the LA daily: why i love the los angeles kings

Sunday morning, Nolan and I watched the Penguins play the Capitals in the NHL's game of the week on NBC. It was considerably more exciting than the previous week's contest between alleged rivals the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers, where someone forgot to tell the Rangers to show up and care about the game.

Watching the game together was the highlight of my weekend, and it inspired this week's LA Daily, He shoots, he scores: why I love the Los Angeles Kings:

I introduced my son Nolan to hockey during the playoffs two seasons ago, when he was 15. The Versus network had just picked up NHL games in HD, and we watched almost every game together (SECOND PRO TIP: If you're going to introduce anyone to a new sport, do it during that sport's playoffs. If it's the NHL, you get the bonus of showing them nearly all of the teams.) Last month, thanks to a post-holiday ticket sale, I took him to three games, where we watched the Kings play some of the most listless, uninspired, terrible hockey I've seen in over 20 years, but it didn't matter, because we went together. Saturday night, Nolan decided to list the various ways I've influenced his life, and one of the things at the top of the list was introducing him to hockey, which he loves. I choked back tears when he said that, because watching games together not only keeps the bond to my youth alive, but it strengthens the bond between us.

This column isn't really about hockey, but since I'm talking about it already, here's something I've been thinking about for much of this season and all of last season: The NHL has made a big deal about cutting down on fighting, and it seems like the league is working very hard to eliminate it from the game. I think this is incredibly stupid, and makes as much sense as taking the infield fly rule out of baseball; it doesn't happen that often, and casual fans may not understand what's going on, but it's a fundamental part of the game.

Whenever I suffer through yet another a Kings game where they're just getting their asses handed to them while they continue to dump and chase, over pass, and take stupid offensive zone penalties, I long for Marty McSorley, Ken Baumgartner, or Tiger Williams to come off the bench, play some old time hockey, and get the team (and fans) fired up. If the NHL wants get serious about protecting players, they should start seriously cracking down on cheap hits from behind, and stick fouls.

This was on my mind through most of Sunday's game, because the Capitals just kept taking cheap shots at Crosby, and none of this teammates or the officials did anything about it. I know Crosby has a reputation for being a whiner (though he's repeatedly compared to Gretzky, he reminds me more of Lindros) and it's pretty clear the kid doesn't have a lot of friends in the dressing room, but he's the frakking team captain, and nobody stepped up to protect him? If the NHL isn't going to call cheap shots and cross checks, and the team isn't going to send a goon out there to put on the foil, can anyone blame the Capitals for chipping away at him the whole game? I'm not taking anything away from the Caps; they played a better all around game (and Ovechkin is an unreal beast out there, who is only going to get better) but when a player like Crosby isn't allowed to shoot, it hurts his team and it rips off the fans.

Okay, so now that this has turned into a post all about hockey, a couple random thoughts about the Kings:

They've got a slim shot at the playoffs, yes, but the worst thing this team could do is make a shortsighted trade that's supposed to get them there, because we all know this team, this year, isn't going past the first round (and may even get swept.) But if the Kings' management stays patient, and they don't get fucked by free agency (the absolute scourage of sports fans everywhere) all the years of suffering are about to pay off.

I wish this team would just shoot the damn puck more, and stop it with the dump-and-chase. There are some teams who can get away with the dump-and-chase, and this team isn't one of them.

I wish they'd finish their checks in the corners, and not give up the blue line so easily.

I also wish they'd gather up all the new alternate jerseys and set them all on fire, and not just because the Kings can't seem to win while they're wearing them. Memo to sports franchises in Los Angeles: Be glad that you're not the goddamn Raiders; wear your colorful uniforms with pride.

As long as I'm complaining about uniforms: I really wish the home teams would stop wearing their away jerseys.

As long as I'm complaining about things changing: I really wish they'd change the conference and division names back.

Did I mention how much I hate the dump-and-chase?

Also: get off my lawn.

Finally: Go Kings!

80 thoughts on “the LA daily: why i love the los angeles kings”

  1. No offense taken (hopefully none given). It’s something that just baffles me and I suspect “I just do” as way of an answer is just what it is. I’d suggest banning fighting not for the kids simpley because, like football, baseball, basketball, etc, fighting isn’t what you’re doing. You’re playing |sport goes here|.
    I fully recognize lots of folks like fighting in hockey. It occurs to me Lacrosse has a similar mindset. I just plain don’t get it. Like art or music I suppose, some people will love something I hate and there is no more “why” beyond that’s what someone likes.

  2. I never said that the fighting was disciplined (far from it) I said that fighting itself is a form of discipline.
    It is used to keep the rest of the active play from getting out of control.
    Your next query will be “Isn’t that what the referees are for?”… I started wearing stripes for beer money in college and eventually worked my way up to refereeing College and European professional hockey, so believe me when I say that it is impossible for the on-ice officials to see everything and a lot of ‘chippy’ play goes on that technically doesn’t violate the rules enough to get called. The idea that if you ride the team’s star in a certain way means that some six-foot-ten cement-head will be out there for your next shift to play patty-cake with you acts as a deterrent. So plainly said:
    Fighting prevents potentially more dangerous stick-play.
    It is subtle and brutal. But it is a fact.
    The truth is that the potential for serious injury is much higher from a cross-check or a hit from behind than it is from fisticuffs.
    PS: where I do agree with you is the “Slap-shot” style fighting for fighting’s sake, which includes lunacy like bench-clearing brawls. As a goaltender I always saw fights as a nice mental vacation. A chance for me to take the mask off, wash the sweat off my face, and not focus like a damn laser beam on that little disc of vulcanized rubber. I never entertained the idea of skating down to the other guy in the Ancient Brotherhood and dropping my gloves. Maybe I’d go there and have a chat about leg pad technology or ask him about that nice catching glove… but fight? Never!

  3. Lacrosse is just completely insane. I have watched hockey all my life, but the first time I went to a NLL game my jaw just hit the floor. Granted, it’s people running around as opposed to skating, so it’s a lot slower and involves a lot less momentum, but I have never seen so many unpenalized crosschecks to the head in one game.

  4. As mentioned in the “Wheaton Hockey Scandal” post, I never got into hockey for various reasons.
    However, this season marks the 100th anniversary since the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. If I recall, had we won where we lost last year, Cubs wouldve been facing the Dodgers in the playoffs. I was looking forward to that. Oh well.

  5. Chris – I’ve been a hockey enthusiast since the early 70’s, and I don’t enjoy watching the fights – but I’m a total girl about that. What I do appreciate is the need to allow them to do that. The difference in football and basketball – those players don’t carry a lethal weapon during the sport. If you don’t allow hockey players to let off steam, and establish boundaries with opposing players, they use those sticks to let out their frustrations, and there are actually MORE injuries. It’s human nature to react with what they have. If you allow them to fight, they make the point they want, they rev up their team and the crowd, and THEY DROP THE STICKS!! The fights don’t usually last long, and they accomplish an important move in game strategy.
    I love the Kings. I’ve been disapointed by their performance in many different seasons, but I never lose hope.

  6. Great article, Wil. As a Leafs fan, I can’t think of the Kings without cursing Kerry Fraser and lamenting the last chance for a Leafs-Habs final for maybe forever… *sigh*
    And yeah, Ken Dryden IS pretty awesome. Besides his hockey achievements he also got a law degree, is an accomplished writer, and is currently serving as a Member of Parliament. A few years back he ran for Liberal party leadership, and the mere idea of a potential Prime Minister with SIX STANLEY CUPS!!! was quite squeeful. NOT that that’s a good reason to vote for anyone, but, y’know. :)

  7. Am I the only one who keeps timing out on the LA Weekly blog site?
    Neither Firefox nor Safari seem to want to load it, so it guardedly isn’t a browser issue, and generally a “forbidden” site (net nanny firewall here, sigh) loads an access-blocked page when something’s been flagged as verboten.
    The site just flat doesn’t seem to load.

  8. Is there a hockey fan on Earth who doesn’t curse Kerry Fraiser? In a league with historically awful officiating, that guy stands in a class by himself, and that’s saying something *couch* Koharski *cough*.

  9. Amen! I own the DVD set of the 10 Greatest Flyers games, and they have a couple from ’74-75. It also has the exhibition game vs. the Soviets where the Russians left the ice due to getting crushed physically by the Broad St. Bullies. It’s not like being there in person, but it gives me my fix when I need it. I’m a Philly girl who started going to Flyers games when I was 2 years old, and miss those bench clearing brawls at the Spectrum.
    Also – I agree. Dump & Chase hockey blows.

  10. Hey, Wil, another Wil-fan and Hockey fan here.
    You’re bang on – and believe me, being from Columbus, I know -all- about the frustration of watching your team get kicked around.
    I think a lot of people who don’t understand fighting in hockey tend to be people who don’t actively root for a team. I had a friend who constantly regaled me about how bad fighting in hockey was, but he only watched it on Sports Center or playoff games now and then.
    After I took him to some games at Nationwide, he started seeing it a different way, and he began to understand -why- fighting happens, and what it can mean for /his team/.

  11. Michael, I have two words for you: Willi Plett. Remember him?
    It sucked big time when stupid Norm moved the Stars to Texas. I tend to root against Dallas when they happen to be a part of the game I’m watching. I have nothing against the players, really, but it just galls me that we had hockey stolen from us.
    I had a mad crush on Dino when I was young. Even bought the 45 of “Disco Dino.” Yikes, was I ever that foolish?
    I think Curt Giles was probably my favorite player. Either him or Bobby Smith. Good guys.

  12. Wil, my hubby would be in the seat next to you, if you went back to 1974 to a Broad Street Bullies’ game and could take him along. He bleeds orange and black.
    I have no problem with fighting in hockey, as long as it’s done “properly.” If one guy says, “You wanna go?” and the other guy says, “Sure” and they fight, that’s cool. The code of honor is in place during an exchange like that.
    What I can’t abide is the crap that players like Ruutu and Avery and Bertuzzi perpetrate – the stick work and sneak attacks and dirty play. I got no time for that. I think that kind of foolishness causes more injuries than fighting.
    I’m with you on the third jersey nonsense. The MN Wild have these gods-awful red jerseys that they wear at home (which were the third jersey a year or so ago). Go back to the green jerseys, already!
    By the by, the Wild are playing the Kings as I type. Go, Wild! :>ppp

  13. He had the best hair though. Probably still does, but now with the helmet, we can’t see it.
    I used to be able to pick him out from seeing the hair. Now, he’s just another anonymous zebra…until he makes a stupid call.

  14. Dude, be glad. I live in Ottawa. The most exciting part of watching the Sens play these days is seeing whether Spezza’s going to get more ticks in the “Holy crap that was an amazing play” column or in the “Pass the puck directly to the other team and give them an amazing scoring chance” column. Generally that second column is a lot more full than the first.
    And yes, cutting out fighting from the NHL is stupid if they’re not going to cut out the cheap hits. There have been a LOT of cheap hits lately, and it just keeps getting worse. Besides, hockey fighting != real fighting. And who doesn’t remember the whole-team brawl between Ottawa and Buffalo a few years ago where Buffalo’s goalie thought it would be a good idea to take a few swings at Emery? Now THAT got the city talking about hockey!
    I’m going to disagree with you on dump and chase though. Most teams’ defense is so good now that most passing plays entering the zone have exactly zero chance to score, unless it’s an odd-man rush or something. Watching the teams wander back and forth between the blue lines because they both insist on trying passing plays that won’t work… that’s not exciting hockey. I generally turn the TV off when games turn into that.

  15. Yup – the hair that was welded into place was pretty amazing.
    If anyone is interested in reading a fascinating collection of anecdotes and stories from Ray “Scampy” Scapinello’s 30+ years as an NHL linesman, I wholeheartedly recommend “Between the Lines” by Scapinello and Rob Simpson. That’s gotta be one of the hardest jobs on the planet… and the guy managed to do it with a ton of class.
    And he loved the fights, even though he’d occasionally take his lumps from them.

  16. Wil, you didn’t like Kingston! Oh man.
    Me, personally? I wish they’d wear the purple and gold unis with the old-timey gold n’ velvet crown on it. Man, those were SICK. (This coming from a kid only 2 years old when they switched to the silver n’ black).
    And even though I’m a Raiders fan, I agree about LA teams being glad they’re not the Raiders right now. I seriously don’t know how I’ve made it this long being a Kings, Raiders and Dodgers fan. Thank God for the Lakers!..from time to time

  17. It wasn’t Kingston’s fault. I was a teenager and as such was required to hate all mascots.
    And, yeah, I want those old sweaters with the crown back. Those were awesome.

  18. Just wanted to say this really hit home. My daughter got into hockey from watching games with me when she was younger. Then she decided she wanted to play and ended up the goalie and only girl on an all guy’s team for a few years. Whenever people asked her why she didn’t play on a girl’s team she’d reply, “They don’t play real hockey!” Yeah, she wasn’t afraid to get in there and both take it and give it. I must admit though, that seeing your teenage daughter take a slapshot to head is a bit frightening! But you’ve gotta love it. Hockey brings families together.
    So how about those Blackhawks this year, they finally found a team again. Yeah, go Hawks!

  19. Even though I’m 70-something replies late, I still feel the need to jump in on this discussion as Wil has brought up so many things that a passionate hockey fan loves to debate! Here are a few of my thoughts:
    1 – Fighting is definitely a necessary part of the game and as much as Gary ‘I love basketball’ Bettman wants to wussify (Milbury’s word) the league, it’s not going anywhere. This has already been mentioned, but you can’t give someone a 5 ft deadly weapon ask them to go play an aggressive game and not give them an outlet for that aggression. Someone will get seriously injured a lot worse than they would from dancing around and grabbing handfuls of jersey. Granted, there are much-glorified incidents that detract from the beauty of the game. McSorley, Bertuzzi, Simon, Simon, Simon, and Simon. But that’s just the problem. The ‘regular’ sports press only focuses on those things when they decide to talk about hockey. There’s so much more to it than that. I wish more US fans had access to Canadian hockey telecasts. It would open their eyes and minds to the game in a way they haven’t seen before.
    Also, there’s the CODE. There is a very clearly defined code when talking about hockey fights. It’s not written anywhere, you just know it. Especially if you have ever been a part of the game at any level. It’s a lot more gentlemanly than you think and there are rules that usually aren’t broken. Don’t hit a guy when he is down, fight someone your own size, don’t fight with a visor on (Cal Clutterbuck, you are on notice), no sucker punches, etc…
    2 – Dark Jerseys at home SUCK. I still don’t see the reason for this. Put it back the way it was!
    3 – To me third jerseys are unnecessary. They are muddying the waters and they are just moneymakers for the team. I give you this one pass: If you are an original six or original expansion team and have a heritage jersey, OK. Otherwise, not needed. Sabres? Want to change jerseys again? I think it’s a Wednesday…
    4 – Give Canada back its teams. If you have the NHL Network or the Center Ice package and recently saw the annual Hockey Day In Canada broadcast, then you know what I mean. It truly is THEIR game. We in the states just happen to love it too.
    Wil, thanks for being a cool geek who loves hockey!!! I’m sorry that you have to suffer thru the Kings lately, but in the end hockey is hockey. We love it, the most beautiful game around.

  20. I have season tix to the Colorado Mammoth (because it’s at least as exciting as hockey, but I can AFFORD it) and I’ve noticed the NLL isn’t calling a LOT of penalties this year. The line judge is doing his job and calling procedurals (over-and-back, too many men, etc) but the refs are picking their noses while my guys get beat up.

  21. Yeah, NLL is very affordable. So affordable that all the players still have day jobs. :) John Tavares teaches math at my old high school.

  22. I completely agree on the Lindros / Crosby link. They are very similar. The Great 8 is the future of the NHL, he is Pavel Bure and Cam Neely combined!

  23. 40 yrs old. played hockey my entire life. watch it all the time live and on TV. Live in a Canadian hockey hotbed. HATE fighting in hockey. hate it in my own beer league. hate it in minor hockey. hate in the NHL. it’s plain wrong. a guy was recently killed in canada in a hockey fight because he fell on the ice without a helmet. the NHL is not trying to stamp out hockey. it’s actually the fans who want to get rid of it. and I note that it is primarily being driven by the Canadian fans who’ve had enough of it. I strongly beleive the NHL keeps it in the game to attract the casual viewing US audience. “oh, but you need it to protect the stars”. wrong. all the nhl has to do is clamp down on head shots and cheap shots with tough fines and suspensions. the stars will do fine.

  24. You said: “As long as I’m complaining about uniforms: I really wish the home teams would stop wearing their away jerseys.”
    and I say omg!yes.

  25. I’m going to weigh in with Kessel on the fighting issue. And I both older and from further above the 49th Parallel than… well just about anyone else posting here; I’m so old I don’t call them Jerseys, I still call them sweaters!
    But seriously, watch some good peewee hockey where the fighting is toned down and you’ll see just some stunningly good pass and shoot. Mind you, some good corner work is ok, but not every puck should end up in a tangle of skates and punches behind the goal.

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