ANAHEIM – Paul Kariya has been to Honda Center over the years but it has been on his own quiet terms. An entrance and exit without fanfare. Only few would know.
Something meaningful usually propelled the former Mighty Ducks superstar to make the trek from his Dana Point home. Teemu Selanne’s final regular-season game in 2014 did get him to attend as a fan. The Ducks’ playoff run last spring had him playing a part in the team’s wins countdown to the Stanley Cup.
Otherwise, Kariya was content to live a low-key life out of the spotlight. His great friend and former teammate, Selanne, enjoyed attending Ducks games in retirement but he didn’t need to. There had never been a chance for Ducks fans to thank him for his nine stellar seasons.
An induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame gave those fans the occasion to do so. The Ducks honored Kariya and Selanne with a ceremony Sunday before their game against Florida as the dynamic pair fittingly moved into hockey immortality together.
Selanne has heard the cheers over the years. Kariya hadn’t. But when the expansion franchise’s first-ever draft pick and face of it walked onto the ice, the standing ovation from the sellout crowd washed over him like the waves he loves to ride his surfboard through.
“It was just a perfect way to end a great week and a half,” Kariya said. “Just the most memorable time, certainly in my life and both of our lives. To spend it with Teemu and his family, it was icing on the cake. I’ll always remember the ovation.”
Kariya didn’t always have a great reception. A contract battle following the team’s Stanley Cup Final run in 2003 led to the winger and the Ducks splitting apart, with him joining forces again with Selanne in Colorado and the Ducks signing Sergei Fedorov.
Visits that Kariya made to the area in another uniform had fans boo him vociferously in the first few years since the breakup. The boos eventually went down in volume as his career took him to Nashville and…