ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Paul Kariya’s happiest season has also been sad for him.
His father, Tetsuhiko Kariya, died of a heart attack Dec. 28 in Vancouver, the same night the Ducks played the Canucks there. A math and physical education teacher in Vancouver, T.K. Kariya also played rugby at the University of British Columbia, for club teams and for Canada in international competition.
“It was tough, obviously, the night it happened,” Kariya said. “We were in Vancouver at the time. It was hard. Everyone has to go through this. The two things in life that are certain is you’re going to be born and die.”
Kariya stayed with the team after playing that night. While he has not had the best season of his career -- although 25 goals and a team-high 81 points is hardly a down season -- he has experienced the type of team success he has longed for with the Ducks.
“I stayed with the team because that is what my father would have wanted me to do,” Kariya said.
The Ducks are the third Southern California professional sports team in less than a year to face a Minnesota team in the playoffs.
The Angels beat the Twins to get to the World Series last fall. The Lakers beat the Timberwolves in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Now the Ducks face the Wild.
An omen? The Ducks’ team bus had a flat tire on its way to the hotel Friday.
Coach Mike Babcock still defends the Duck power play, as in “we beat Dallas, 4-3 [on the power [play].”
But he does admit it would be a big help if the power play chipped in a few more goals.
“When your power play has a 9% [success rate], it’s not hurting you, but it’s not helping you either,” Babcock said. “We need it to help us.”
The Wild has a lead over the Ducks in one category: Stanley Cup rings.
Minnesota personnel have 28 -- including 11 for Coach Jacques Lemaire, 10 with the Canadiens and one as coach of the New Jersey Devils. General Manager Doug Risebrough has four from his playing days in Montreal and one as an assistant coach of the Calgary Flames, and assistant coach Mario Tremblay has five from his playing days with Montreal. Guy Lapointe, the Wild’s coordinator of amateur scouting, won the Cup six times with Montreal, and Tom Thompson, the Wild’s assistant general manager for player personnel, got a Cup ring in 1989 as a scout for Calgary.
The only Ducks with Stanley Cup rings are Petr Sykora (New Jersey 2000), Fredrik Olausson (Detroit last year) and Sandis Ozolinsh (Colorado 1996).
Times staff writer Helene Elliott contributed to this report.