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Goose Bumps for Fans as Ducks Win

May 17, 2003|Scott Martelle and Kimi Yoshino | Times Staff Writers

Duck fans could barely contain their joy. The mightily disparaged Anaheim Mighty Ducks won an unlikely spot in the Stanley Cup finals Friday night, beating the Minnesota Wild four times straight and seizing regional bragging rights from their northern neighbor, Los Angeles.

Twirling white "Fowl Towels," donning duck-billed goalie masks and cheering "happy birthday" to the team's beloved goaltender, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Duck fans were euphoric.

"Goose bumps, baby! Goose bumps!" Brian Solo shouted as he rolled up his sleeve. "It's unbelievable."

The 38-year-old Laguna Beach resident had spent much of the game's early moments gnawing on a balled-up Fowl Towel as the teams were tied, but joined in chants of "Sweep! Sweep!" when the Ducks pulled into the lead.

In the final moments of the game, when a brief melee broke out in front of the Ducks' goal and it appeared the game might be tied, Duck fans were on their feet.

"You were holding your breath, praying on Giguere's birthday that nothing would get past him to tie it up or go into overtime," said season ticket holder Jeff Vaught.

"That's what you pray for. This is what we've waited for for the past 10 years."

Frequently derided as a newcomer to hockey -- the team is just 10 years old -- and mocked for being named after a Disney children's movie, many Duck fans have suffered something of an inferiority complex.

Now, the young team stands a chance at capturing hockey's Stanley Cup, the oldest trophy awarded to professional athletes in North America.

It was a moment of vindication for fans such as Solo and Vaught, who have attended Duck games at Arrowhead Pond since the team formed. Most often, the stands were nearly empty.

"To see these empty stands all of a sudden be full is amazing," Vaught said. "You can't explain it."

Friday's victory also brought grudging respect from those who once made fun of the Disney-owned concern.

"I think most people are shaking their heads in disbelief. You never hear about the Mighty Ducks," said Jason Meyer, a Philadelphia Flyers fan and Idaho resident who drove to Anaheim for the game. "I like the Ducks; they've got a lot of spirit."

The team's 2-1 victory got even more attention through a quirk of fate. With Laker fans still smarting from a Thursday night defeat that dashed all hope of a fourth NBA title, attention turned to a team with hope left.

"With the Lakers out of the playoffs, everybody will be watching the Ducks," said 24-year-old Danny Berberian. "L.A. pulls together in this kind of thing."

Although he lives in the San Fernando Valley, Berberian said, his friend's father has season tickets to the Ducks, and Berberian has developed an affinity for Anaheim, now more than ever.

The Ducks' drive to the playoffs has invited numerous comparisons to the Anaheim Angels, who stunned the world of baseball last season when they won the World Series.

"After what the Angels did last year, we knew it was their turn this year," said eight-year Duck fan Lisa Butterfield, 35, of La Mirada. Butterfield spent $400 on EBay for two tickets to Friday night's game. "I'm loving it, a 4-0 sweep!"

Since the Angels' Edison International Field stands just a short distance across the Orange Freeway from the Pond, fans said it was natural that they would appropriate the Angels' best known good-luck charm, the rally monkey.

Liam Parsekian, 9, is best known to Angel fans as the "Rally Monkey Kid."

He has attended all but one of the Ducks' series games in his full-sized rally monkey costume, which makes him look more like a human orangutan. He was asked to attend the hockey matches by Duck star Paul Kariya.

On Friday, Liam took up position in family-owned seats near the visiting team bench, "where they can see me," he said.


Times staff writer Monte Morin contributed to this report.

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