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Ducks Lose to Kings, but Wilson Is a Winner

September 16, 1996|ROBYN NORWOOD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — Ron Wilson's ordinary name and next-door-neighbor looks made him rather anonymous during his first three seasons as coach of the Mighty Ducks. But Wilson returned Sunday after the United States' victory over Canada in the World Cup of Hockey with a measure of the respect he has craved.

Teemu Selanne, who played for Finland in the World Cup, stopped by management's suite after Wilson responded to the cheering crowd of 17,160 at the Pond with a modest wave during the Kings' 2-0 exhibition victory over the Ducks.

"I've been to see the President," Selanne said.

Wilson had hardly slept since coaching the U.S. team to victory Saturday night in Montreal, arriving in Southern California on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

"Tomorrow's an off-day for the whole team, and--today's Sunday, right?--I'll be back on the ice Tuesday," he said half-drained as he tried to describe the scene in Montreal.

"It was like your whole life, all in three hours--highs, lows, laughing, crying, confusion," he said. "Nothing in the United States compares to the way Canadians feel about hockey, not even baseball. Hockey's their culture. The whole country's depressed today, and I'm happy they are."

Wilson, 41, had never been a head coach at any level when he was hired by the Ducks in 1993, but he did a masterful job at the helm of a U.S. team of all-stars who put aside egos and played for national pride.

"Those players took a liking to Ron and did what he wanted," Duck winger Garry Valk said. "Obviously, his system's working."

As recently as last season, Wilson was nearly fired by the Ducks because of the team's disappointing performance and because he rankled some superiors with what was perceived as excuse-making. But given a gift-wrapped opportunity when officials missed an offsides call on the winning goal in Game 1 of the World Cup finals, Wilson said nothing.

"I think he's gained a lot of respect--especially that first game with the offsides. He never complained about it," said Duck General Manager Jack Ferreira, who was assistant general manager of the U.S. team. "I think his first year that would have been the whole reason for the game. It was critical, obviously, but he just brushed it off."

Wilson won some power struggles with players last season, and any who weren't sure who held the upper hand know for sure after the World Cup, where Wilson drew lavish praise from Brett Hull and Pat LaFontaine.

"This opens eyes," Ferreira said. "New guys coming into camp better pay attention to what he has to say.

"I think Ron was himself. He got everybody involved. I don't think he changed. He's always been confident. What's changed is how other people perceive him."

Duck Notes

King goalie Byron Dafoe made 31 saves and Philippe Boucher and Yanic Perreault scored the only goals of a lackluster game between inexperienced lineups. World Cup players such as the Ducks' Teemu Selanne, Jari Kurri and Guy Hebert didn't play. "Basically [Dafoe] was the difference in the game," King Coach Larry Robinson said. . . . King defenseman Rob Blake returned to Los Angeles Sunday and is resting at home after being treated for a severe infection in his right elbow at Montreal General Hospital during the World Cup tournament. King team physician Michael Mellman examined Blake Sunday and will monitor him daily. Blake will have much of the week off to rest from the World Cup but General Manager Sam McMaster said he isn't worried about the condition, calling it a common injury.

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