Apr 25, 2011; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton (19) reacts after scoring a goal in overtime in game six of the first round of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center. The Sharks defeated the Kings 4-3 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

Los Angeles: Better Hockey Town Than San Jose?

If you’ve ever been to San Jose during playoff season you know how the team just DOMINATES the landscape of the city.  I’m not just talking about on a gameday either.  During the playoffs the city is littered with cars with flags on them, signage in every storefront and people in Sharks gear.  Stop a random person and I’d put about an 85% chance they know where the Sharks stand.  San Jose is, without a doubt, a hockey town.  But what’s it like elsewhere in the state?

I recently saw this and, after laughing hysterically, decided that it couldn’t be that bad in LA. I wanted to prove to everyone that sport, particularly hockey, has a robust presence in LA. On a trip there earlier this week I decided to scour the city for signs of the Kings’ presence, highlighting it with a trip to a place full of sports fans, Dodgers Stadium. I have several friends who are Kings fans and they are very knowledgeable, passionate and engaged hockey fans. I was curious to see if they were the norm or if they were the oddballs.

7:27AM – My flight landed in LA and I immediately start looking for the mountains of Kings gear I’m assuming will great me. I am greeted by this. Feel free to play “Where’s Waldo’ with the Kings stuff.

9:00 – Still not one Kings car flag, billboard, sign, licence plate frame or even keychain. First meeting of the day and I bring up the Kings’ success, the guy on the other side of the desk looks through me like Demi Moore through Patrick Swayze in Ghost.

10:35 – Hope! I enter an office with boatloads of sports memorabilia! Hope increasing! I strike up a conversation about Kings hockey that seems well received. Hope faded: it lasts about 20 seconds, during which Gretzky is mentioned twice.

12:00 – We sit down to lunch. The waitress didn’t know the Kings were still playing.  She was more curious to know if I was a producer.  I was not.

3:47 – Another meeting, another blank stare. I’m beginning to feel like the Kings are to Los Angeles what the World Dart Championships are to Los Angeles.

5:00 – A day of meetings and not one person wants to talk Kings playoff hockey. I need to believe again in the power of sport and, more specifically, the Hockey Gods.  I head over to my buddy Eric’s office before heading to the Dodgers game with him. Eric is a Kings season ticket holder and massive lifelong Kings fan. In his office he has 3 framed Kings jerseys and a Kings team-signed stick. He was doing a service to me by missing his team’s big game so I could make it to Chavez Ravine for the first time.

6:45 – Just shy of the stadium I see a scalper selling Dodgers tickets wearing…A SHARKS HAT!  I salivate like Pavlov’s dog thinking about training camp in the fall.

7:05 – We enter the ballpark and receive our commemorative Orel Hershiser bobbleheads. Important aside: as a Giants fan I positively hate admitting to people who read this and myself that Chavez Ravine is GLORIOUS. Everything from the organ music to the palm trees was just outstanding. Back to the night: Eric and I wander around, I see no Kings gear aside from my friend Eric. Announced attendance? 47,077. So, anecdotally, 0% of the Dodgers fans are wearing Kings gear.

First pitch, 7:10ish – Stands are half full, half empty if you’re a pessimist. I wonder aloud to Eric if this is because everyone’s watching the Kings game on the concourse. He reminds me that there aren’t TVs that show the game on the concourse. Carter scores shortly after I sit down, score’s shown on the scoreboard. Crowd gets loud for 0.02 seconds and then settles in for a night of baseball.

8:00 – We head up to the Stadium club to see if we can sneak in and catch some of the Kings game. I mean, we came here for baseball, but Eric and I are both getting antsy that there’s playoff hockey being played and we haven’t seen a second of the game.

8:29 – Kings score their 4th goal, Jeff Carter completes the hat trick. The Stadium Club we’re sitting in gets loud. Seriously. I’m surprised by this, but it’s pretty awesome. My faith is instantly refilled in the Kings faithful. I remark to a guy “how ’bout them Kings, right?” He nods, knowingly. Seconds later, with my back to him, he turns to his buddy and jokes “I don’t even know who they’re playing.” Faith destroyed. Hockey game ends minutes later.

9:45 – They announce the final score to the crowd in attendence. On the scoreboard they show maybe 10 people in Kings gear, including someone in a jersey. I will rate that a moderate success!

10:02 – We leave the game. Eric: “Pretty good showing, right? Great noise from the Kings faithful? We’ll look good in your column, right?” Me: “Sure.”

7:42AM, Wednesday – I look outside of my car and spot my first Kings flag! Later in the morning I actually hear people in an office complex talking about how they’re dying for a Kings/Rangers final!  Kings chatter abounds all day after the win and it feels like 1993 again!

The next day I wake up and USA Today runs a story on their front page saying that the Kings may take the L.A. throne.  Then, at lunchtime, I head to Pink’s an LA institution.  There, hanging from the storefront, is…

Faith fully restored, Hockey Gods I’m sorry I ever doubted you. Los Angeles, puck passion may not be as strong with you as it is in San Jose, but by the name of Gretzky there’s still hope for you.


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Tags: Hockey Gods Los Angeles Kings

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