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Time for Disney to Put Away Their Toys

The hockey gods are trying to tell us something, I believe, and for the sake of that poor forsaken soul inside the duck costume, Disney had better listen up.

Already this hockey season, three pregame escapades involving the Mighty Ducks’ hapless mascot, the underappreciated and obviously undercompensated “Wild Wing,” have gone badly, sadly awry.

Before one game, Wild Wing attempted to hurdle a wall of fire and nearly wound up impersonating a rotisserie chicken.

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Before another, he tried the wall of fire trick again, went barreling up the ramp and successfully broke on through to the other side--except there was no wall of fire, because the flame jets had not been fueled with enough propane. In a striking metaphor for what was happening to the hockey team at that point of the season, the Ducks ran out of gas.

And before Friday afternoon’s matinee against Chicago, in an apparent homage to the post-Thankgiving Day hangover, Wild Wing’s regular entrance-via-cable-wire was interrupted about 50 feet short of completion, leaving the mascot to hang over the ice helplessly until arena technicians could reel him in like an oversized, slightly overwrought flounder.

This time, it was a malfunctioning cable, caused, according to a Duck spokesman, by Wild Wing’s “overly animated” behavior.

That’s right, blame the messenger.

It’s always the guy in the duck suit’s fault, isn’t it?

Wild Wing was “overly animated.” In other words, he was kicking and screaming.

Wouldn’t you be if your life’s work consisted of dressing like a deranged waterfowl twice a week and performing stunts Evel Knievel would look at and say, “Uh, sorry, I don’t think so”?

I believe the hockey gods are embarrassed by this Disney On Ice (Only To Be Saved By The Harness Strap) tomfoolery, and this is their way of issuing a cease and desist order. “Drop the puck” was always the first commandment-- never “Drop the duck.” Commandment No. 2 has always been “Put the puck in the net"--not “Put the mascot in a body cast.”

Hockey is supposed to come first, not sixth or seventh as it is at Mighty Duck home games. It has been this way from Day 1, when the hockey gods caught the Iceman’s “Crooning To The Moldies” act and immediately demanded him fired. Wild Wing, yet, persists, in spite of several near-calamities of Biblical proportions. And the Ducks hockey team has yet to eclipse the .500 mark.

Cause and effect, if you ask me.

A typical hockey night in Anaheim: Last Sunday, the Ducks cough up a 3-1 lead over Florida in two minutes, give away the winner a minute later. The Panthers go up, 4-3, with 8:46 to play, every ticket holder at The Pond is silently mulling this stunning turn of events, the whole building is stewing, seething . . . and with 8:20 to play, the public-address system booms: “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s WILD WING AND THE DECOYS!!”

You could almost hear 17,174 sets of teeth grind away, muttering, “Take a flying leap, Wild Wing.” And then they remembered:

Wild Wing already tried that, and he almost spontaneously combusted.

Does Disney really need this kind of publicity? Wild Wing made all the sports highlight shows, again, after Friday’s death-defying fiasco. Great. Now the rest of the country knows three things about the Mighty Ducks: They’re owned by Disney, their best player is that kid Kariya, and they have the Wile E. Coyote of professional sports team mascots.

Wild Wing, national celebrity. Punching bag for hire. Soon, the other local teams will be on the phone, trying to rent him by the hour.

“Here’s Wild Wing at the Anaheim Piranhas’ 1996 season opener, where he will daze and amaze you by leaping over this fresh-water pool of hungry, razor-teethed piranha! There he goes and . . . ooh, tough break! Good thing it’s Tourniquet Night at the Pond!”

“Here’s Wild Wing, ready to throw out the first pitch of the Angels’ 1996 season. Wild Wing kicks and deals . . . and Luis Sojo sends a broken-bat grounder down the first-base line! Sojo’s rounding second, rounding third! Wild Wing cuts off an otherwise perfect relay throw and one-hops the ball all the way to the backstop! Sojo scores!

We don’t want any part of that, now, do we?

The Mighty Ducks would do us all a favor by putting Wild Wing out of his misery. No, not that. Just re-assign him. Give him a less hazardous assignment, like spit-polishing the rafters at The Pond, or crash-testing the 1996 fleet of Zambonis, to see how the air bags work.

Because we all can use a break. The fans, the media, the Ducks and, especially, the irrepressible Mr. Wing himself.

Preferably one that does not involve a fibula.


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