, Tavares downplayed the effect of Wilson's departure, saying it would not hurt the organization's efforts dramatically.

"Not a ton at this point," Tavares said. "We've got good staff depth. People are stepping up and performing well."

Bob Wagner, a former Angel marketing executive who is the Ducks' marketing manager, has been handling some of Wilson's duties.

An attempt to reach Wilson was unsuccessful.

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