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MIGHTY DUCK NOTEBOOK / ROBYN NORWOOD

Wild Wing Crash Lands on Team Jerseys

January 27, 1996|Robyn Norwood

And you thought the original Mighty Duck logo took some getting used to?

Today against the Kings, the Ducks will wear their new "third jerseys"--with a cartoon of bumbling mascot Wild Wing emblazoned on the chest.

Nobody could have imagined the mishaps that would befall the mascot when the decision was made to put him on the alternate jersey. But since then, Wild Wing has become famous for screw-ups.

He tripped into a wall of flames he was supposed to leap on opening night, then leaped over nothing but air after the device ran out of propane at the next game. Later in the season, he dangled helplessly over the ice during warm-ups after the rigging that lowers him during a pregame production got stuck.

"He should be in a wheelchair," Coach Ron Wilson quipped as he examined the jersey design.

"Carrying a fire extinguisher," winger Garry Valk said.

"Hanging by a rope," Wilson said. "I'll probably get fired for saying that."

More diplomatically, Wilson insisted he has no objections.

"I've got nothing against the modern uniforms," he said. "It's more like Europe, that's all. It doesn't matter what you're wearing. Why should that have anything to do with the way you play?"

Defenseman Bobby Dollas said he likes the design.

"It's very European," he said. "I was looking at the bottom to see if there were any flames, though."

Center Shaun Van Allen looked at it and found something positive.

"I think the color looks really good," he said. "You put the jersey on, and a lot of people don't care what it looks like as long as it's got your number and your name on it."

Many of the Ducks just shrugged. After all, this isn't the Montreal Canadiens trading in their dignified sweaters for a cartoon.

"A lot of people made fun of our crest the first year, and every one of us picked in the expansion draft took a little ribbing," defenseman Randy Ladouceur said.

They've learned to live with it--as has General Manager Jack Ferreira, who is so fond of Wild Wing's ballyhooed descent from the rafters that he usually can be found outside his box staring at the parking lot until Wild Wing finishes and he can watch the game.

The Kings won't have too much room to criticize the Ducks, because they'll be wearing their own "alternate jerseys" marked by swirls and a medieval king. The teams are two of five NHL teams that will wear different jerseys in five to seven games this season.

Some players were puzzled by the concept of alternative jerseys. Not Paul Kariya. "Whatever sells," he said.

As for Wild Wing, many of the players long ago noted that the team promotes the mascot more than it does any of them. There's even a statue of the character outside the Pond--which might be fitting, since he'll probably be in Anaheim longer than any of these players.

"Kids love him," Valk said. "Kids would probably rather get his autograph than any of ours."

*

One overlooked explanation for some of Guy Hebert's struggles this season is the absence of a goaltending coach.

Most NHL teams have either a goaltending consultant or an assistant coach who works closely with the goalies. Brian Hayward, a former NHL goalie who now is the color analyst on Duck television broadcasts, filled that role the first two seasons, before Ferreira encouraged him to focus on his blossoming television career this season.

It's partly coincidence--but probably not entirely--that Hebert hasn't been as sharp and has battled the worst slumps of his career. Hebert was playing with minor injuries earlier and then had to overcome a crisis of confidence, but he was on his own for quite a while before Wilson went to him and discussed his play.

"We don't have the luxury of having a goaltending coach," Hebert said. "He can be a buffer between the coaches and the goalies. Ron, Tim [Army] and Al [Sims] don't really have time to work with the goaltenders very much and Tim doesn't have time to cut extra video.

"I can evaluate how I think I'm playing, but sometimes you need another perspective."

Wilson agreed that it's probably a good idea to have someone on the coaching staff work with the goalies, adding that Hayward has occasionally consulted with Hebert casually this season.

"Goalies are certainly a different breed and not many coaches understand exactly what goalies go through," Wilson said. "I might like to think I do, but I'm not a goalie. I can't understand the pressure and solitude of being a goalie."

*

Plans for the Ducks to open the season in Japan next October are definitely off, the NHL told club President Tony Tavares on Friday.

"It's not going to happen next [season]," Tavares said. "The only explanation I got from the league office was that they weren't able to get the logistics together for next year."

The NHL will be busy with the World Cup tournament--formerly the Canada Cup--next August and September, but could still conceivably try to stage games in Japan in 1997 as an international marketing ploy and trial run for the 1998 Olympics in Nagano.

* Times staff writer Elliott Teaford contributed to this story.

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