The Anaheim Ducks are a professional ice hockey team based in Anaheim, California, USA. They are members of the Pacific Division of the Western Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL). Since their inception, the Ducks have played their home games at the Honda Center. The club was founded in 1993 by The Walt Disney Company as the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, a name based on the 1992 film The Mighty Ducks. Disney sold the franchise in 2005 to Henry and Susan Samueli, who changed the name of the team to the Anaheim Ducks before the 2006–07 season. In their 18-year existence, the Ducks have made the playoffs eight times, winning one Pacific Division title (2007), two Western Conference Championships (2003 and 2007), and one Stanley Cup Championship (2007).
The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim were founded in 1993 by The Walt Disney Company. The team's original name was chosen from the 1992 Disney movie The Mighty Ducks, based on a group of misfit kids who turn their losing youth hockey team into a winning team. Disney subsequently made an animated series called Mighty Ducks, featuring a fictional Mighty Ducks of Anaheim team that consisted of anthropomorphized ducks led by the Mighty Duck Wildwing (itself the name of the real-life mascot of the Ducks). The Mighty Ducks logo was also featured in D2: The Mighty Ducks.
The team was the first tenant of the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim (now named the Honda Center), a brand-new arena in Anaheim located a short distance east of Disneyland and across the Orange Freeway from Angel Stadium. The arena was completed the same year the team was founded, with the naming rights originally being held by Arrowhead Water.
The Ducks selected Ron Wilson to be the first coach in team history. The Ducks selected Paul Kariya fourth overall in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft. He would turn out to be the face of the franchise for many years. The team selected Steve Rucchin second overall in the 1994 Supplemental Draft. In the middle of their third year, on February 7, 1996, the team made a blockbuster deal with the Winnipeg Jets. The Ducks sent Chad Kilger, Oleg Tverdovsky, and a third-round pick to the Jets in return for Marc Chouinard, a fourth-round draft pick, and right winger Teemu Selanne. These three players became one of most potent lines of their time. The franchise's first game was played at home on October 8, 1993, versus the Detroit Red Wings. The Ducks lost 7–2. Two games later, on October 13, 1993, also on home ice, the Ducks won the first game in franchise history 4–3 versus the Edmonton Oilers. The Ducks had their first shut out in team history on December 15, 1993, 1–0 versus the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Ducks reached the post-season for the first time during the 1996–97 NHL season. The Ducks finished with a 36–33–13 record, the franchise's first winning record, good enough for home ice in the first round as the number four seed against the Phoenix Coyotes. The Ducks trailed 3–2 going into Phoenix for game six. Kariya scored in overtime to force the franchises first game 7 which they won. In the second round, however, they lost to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Red Wings in a four game sweep. After the season, Wilson was fired after saying he would like to coach the Red Wings. The Ducks missed the playoffs in 1998 with Pierre Page at the helm. The Ducks followed that season up by finishing 6th in the Western Conference in 1998–99 NHL season with new head coach Craig Hartsburg. However, they were swept by the Red Wings again, this time in the first round.
In the 1999–2000 NHL season, the Ducks finished with a winning record, but missed the playoffs by 4 points as the rival San Jose Sharks took 8th place that year with 87 points while the Mighty Ducks took 9th place with 83 points. In the 2000–01 NHL season, the Ducks ended up doing even worse as Kariya and Selanne substantially dropped points production from the previous season. Kariya went from 86 points to 67 points and Selanne went from 85 points to 57 points. Selanne was dealt to San Jose at the trade deadline for Jeff Friesen, Steve Shields, and a second round draft pick and Hartsburg was fired during the season. The team ended up with a losing record and last place in the Western Conference that season. Without Selanne, Kariya's numbers continued to drop in the 2001–02 NHL season with new coach Bryan Murray. The Mighty Ducks finished in 13th place in the Western Conference.
The Mighty Ducks did not reach the postseason again until the 2002–03 NHL season with coach Mike Babcock. They entered the playoffs in 7th place with a 40–27–9–6 record, good enough for 95 points. In the first round, the Ducks were once again matched up with the Red Wings, the defending Stanley Cup Champions. They shocked the hockey world by sweeping the Red Wings in four games. Rucchin scored the series winning goal in overtime in game four. In the second round, the Ducks faced the Dallas Stars. Game one turned out to be the fourth longest game in NHL history with Petr Sykora scoring in the fifth overtime to give the Mighty Ducks the series lead. The Ducks would finish off the Stars in game six at home. In the team's first trip to the Western Conference Finals, they were matched up against another Cinderella team, the sixth seeded Minnesota Wild. Jean-Sebastien Giguere strung together three consecutive shutouts and allowed only one total goal in the series in an eventual sweep.
The 2003 Stanley Cup Finals had some interesting story lines. Anaheim forward Rob Niedermayer was playing against his brother, defenseman for the New Jersey Devils, Scott Niedermayer and Giguere faced off against fellow French Canadian goalie Martin Brodeur. The series began with the home team winning the first five games. In game six at home, Kariya was knocked out by Devils defenseman Scott Stevens. Kariya would return in the second period and score the fourth goal of the game. In an exciting third period, the Mighty Ducks defeated the Devils 5–2 to send the series back to New Jersey for game seven. Anaheim could not complete their Cinderella run, though, as they lost a hard-fought game 7 to the Devils 3–0. For his brilliant play during the post-season, Giguere won the Conn Smythe Trophy as Most Valuable Player of the playoffs. He became only the fifth player in NHL history to have won the trophy as a member of the losing team. Giguere posted a 15–6 record, 7–0 in overtime, with a 1.62 GAA, a .945 sv. pct. and a record 168 minute, 27 second shutout streak in overtime.
After the season, Kariya promised to bring the Mighty Ducks back to the Stanley Cup Final the following year. Kariya, however, left the Ducks in the summer and joined Selanne on the Colorado Avalanche. The 2003–04 NHL season was a season to forget as Giguere could not repeat his amazing play from the previous year. The team finished in 12th place in the standings with a 29–35–10–8 record. Giguere's stats subsequently went down from the previous season as he only won half the games he did the year before, his goals against average went up from 2.30 to 2.62, his save percentage went down from .914 to .907, and he went from 8 shutouts to just three. The team also went from 203 goals to 174.