Rebecca Wright follows the Ducks passionately from her home in Essex, England (just outside of London) and has been a devoted fan of the team since its inaugural season in 1993. She watches every game through an NHL.TV streaming subscription – usually the next day because of the eight-hour time difference living and dying with all of the team’s peaks and valleys.
“I love hockey and I love the Ducks,” says Wright, clad in a brand new Ducks third jersey and fingernails painted Ducks orange. “But there aren’t many people I can share that with back home in my circle.”
In her hometown, where she teaches tennis at a local club and sports fandom revolves mostly around football (known in the States as soccer), she’s quite an anomaly. “All my friends know I love hockey and I’ve dragged several of them to games in the past,” she says. “They struggle with what on earth is going on, how quick it is, where the puck is. I have to explain the penalties and everything to them.
“Years ago I went to New York with one of my best friends and I insisted we go to a Rangers game. She was just horrified by the speed, the violence. She was like, ‘What’s happening??’ when they started fighting and I was loving it.”
Rebecca became a Ducks fan not long after her father took her to her first ice hockey game when she was 10, to see a local team called the Chelmsford Chieftains. “It was something different to get away from football,” she says. “He started my passion for hockey because we both loved it, fell in love with the game, loved the speed of it. My dad was fanatical about it and had to understand everything about the game, so I then had to understand everything and got a better appreciation for it.”
It was around that time she saw the Mighty Ducks movies, “then it was announced they were going to create the franchise, which we thought was kind of funny,” she remembers. “But we loved hockey, so we wanted to get involved and we had the dream of one day coming to the States to watch hockey. Back then there was no internet, you just followed through the newspapers. My dad would really follow the scores and whatever news there was about the Ducks. Later the internet came around and you could follow a lot better and stream the games.”
“I love hockey and I love the Ducks,” says Wright, seen here with Jakob Silfverberg. “There aren’t many people I can share that with back home in my circle.”
When she was 17, she made her first venture to the States to attend the University of Memphis, where she was offered a scholarship to play tennis and graduated in 2004. It was there she became very close with a family that eventually moved to Mission Viejo – about a half hour from the home of the Ducks.
“Every spring break or holiday, I would visit them, and I finally got to see the Ducks play at The Pond in 2001,” says the now 36-year-old Wright. “Every opportunity I got, I would fly here or somewhere else to watch them play.”
She watched intently from back home during the 2003 run to the Stanley Cup Final. “I felt sick the whole time until the final horn of each game,” she says. “You just want it so badly. When they lost in Game 7 against the Devils, that was soul destroying.”
In 2007, when Anaheim captured California’s First Cup, she had a “massive” orange Ducks flag in her window the entire postseason, “and my friends were very confused. They were like, ‘What are they?’ When they won the Cup, it was fantastic. We lived on a high for ages after that.”
She didn’t see the Ducks play when they faced the Kings at O2 Arena in London in the fall of 2007, but she did get tickets for her dad, who has since passed away. It was a special treat, since he wasn’t ever able to travel to the States because he had to take care of Rebecca’s mom, who was battling illness.
“But he got to see them play in London, and he got pictures with the Stanley Cup,” she says. “I was really pleased that he got to go to that.”
Until this week, Rebecca’s last trip to see the Ducks was a year ago over President’s Day weekend with her (now ex) husband to see Anaheim play the Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena. The two of them found a spot in one of the lounges at the arena, cheering on a 2-0 Ducks victory.
Yvonne Jordan was standing nearby that night with her husband Damien, and she couldn’t help but notice Rebecca, her bright orange Ducks third jersey and of course her voice. Jordan and Damien are die-hard Ducks fans who have been season ticket holders (now Orange Alliance Members) for 25-plus years, and they frequently travel to watch the team play on the road.
“I happened to hear this strong British accent, turned around and saw her decked out in Ducks gear,” Yvonne recalls. “I had to ask where she was from.” Rebecca had noticed Yvonne as well, since she was wearing a custom-made Ducks jersey created by her daughter, who is in fashion design school.
“She’d never seen anything like that, so she was asking me where I got it,” Yvonne says. “She said she’d been a Ducks fan all her life. We chatted for about 15 minutes. I gave her my contact information and said, ‘We have to continue this conversation and this friendship. You need to come to Orange County, stay at my house and we’ll go to a few games.'”
“It’s been awhile since I’ve been out here, but for me it’s like coming home,” says Rebecca, posing with Yvonne and her favorite player, Corey Perry. “It’s just nice to be out here, meet Yvonne and all her friends and family who all love the Ducks. It’s so great.”
Since that day, the two have texted each other after every game, “even though she watches them a day later,” Yvonne says. We text about how they did, who scored, who was the best player, this guy, that guy.”
They’re kindred spirits, connected by a love for the Ducks. “She’s me, only she lives in England,” Yvonne says. “She knows everything about the team and loves them just like I do. Over a year after we met, here she is.”
Indeed, Rebecca took Yvonne up on her offer and flew out to Orange County earlier this week, where she is staying with the Jordans in their home in Corona del Mar. They went to Wednesday night’s game vs. the Jets and Thursday morning they took in practice at Honda Center, after which Rebecca was able to meet several of the players.
Thursday night was dinner at Selanne Steak Tavern in Laguna Beach. Tonight it’s back at Honda Center for Ducks vs. Sharks and Saturday is a big “Beat LA” brunch at the Jordan house for about two dozen fellow fans, after which they will head up the freeway to take in Ducks-Kings at Staples Center.
“It’s been awhile since I’ve been out here, but for me it’s like coming home,” Rebecca says. “It’s just nice to be out here, meet Yvonne and all her friends and family who all love the Ducks. It’s so great.”
It has admittedly been a tough time for Ducks fans the past few months (“It’s not been our season, has it?” she says politely), but Rebecca has stuck with them through thick and thin.
“Once I commit to a team, that’s it,” she says. “I’ve got a favorite football team at home, West Ham, that’s not the greatest, but I’m loyal to them. I think when you get in depth with a team and get to know the players as best as you can – guys like Perry and Getzlaf who have been here forever, the greats that we’ve had – you get attached. Winning a Stanley Cup was obviously amazing, and this team has been so successful over the years with winning the Pacific Division so many times and playoff success. We’ve got some good kids coming up, so I’m excited to watch them and keep going.”
There are certainly other Ducks fans in the UK, but Rebecca feels comfortable declaring herself the most passionate of them all. “I think there are a few other Ducks people, so I don’t want to rain on their parade,” she says with a smile, “but I’m okay calling myself the biggest one.”