ANAHEIM — It was a magnificent group of seven gathered on the ice at Honda Center on Wednesday night just before the season-opening game between the Ducks and Seattle Kraken.
The individual stories of the 21st Duck – an honorary spot on Anaheim’s opening-night roster designated for a fan who exhibits great perseverance, character, courage, and inspiration – have touched hockey fans and everyone in the Ducks’ organization from coaches to players to the staff since 2016.
Who could forget Katie Hawley telling Rickard Rakell during the pregame ceremony in 2017 at the season opener that he needed to score and her excited reaction when Rakell did just that with the game-winner against the Arizona Coyotes?
Hawley was on hand with the other previous 21st Ducks. The newest member of the group was 10-year-old Ethan Baroldi, who went through his first heart surgery when he was only six weeks old and has had three more heart procedures since then.
We are beyond thrilled to introduce our 21st Duck for this season – Ethan Baroldi! Watch the emotional moments when he was surprised by our players and got to practice with his favorite team. pic.twitter.com/pvFwbsvrKt
— Anaheim Ducks (@AnaheimDucks) October 10, 2022
The youngster plays hockey and made the Junior Duck B team last year. He was able to practice with the Ducks and spent time around the players and saw, up close, what happened when a stick clipped defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk’s nose last week.
“He was chirping me after I got my nose popped by a stick in practice,” Shattenkirk said, with a laugh. “I was bleeding and the rest of it. He saw the blood and he kept asking me if I was all right. I told him I was good.
“I believe his words were, ‘Welcome to the NHL’ To which I responded, I’ve been here for 13 years. I’m doing all right, buddy.’
“He was a breath of fresh air. It was fun because he enjoys the locker room. He plays hockey himself. I think he had fun being around us in the weight room, and down here and is just a special kid. The vibrancy he has in him – and any time you meet those kids, it’s amazing.”
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The scratches were defensemen Colton White and Simon Benoit and the newest Ducks’ player, right wing Brett Leason, who was acquired on Monday via waivers from the Washington Capitals. Leason said he was already packed – anticipating a move – and caught a plane to Southern California later that afternoon and was at practice by Tuesday,
The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Leason was born and raised in Calgary and his parents were in Orange County, visiting Disneyland the other day with their daughter and two grandchildren. “If it had only been a week later,” he said, smiling.