Happy Birthday Paul Kariya: A Letter from a Longtime Fan

In which Hannah gets nostalgic and emotional on the occasion of Paul Kariya’s birth.

Paul,

You’ve probably had hundreds of kids tell you over the years that you’re their hero, the reason that they got into hockey. I’m just one more of those. You’ll probably never read this. It’s just a blog post in my little corner of the internet. But today, since it’s your birthday, I wanted to take a minute to say thank you.

I was five when the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim came into existence. By five-year-old logic, since they were named after my favorite movie, I decided they would be my favorite hockey team. I honestly don’t remember how a five-year-old girl in Georgia found out about Anaheim getting a hockey team; all I remember is that I liked the movie, so I liked the team, and I really liked the team’s uniforms.

But the next thing I remember – the first thing I really remember knowing about the NHL – is that you were a phenomenal player. Even as a little kid who didn’t know much of anything about hockey, it was easy to see that. You just stood out from the other guys on the ice. It was obvious that you were different.

It’s incredible to go back, with the knowledge of hockey I’ve amassed since then, and watch things I saw through a child’s eyes the first time. I can appreciate the skill level better, gasp over plays that few others could make, grin until my face splits apart watching you and Teemu steamroll your opponents. If I’m honest, that was my favorite part as a kid – watching the two of you fly across the ice together, scoring goals, the bright spots of a franchise that, let’s be honest, wasn’t all that amazing outside of you guys.

But going back and watching all those goals inevitably lead me to watching all those hits you took. And watching those hits now, knowing what I know about the effect they had on you and what the league didn’t do to stop them, made me love the team and the league a little less.

It didn’t make me enjoy watching you play any less. Us ladies here at High Heels and High Sticks still re-watch your goals fairly often, still gush about the amazing way that you and Teemu played together as if you were doing it right now. I guess what I’m saying is that as much as it sucks that your career ended the way it did, when it did, no one’s going to forget it. You may not have won the Cup, but you won over the entire Anaheim fanbase and you carried it for so long. And a lot of us owe you for that.

So, thank you. It seems silly to say that, to thank you for doing something that you so clearly loved so much, but I can honestly say that if you hadn’t, my passion for hockey would not be what it is today. You made such an impact. You’re still making that impact.

Thanks for loving the game so much. Happy birthday, Captain Duck.

Hannah

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