Friday, January 24, 2014
Ron Wilson finally visits Dodger Stadium
By Scott Burnside
LOS ANGELES -- You just never know how a circle will be closed.
Take Ron Wilson.
Back in the day, Wilson coached the then-Mighty Ducks of Anaheim when they were -- if you’ll pardon the expression -- just goslings.
Wilson, a die-hard New York Yankees fan, coached the expansion Mighty Ducks for four seasons and was an Anaheim Angels season-ticket holder. But not once did he cross the threshold into Dodger Stadium.
"I’m like a lot of people. I didn’t want to drive into L.A. to go to Dodger Stadium. I really regret that I didn’t go to a couple of games a year in Dodger Stadium because it’s a venerable place, it’s beautiful and it has a great history. So this will be my first time in Dodger Stadium today, and I’m not even seeing a baseball game. It’s to see a hockey game, which makes no sense," Wilson told ESPN.com.
Not only that, Wilson’s attendance at Saturday’s game between the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks will be the first regular-season game he’s seen since he was fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 2, 2012.
Wilson was on hand Friday to do some preview work for the NHL Network working alongside longtime ESPN analyst Barry Melrose, a former Kings coach.
Wilson also coached for parts of five seasons with the San Jose Sharks and noted that the game has never been stronger in the state with the Sharks, Kings and Ducks all considered elite NHL teams.
"It’s amazing how far California’s come," Wilson said.
He recalled the early days of the Anaheim franchise and how he felt they needed to play an especially aggressive style to offset the not-so-subtle jabs about their team's origins.
"The first two years we had the Ducks here, we had the biggest, toughest team in the league. We had Stu Grimson, Todd Ewen. The first year we probably had seven or eight guys who were as tough as anybody," he said.
"The thing of it was we were called the 'Mighty Ducks.' We were based on a Disney kids movie, that we’re going to be made fun of a lot. The only way you can withstand that kind of bullying, either from players or the fans, is you beat them in the alley. If you can’t beat 'em on the ice, you beat 'em in the alley."
The strategy seemed to work as the Ducks set an expansion record, going 19-20-3 on the road in that inaugural 1993-94 season.
"We had a really good record in Canada because that’s how we prepared our team. We were going to be made incredible fun of, so [we decided] we’re just going to beat the crap out of these guys and we'll just pummel them until they don’t want to play anymore. And we did," Wilson said.