The team's marketing folks are having some fun with the Mighty Ducks. Fans can purchase duck calls in The Pond for $10 and quack to their hearts' content every time their team scores a goal. Eisner also personally selected the team's logo one night with his wife, picking from more than 200 entries submitted by Disney employees. Their son Anders is a goalie, so Eisner chose a "sort of Goofy-ized version of Jason," the goalie-mask-wearing psychopath of horror-film fame.
That logo, the unique team colors—purple and teal—and Disney's marketing clout have made Mighty Duck apparel the No. 1 seller in the sports industry. Duck T-shirts adorned with quacky slogans like THESE DUCKS SHOOT BACK have been flying off the shelves.
"The response has been exceptional, in the millions of dollars," says Marty Jacobson, the president of Nutmeg Mills, which manufactures trademark clothing for pro sports teams. "The logo just seemed to catch the fancy of people of all ages."
Of course, it doesn't hurt that Disney has been selling Mighty Duck apparel at high-volume, nontraditional outlets like Disney World, one of many synergistic benefits that Eisner has taken advantage of. Don't be surprised, for instance, to see characters on Disney's hit TV series, Home Improvement, wearing Mighty Duck hats and T-shirts.
Disney's costume designers have created a feathered mascot for the team, which before every home game will fly down to center ice on a wire strung from the rafters, "like Tinker Bell," says Eisner. Instead of a traditional organist, someone called the Iceman will roam through the crowd playing a wireless synthesizer that will transmit through the P.A. system. The scoreboard animations were created by the staff of cartoonists who brought us Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin.
While filming D2 The Champions, the sequel to The Mighty Ducks—which will be released in the spring—Eisner had the studio film a couple of scenes expressly for The Pond's scoreboard, showing pucks bursting through the back of the net and such. And Disney on Ice choreographers helped create routines for the lovely Decoys, who will be the NHL's first skating cheerleaders.
Eisner is aware that there is a certain disparity between The Walt Disney Company's image and the NHL's. "Hockey's image hasn't been presented well," he says. But it will be at The Pond. By contract, ushers and vendors there must be clean-shaven, as are all employees at Disney's theme parks. When interviewing Duck general manager Jack Ferreira, who has a reputation as a fine judge of young talent, Eisner made it clear he wasn't interested in assembling a goon team.
Eisner had Ferreira look into the possibility of having the players wear Plexiglas helmets so they could be seen better and thus more easily promoted. Nothing could be done in time for this season, but it's an example of how Eisner's creative, nontraditional thinking could have a big impact on the league. Eisner also wanted to know why the coach couldn't stand in front of the players on the bench like a basketball coach, so he, too, would be more visible. (Coach Ron Wilson tried it but found himself either unable to talk to a player without turning his back on the action or in the way of someone trying to change on the fly.)
The Pond, too, will use two Zambonis to speed resurfacing. And Eisner's a big fan of the shoot-out—alternating penalty shots—which he hopes the owners will vote to use in the regular season to decide ties. He has also charged Disney's TV production people with finding ways to improve hockey's appeal on television. "Someone has to do for hockey what Roone Arledge did for the NFL [with Monday Night Football]," Eisner says, sounding very much like that certain someone. "There's no creative reason we can't make hockey as interesting as basketball on TV. I'd also like to see players shake hands, either before or after every game, to show the kids in the stands it's still a sport."
A sport that, if two can-do guys like Huizenga and Eisner have anything to say about it, could become the boom sport of the '90s—or maybe just a heckuva lot more fun.