These were the Dirty Ducks, the Mighty Thugs of Anaheim. A brutal bunch, without a doubt.
Duck defenseman Ruslan Salei was their poster boy.
He was a bad guy ... a really baaaaaaad guy. So bad, in fact, he should have two photos in the media guide. One front-facing. One profile.
That was the court of public opinion, fueled by replays, which branded Salei in October 1999. He had done what he always did on the ice, got a body on the offensive player. This time, it was Dallas' Mike Modano.
In the 1999-2000 season opener, Modano was cutting toward the net with the puck and was nudged or pushed -- depending on which version -- from behind by Salei. Modano went headfirst into the boards, suffering strained neck ligaments, a broken nose and concussion. An ugly game followed and Salei was vilified.
Yet, that was how the Ducks and Dallas Stars played hockey, at least against each other, during the late 1990s. There were hard feelings, much of them stemming from a game late in the 1997-1998 season that seemed more a Saturday night fight card.
Out of that rivalry, the Ducks built a reputation, with Salei as the centerpiece. He incurred the wrath of the hockey world for his play on Modano. Now, with the Stanley Cup playoffs as a backdrop, he goes back into Dallas with a what's-done-is-done attitude.
Three seasons have passed. The Ducks and Stars have played 19 games since. The rivalry has slumbered. Even the disheveled Reunion Arena, where the game was played, has been replaced by the American Airlines Center.
"It is so in the past, I don't even want to think about it," Salei said. "It doesn't affect me that much."
But, as much as Salei pushes away questions, that game marked him.
Teammates, at least the three who remain from that 1999-2000 Duck team, have seen an unfair judgment.
Salei was given a 10-game suspension for that play. The game became a free-for-all. Duck defenseman Pascal Trepanier hammered Dallas center Joe Nieuwendyk into the glass after they chased a loose puck. Duck enforcer Jim McKenzie pummeled the Stars' Darryl Sydor, breaking his eye socket.
Trepanier got a five-game suspension. McKenzie got four games.
Salei got a reputation.
"Rusty got a bad rap," Duck left wing Mike Leclerc said. "He would never go out to intentionally hurt anybody. There was a lot going on that night. There was a lot more that went on that night, Pascal, McKenzie and Sydor. But Rusty hit their star player and he got injured."
These are hardly memories Salei or the Ducks -- or even the Stars -- hope to repeat in their second-round series, which begins Thursday in Dallas.
Said Kariya: "Why don't you go back farther, holy cow, 1999?"
You could, back to March 1998 in fact, when the Stars' Craig Ludwig slammed Teemu Selanne's head into the glass. That began a free-for-all that looked more like a sequel to "Slap Shot." By the end of the game, the Ducks had six players on the bench and the Stars only had three on the bench.
Things heated up the next October, before and after the game.
Ken Hitchcock, then the Dallas coach, called Salei and Trepanier "stupid" and threatened revenge in the next game against the Ducks.
Brett Hull, then a Star, wanted Salei thrown out of the league.
Modano threatened to quit, saying, "If things continue, I'm not going to play anymore. I've only got four or five years more [to play], then I'm done. I still have the rest of my life to live."
NHL officials were dispatched for the re-match, which, fortunately for ticket sellers, came six days later. Nothing happened.
Salei, though, was stung by the accusations.
"I was under a lot of pressure," Salei said later in the 1999-2000 season. "It was all people were talking about. It was in the newspapers, on TV and everywhere. But by the time the suspension was done, I was all right."
Salei won't comment about the game now. Others, too, claim amnesia.
"It has totally gone away," Duck center Steve Rucchin said. "To be honest, I had totally forgot about it. A lot of things have changed."
Maybe. But physical play promises to dominate this series. The Stars did not finish atop the Western Conference by ice dancing. The Ducks do not intend to be run over.
"It won't be a tit-for-tat thing, but, yeah, we have to show we aren't going to back down," Rucchin said.
That's where Rucchin, Leclerc, Keith Carney, Vitaly Vishnevski, Rob Niedermayer, and yes, Salei come in.
"We have to step up and be physical," Leclerc said. "They are going to ante up. We might as well do it first.
"A lot of people see Rusty as a dirty kind of player. I think that's kind of good. It keeps their heads up on the ice. There is nothing wrong with that."
The Ducks had that reputation in the late 1990s.
"Every tough guy in the league seemed to go through Anaheim at some point," said Duck General Manager Bryan Murray, who was Florida's general manager in the 1990s. "They had skilled guys, and you needed tough guys to protect skill guys in those days."
Salei, though, garnered special attention, even before his hit on Modano. He had been suspended twice previously, although not once since that season.
"Any time you play like he plays, something might happen," Rucchin said. "If you're not as physical, it's easy for people to say 'Oh, that was just one of those unfortunate incidents.'
"It was unfair to Rusty. He battles out there. He plays physical and gets a body on people any chance he gets. It's nice to have a guy like that on your team instead of having to play against him."
The Ducks drafted Salei for that very reason. He was a late bloomer from Belarus, already 22 years old, when he taken in the first round of the 1996 draft.
It turned out to be a quality pick. Salei developed into an effective defenseman. He plays hard, although still occasionally takes a bad penalty, and at times contributes offensively. "He knows the type player he is and why he is in the league," Rucchin said.