In the last few days I’ve been asking a bunch of folks here in Los Angeles if they know what the Kings are about to do.
Out of the dozen or so of my fellow Angelenos that I spoke to, only the rabbi knew. And she doesn’t really count because her husband is Canadian.
The Los Angeles Kings, our pro hockey team that’s been here since 1967, is very close to winning its very first championship, and the elusive Stanley Cup.
As a sports team the Kings aren’t just hot right now, they’re sizzling. Here’s a paragraph from an article that appeared in the sports pages of New Jersey.com today (June 4, 2012): “Whether you’re the biggest hockey fan in North America, a casual observer, or have never been on the ice, what the Kings have accomplished through these NHL playoffs is simply amazing. Saturday night’s 2-1 overtime win over the Devils in Newark gave Los Angeles its 10th straight road playoff win and made it a perfect 10-0 on the road in the playoffs.”
The Kings are now up 2-0 in the finals, and only have to win two more games in the next five contests to win their first ever championship, bringing the Stanley Cup to L.A. for the first time in the franchise’s 45-year history. It’s a feat the team never even accomplished when Wayne Gretzky was on the Kings.
But nobody here in town cares. Really. L.A. and hockey? What a joke.
Back when I was in my late teens, I attended my very first hockey game. It was Christmas Day, 1969. As I recall, it was a crummy day for L.A., cloudy and in the low 60s. One of my sports-obsessed friends was very excited, and talked me into buying a ticket to the game with him. He was excited because the Kings were playing the Boston Bruins, who, he explained to me, had this phenom named Bobby Orr.
As memory serves me, the Kings lost 7 to 1, and the game was a lot more lopsided than even that score indicates. The Kings only won 14 games that season. The Bruins only lost 17 games that season.
What I do remember is that this 21-year-old kid, Orr, who was only a few years older than me -- though he didn’t look it -- was really the only player the Bruins needed to put on the ice against the Kings that day. Even knowing nothing about hockey, it was clear to me that he was tremendous. What a skater! Fast and graceful, though he didn’t even do any spins or jumps. He was Fred Astaire on ice. Astaire made history with terrific numbers such as when he danced smooth and wily wearing tails and a top hat. Orr was a smooth-skating, high-scoring, wily defenseman who also pulled off many a hat trick. To this day what Orr did that day 43 years ago remains one of the most impressive performances I’ve ever seen in sports. For Orr, it turned out that 1969-1970 was a record-breaking, hall-of-fame season.
Yet, in all these years since, I’ve only been to one other Kings hockey game.
A while ago I said no one here in L.A. cares about the Kings. I take that back. Canadians who are here care. And I guess coporations who buy expensive season tickets so they can entertain their clients at the games care.
If the Kings do win the Stanley Cup in the next week or so, brace yourself for some pretty serious unlawful celebration hijinks. I wouldn’t be surprised if some rich dude ended up going nuts at Ermenegildo Zegna on Rodeo Drive, ripping an expensive shirt off one of its racks, and running out of the store without paying for it, all the while shouting “Go Anze!” (Who? My point exactly!)
And things may get truly unruly in Bel Air, where a private Bel Air patrolman may allow some of the neighborhood kids to set fire to his patrol car, since it’s a year old and he’s been having trouble with the air-conditioning and wants this year’s model anyway.
Soccer is far more popular here in L.A. than hockey. And even if the Galaxy doesn’t get a lot of support, the World Cup does. And at least soccer is a game lots of kids play here as well.
But I’m really pulling for the Kings to win the Stanley Cup. Here’s why:
A Kings victory would be a terrific opportunity for us to FINALLY get an NFL team back here in L.A. And Angelenos do love football.
I’m thinking we should be able to land the Packers or Patriots. No way, you say?
Well, hold on. Green Bay, Wisconsin, is in the middle of hockey country. If you lived in Green Bay, one of the coldest -- and most sports obsessed -- places on Earth, wouldn’t you kill for a Stanley Cup championship team? Let’s trade the Kings for the Packers, even up.
OK, we could help them build a state-of-the-art indoor hockey rink. Just think about it, Green Bayers -- no more freezing your butts off each fall and winter having to watch the Packers play outside.
No sale? Well let’s ring the doorbell of the New England Patriots. Yes, New England still has the hockey Bruins, who fielded a good team this season, so let’s put the Kings in Providence. Again, it’s the very essence of hockey country there. Let them root for the Buffalo Bills or the New York Giants once the Patriots come to L.A.
And come on, Tom Brady is really a Hollywood kinda guy anyway.
First, though, the Kings have two more games to win.
And I'm sure there will be no feudin' here in L.A. about one thing: Millions more will have watched the "Hatfields & McCoys" here in L.A. on the History Channel last week than will watch the Kings & the New Jersey Devils. So it's time for the boutique Kings to go, championship or no.