Inter-Arena Porn!

And other ways to save the Mighty Ducks

Henry and Susan Samueli were officially introduced as owners of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks earlier this week. If you don't remember the Mighty Ducks, it's probably because the team hasn't played an NHL game for more than a year because the NHL hasn't played any games in more than a year due to a disastrous lockout that has caused the league to lose its TV deal with ESPN and sink hockey's national profile well under that of midget poker. That's certainly a problem for the new owners, as is the fact that the Ducks stunk in 2003-04. After being a game away from winning the Stanley Cup the previous season, the team was promptly broken up by Disney, the previous owner roundly despised by fans. To avoid making the same mistakes Disney made, we'd like to offer the Samuelis some friendly advice.

PROBLEM:The team's name. "Mighty Ducks of Anaheim" is the worst non-Indian-bashing name in sports, even worse than the University of South Carolina's Fightin' Lady Cocks.
WHATDISNEYWOULDHAVEDONE:They named the team, so they'd never admit there was a problem; pretty much company policy whether it's dealing with bad team names, theme park disasters (ride fatalities) or theme park disasters (California Adventure).
WHATTHESAMUELISSHOULDDO:Consider names that connect with real hockey fans. Perhaps resuscitate names that conjure up what the Ducks don't have—tradition. How about the Anaheim Metropolitans, to recall the club that skated in Seattle from 1915 until midcentury? Or the Anaheim Americans, a name that not only points to one of the NHL's earliest clubs, the New York Americans, but also bespeaks the county's sense of patriotism. Or as a change of pace, how about the Tits? "The Tits look great tonight!" "The Canadians are really pounding the Tits against the glass!" Maybe not. Still, under no circumstances is the team to be renamed the Los Angeles Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

PROBLEM:In an effort to save money and sell the team, Disney got rid of most of the team's best players—more than 10 players from the Stanley Cup finals team. That caused the Ducks to go from elite to effete: after compiling 95 points in 2002-03, they had just 76 the following season.
WHATDISNEYWOULDDO:People said Disney wasn't concerned with winning. That's not true. Disney was very concerned its teams (including the Angels) might win and did everything it could to prevent it. Winning breeds expectations and distracts people from spending money on merchandise and your latest film project. Disney would not view losing as a problem but as a boon to FindingNemoAgain.
WHATTHESAMUELISSHOULDDO:They've already taken a good first step in hiring Brian Burke as general manager. Burke spent six years at Vancouver as GM, and the Canucks improved their record in each of his first five seasons. In Vancouver, Burke built a team distinguished for its toughness, something sorely needed by a Ducks squad that lost eight overtime games in 2003-04. Of course, the Ducks don't want to be too tough: Vancouver's Todd Bertuzzi nearly killed Colorado's Steve Moore with a sucker punch and faced criminal charges. On the plus side, if something like that did happen, the Ducks would probably still get the Disney treatment from Anaheim cops and be allowed to clean the crime scene.

PROBLEM:Distinguishing themselves as owners. Most people don't know the Samuelis and lump them in with previous Ducks management, which is viewed as shortsighted, money-grubbing and sucky.
WHATDISNEYWOULDHAVEDONE:Hide. Disney doesn't like to have its owner, Michael Eisner, show up at anything, since it ruins the fantasy that Walt Disney is still running things. Plus, when Eisner does show up somewhere, he's usually pursued by Roy Disney and several pissed-off 80-year-olds.
WHATTHESAMUELISSHOULDDO:Be themselves. Disney ownership never had a face, but the Samuelis appear to be very pleasant people who could buy Asia Minor. They're also brilliant folks who made their names in computer technology—which would allow them to do something Disney once promised: put a personal computer at every arena seat so fans could order snacks, call up stats, check other games or engage in inter-arena polls. That would certainly earn the fans' admiration. If the Samuelis are interested in earning the fans' love, I have two words for them: inter-arena porn.

 
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