When the smoke had finally cleared from the Mighty Ducks' last game of the season--and their last pyrotechnics display--the Ducks finished with one of the best first-year records in NHL history.
The Florida Panthers will set the record for most points by a first-year team. But the Ducks set the record for victories by an expansion team with 33, and the Panthers can do no better than tie it in their final game tonight.
The Ducks lost their finale to the Vancouver Canucks, 2-1, in front of 17,174 Wednesday at The Pond of Anaheim that saw fireworks over the ice before the game and in the parking lot afterward.
The team they feted finished with a 33-46-5 record.
Before this season, the expansion record of 31 victories was held by the 1967-68 Kings and Philadelphia Flyers, who played a 74-game season in an all-expansion division.
"If you work hard, you can reap benefits and dividends. That's what we did," Coach Ron Wilson said. "We convinced our players at the beginning of training camp that if we worked hard and played as a team, we'd have success."
As the last game of the first season ended, many of the Canucks skated over to shake the hand of Wilson, a Canuck assistant last season.
Before the season, Wilson thought winning 17 or 18 games sounded like a reasonable outcome. General Manager Jack Ferreira and President Tony Tavares dared to dream of 25.
They didn't dare to think of finishing ahead of the Kings. But the players were bold enough to wear playoff-inspired "Skate for Eight" T-shirts--and they ended up staying in the race until San Jose eliminated them on April 1.
"There were a lot of great moments, a lot of firsts," goalie Guy Hebert said. "I think we were pretty successful. We achieved a lot, but we didn't achieve our main goal of the playoffs. . . . (But) I think everybody has a sense of pride, from Mr. Ferreira on down."
Among the Ducks' other achievements:
--They set an NHL record for road victories by an expansion team with 19.
--They finished with 71 points.
--They swept season series against the New York Rangers, Winnipeg Jets, Philadelphia Flyers and Hartford Whalers.
--They shut out the Toronto Maple Leafs, the New York Islanders and the Canucks.
--They had 15 players reach career scoring highs.
That isn't to say there weren't disappointments.
--An 0-6 record against San Jose that all but killed their playoff chances.
--A 2-10 record against the other four recent expansion teams.
--Twenty one-goal losses.
The Ducks' finale was scoreless until 11:05 of the second period, when Pavel Bure of the Canucks scored his 60th goal.
A little more than a minute later, Tim Hunter made the score 2-0.
The Ducks made the third period close when defenseman David Williams scored off a pass from Terry Yake at 5:16. The assist made Yake the team's leading scorer, giving him 52 points, one more than injured Bob Corkum.
The team marked its 25th consecutive sellout and the 27th of the season by raising season-ticket prices on many seats for 1994-95. There is no change in the least expensive seats ($13) or the most expensive ($75 and $125). But others will go up from $1 to $12.50 each.
The Mighty Ducks established a record for victories by an expansion team in its first season. The all-time leaders:
Team Year Pts Mighty Ducks 1993-94 33 Florida* 1993-94 32 Kings 1967-68 31 Philadelphia 1967-68 31 Edmonton 1979-80 28 St. Louis 1967-68 27 Minnesota 1967-68 27 Hartford 1979-80 27 Pittsburgh 1967-68 27
*--Florida has one game remaining.