Spencer, an LA Kings STH, budding hockey dad, and all-around good guy, continues this week’s West Coast theme. Travel will take one of us to LA next week and we hope to hook up with Spencer at next Saturday’s matinée with the Red Wings. We’re buying the beers.
“The Los Angeles Kings are one of 13 teams in the NHL who have never won the Stanley Cup. It’s painful to admit, but even the Ducks have taken home the Cup; and with Dustin Penner too. The Kings got close only once. It was 1993, and it was my first year of having season tickets. They played at the old Fabulous Forum and they beat the Leafs in the Conference Finals to move on to the Stanley Cup Finals. It was my introduction to NHL hockey and I will never forget sitting with my high school buddy during those games and screaming my head off.
The Kings faced the Habs in the 1993 Finals. They led the series 1-0 and led by a goal late in the third period of Game 2. That’s when Marty McSorely received a penalty for having an illegal stick. The Canadiens tied the game on a power play goal and eventually won the game in overtime, and went on to win the series in 5 games.
And that was it. 43 seasons, and that was as close as the Kings ever got. Marty McSorely is still, inexplicably a fan favorite in Los Angeles. I, on the other hand will never forgive him for the penalty that cost the Kings a chance at winning the Cup.
I still remained a season ticket holder over the subsequent years but the Kings were always 3rd behind the Lakers and the Dodgers. I would frequently give my tickets away, and sometimes they would go unused, as no one really seemed too excited about hockey in LA. The post-Gretzky era was pretty bleak.
2 years ago, my son woke me up one summer morning to tell me that he wanted to learn how to ice skate and play hockey. Why a 7-year-old, born and raised in Los Angeles would even think of going ice-skating is beyond me. But I took him, and it stuck. He loved. And I loved it. We started using my season tickets. The Dodgers were now boring (no Manny). The Lakers were a little too much; it was as if you had to wear makeup just to go to a damn game.
But the Kings were young, likeable and exciting. You could watch them practice. You could easily meet and talk to the players. They were down-to-earth and nice people.
I was hooked. Now I rarely miss a home game. If my son can’t go, I’ll go by myself. It’s almost like meditation for me. I sit in the stands and zone-out and watch every minute. I tried taking some friends and even a date once, but most gay people I know in LA don’t like or understand hockey. (It is so much better watching the game by myself than having to explain icing to someone for the frkn 10th time!).
The road games – I DVR, then play it back before I go to bed. If the Kings are losing, I get annoyed and fast forward to the end. It seems like less suffering that way. This year, the Kings have gotten off to a somewhat disappointing start. They currently sit 8th in the Western Conference.
Their top line of Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams and Simon Gagne has been great. Kopitar has to be the most underrated center in the NHL. Williams is probably one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet (he was so nice to my son during an event last year).
And Gagne…. well, there are T-Shirts in LA that say “I’m Gay for Gagne”. But I have yet to see a guy wear that to a game!
The second line is Mike Richards, Dustin Brown, and as of today, Dustin Penner.
Penner has yet to score a goal and seems to be in everyone’s dog house. (I mean really, how did this guy ever score 30 goals?)
The Kings have extremely talented defensemen. Drew Doughy is off to a slow start, but Jack Johnson has picked up the slack.
Seriously, Alec Martinez has to be the best-looking human ever created. I think he’s good, but who can tell? Anything he does would be ok with me. The best part of the National Anthem is we all get to see Martinez without his helmet.
And finally, Jonathan Quick may look like he’s 15 years old, but he’s playing like a Vezina Trophy winner. Coach Terry Murray is frequently heavily criticized in the local hockey blogosphere (and we’re giving him a pass here today).
So, three teams are tied for the longest drought without a Stanley Cup, the Blues, the Leafs and the Kings. I hope the drought ends this year. I hope that 2011-2012 will be the year that Dustin Brown will be the first King to raise the Cup at center ice in Los Angeles.
The quest continues Thursday evening as the Kings host the Canucks. It’s a late game for you L’ Eastern Conference boys and the results won’t make my deadline, but try to stay up and watch it.”
You will follow Spencer on twitter: @Spencerlakings