MIGHTY DUCKS : Wilson Shoots for Togetherness in Camp
Friday afternoon’s musical selection in the Mighty Ducks’ dressing room couldn’t have been more appropriate, and trainer Blynn DeNiro emerged singing the most precious words of The Byrds’ “Turn, Turn, Turn.”
There is a season.
For the NHL’s winners and losers--whoever they ultimately prove to be--this is a time to rejoice.
“It’s not all financial,” Ducks Coach Ron Wilson said after putting his team through its first official practice since Sept. 29. “I was getting paid, but I was angry because I had nothing to do. This is what you live for. It’s what I live for.”
The team is holding a mountaintop mini-camp near Lake Arrowhead partly out of necessity. The Ducks have been forced out of The Pond of Anaheim by an ice show. But Wilson said he liked the idea of getting the players away for a five-day camp of two-a-day practices and more than a little bonding.
The team that last season banned the E-word--Expansion--has now banned the L-word--Lockout. Those who transgress will be fined. The team also is planning a bowling outing. It is a time to heal.
“This will help purge them of all possible bitterness,” Wilson said. “It’s going to be there. This is a great way to get rid of it.”
The two-hour practice left the players gassed, even though many had been skating informally for much of the 103-day lockout.
“It cleaned out the pipes, that’s for sure,” right wing Todd Ewen said, but he left the rink with a sense of comfort. “The coaches were watching very carefully to see how we were reacting, they didn’t want to push us so hard we’d pull a groin or strain a muscle. The most important thing was to enjoy being on the ice, as opposed to being penalized for what we’ve been through. If you go up and down for three hours, you feel penalized.
“The emotions of the players have been for their families and their welfare, and then elation. But if they make us go down and back, down and back, it would seem like punishment or retaliation.
“People have asked me, will there be animosity? But when it comes down to the bottom line, when they drop the puck there’s nothing else you think about. That’s why people love the game, everything else is shut out.”
Wilson said the players seemed to be in better shape than he imagined, but he’ll withhold judgment for a couple more days.
“This is uncharted water. It’s going to be different, but as we go along we’ll monitor and see where everyone is and figure out what’s best. It’s obvious they’ve been working pretty hard the last two or three weeks in anticipation of this. But today there might have been more excitement just because it was the first day of training camp. They’ve ridden an emotional roller coaster. Today might have been emotion, too.”
Paul Kariya, who received what will be remembered as one of the last big contracts awarded to a newcomer before the approval of the rookie salary cap, described the players’ feeling that the ordeal is over as one of relief, and says that in his case it is untinged by regret.
“Everything happens for a reason,” he said.
Defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky, the No. 2 pick overall from last June’s draft who has been hampered by groin and foot problems for more than three months, has been diagnosed with Reiters Syndrome, a form of staff infection that settles in the joints. A month of antibiotic treatment is expected to heal it. “You know it was incredible, three months to find out, but it’s nobody’s fault,” he said. “If I was playing in Russia they would never find out what was wrong.”. . . At least 24 of the Ducks’ 48 games will be televised. Fourteen will be on KCAL (Channel 9). Four will be televised under the new TV contract with Fox. Two will be on ESPN and four will be on ESPN 2. . . . Right wing Valeri Karpov, the Ducks’ other rookie standout, joined the team after returning from Russia, where he was playing for Chelyabinsk “He should be a go-to guy because he’s played so much,” Coach Ron Wilson said. . . . Center Steve Rucchin, considered the top prospect in the organization, has joined the team from San Diego. He is not under contract so officially with the team by invitation, but an agreement is expected shortly. . . . Forward Tim Sweeney, who was in limbo throughout the lockout after being exposed for the waiver draft, will now be protected, taking the spot held by Terry Yake, who was traded to Toronto just before the lockout.
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Ducks on The Pond
Mighty Ducks action picks up next Friday in Edmonton, and the team’s first home game will be three nights later against the Oilers. The season will include 24 home games and 24 on the road. Because of the shortened season, the NHL’s top players in the Eastern Conference will not be visiting.
Mighty Duck Ticket Policy
Major points in the Mighty Ducks’ revised NHL game ticket policy for the shortened 1995 season:
* Season tickets, mini-plans, clubs and suites--Holders will receive a complete reprint of game tickets plus an informational packet before the first home game on Jan. 23. Previously issued ticket packages will not be honored.
* Single-game tickets--Previously purchased tickets will be honored for games played as originally scheduled (Jan. 25 vs. Dallas, Jan. 27 vs. Winnipeg, Feb. 3 vs. Detroit, March 9 vs. Detroit, March 17 vs. Toronto, March 19 vs. St. Louis, April 2 vs. San Jose, April 5 vs. Edmonton, April 7 vs. Dallas and April 9 vs. the Kings. For games played on a scheduled date but against a different opponent (Feb. 17 vs. Vancouver, Feb. 26 vs. Calgary, March 1 vs. Chicago and March 21 vs. the Kings), previously purchased tickets will be honored.
* Refunds--For games canceled (Oct. 9 through Jan. 2), tickets are refundable where purchased. If a single-game ticket holder does not want to attend one of the four games for which opponents have changed, a refund or exchange may be obtained at point of purchase no later than 15 days before the game date. Single-game tickets bought by telephone should be mailed to Ticketmaster/Mighty Ducks, P.O. Box 76838, Los Angeles, 90005.
* New purchases--For newly schedule games (Jan. 23 vs. Edmonton, Feb. 7 vs. Chicago, March 30 vs. Winnipeg, April 13 vs. Calgary, April 15 vs. Vancouver, April 17 vs. San Jose, April 24 vs. Calgary, April 26 vs. San Jose, May 1 vs. St. Louis and May 3 vs. Toronto), single-game tickets will go on sale Tuesday at 10 a.m. at The Pond box office and all Ticketmaster locations. There is a limit of six per game per person. Phone orders will be taken at (714) 740-2000 and (213) 480-3232.
* Additional information--(714) 704-2701.
Who’ll Be Here
Selected NHL stars who will visit The Pond for two games under the league’s revised regular-season schedule:
* Pavel Bure, Vancouver Canucks
* Sergel Fedorov, Detroit Red Wings
* Wayne Gretzky, Kings
* Doug Gilmour, Toronto Maple Leafs
* Jeremy Roenick, Chicago Blackhawks
* Brett Hull, St. Louis Blues
And Who Won’t Be Here
Some top players whose teams will not be playing in Anaheim this season
* Mark Messier, New York Rangers
* Cam Neely, Boston Bruins
* John Vanbiesbrouck, Florida Panthers
* Patrick Roy, Montreal Canadiens
* Eric Lindros, Philadelphia Flyers
* Luc Robitaille, Pittsburgh Penguins