My Year in the Kingdom

I will start by saying this is not me bandwagoning. As I have stated before I am not a fan of teams simply because I live near them or they’re winning. Examples: Lived in Toronto 6 years, never a Leaf’s fan. Spent a great deal of time in New England, would rather die than be a Bruins fan. I’m a fan of teams that have players I respect, and an attitude and work ethic I adore.

Bailey & Me.

Bailey & Me.

When I moved to Los Angeles in February 2013 I did not expect to become a Kings fan. I had written a piece for the Canucks Hockey Blog about the erroneous way the LA Kings handled their social media. (Note: That title wasn’t my original title. I had ‘Dear LA Kings, You’re Doing it Wrong’ My editor changed it, which is his right.) After that article, I was told by many Kings fans that I wasn’t allowed to be a fan of their team. I was also blocked by an actual King at the time, Dustin Penner. I stand by that article to this day because at the time, it was accurate. So no, when I first started attending Kings games, I wasn’t cheering them, I was usually cheering whomever they played.

Now I never hated the Kings, unlike most Vancouver fans. When they kicked the Canucks out of playoffs on the run to the Cup in ’12 I thought they did it fair and square. They outplayed the Canucks, they didn’t out bully us like Boston. I don’t hate teams for being good. That said I had never really followed them. If they weren’t playing one of my teams (Canucks, Pens, Habs) I didn’t pay attention.

But the more games I attended the more I truly paid attention to how they played. I realized the Kings are not lucky, or streaky but just plain GOOD. I quickly became a fan of Jeff Carter. I was amazed by how someone so big could be so fast. And when he scores, it’s always a thing of beauty. I became mesmerized by Jonathan Quick’s ability to stop a puck. And guys… he can stop a puck and not belly flop-starfish on the ice immediately afterward (like Bobby Lu). Quick stays upright. Like, a lot. I started to see Dustin Brown the way he really is – not a reckless thug but a guy who simply can’t skate very well. But when he does stay upright, he’s pretty good. And Doughty…. well I had already given into Doughty-love for 2 weeks in February of 2010 (Olympics) so it was easy to give into it again.

Me with Jarret Stoll and Anze Kopitar at Taste of Southbay

Me with Jarret Stoll and Anze Kopitar at Taste of Southbay

But more than the players – there were other things about the Kings that started to lure me in. The first thing was their back office. . Their management is GREAT. They make the right trades, hire the right staff and foster the right attitude. I ran into Darryl Sutter and his family after a game this year. It was the first game back after the Olympic break and I was wearing my Team Canada Jeff Carter jersey. Coach Sutter said to me ‘Great jersey. I like it.’ And I said something like “Thanks. I had to get Jeff Carter. He was amazing.” My husband added “And Doughty too.” And pointed to his Doughty Team Canada jersey he was wearing. We thought he’d appreciate our compliments to his players. Sutter smiled (no, really, he did) and said “They were all great. It’s a team sport and every one of them made it happen.”

That’s basically what makes the Kings so likeable to me. It’s not about one star. It’s not about hanging it all on Quick, like NYR seems to be doing right now with Lundqvist. It’s about every player giving one hundred percent. Every player has the same expectation put on them and every player produces because of it. Kopitar leads the league in playoff points. Gaborik in playoff goals. Doughty in points for a defenseman. Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown, Jake Muzzin, Willie Mitchell, Alex Martinez, Justin Williams, all contributed key goals. It’s easier to count the Kings who haven’t scored than the ones who have. They’re the definition of ‘Team Effort’. It’s awesome.

The other thing that I appreciate is how they treat their fans. The Kings make their organization accessible to the fans.  They appreciate the people that pay money to support them. If you see Luc Robitaille in the hall and say hi, he will say hi back. Sutter talks to fans. The Kings don’t use the tunnel for ice entry during games, they walk past The Chairman’s Lounge where some fans are able to see them,  cheer them and even bump fists with them.  They have events that are affordable. Canuck’s Ice and Dice is $350 a ticket and has a huge waiting list. I went to a Los Angeles Kings event that was $125 and I was treated to delicious food and got to meet Carter, Toffoli, Richards, Kopitar, and the nicest hockey player I have ever met Robyn Regehr . This team knows that fan support is a privilege, not a right. This might be because they’re in a competitive American market where a lot of attention goes to baseball and basketball, but I don’t think it is. I think it’s because they just have a different mindset than a lot of other teams who keep their fans at arms-length and think of them as ATM cards more than people they respect. (This isn’t about the Canucks per say. I honestly haven’t experienced any other NHL Team that is as fan-friendly as the Kings).

And last but not least… their social media. It’s changed. It’s done what I thought it should do to begin with. It’s taken out the biting, bitter, posts/tweets that simply bring them bad attention and focused on the witty, snarky tongue-in-cheek, all-in-good fun tweets that make them …. Wait for it…. Likeable. In the words of Pat Donahue Jr. who runs the Kings twitter since the previous guy (who would have had me stoned if he could) left he’s changed their social media focus to be “ less sarcastic” and more “upbeat, fun and light-hearted.” And he’s done a good job. I’m impressed.

And now… today… it’s been a little over a year since I entered the Kingdom and I have to say I’m in love with this team. Yes, I still cheer more than one team (Canucks, Pens, Canadiens, to name just a few) but when it comes down to a game of Playoff Survivor (where my favorite teams are playing each other and  I have to vote one of them off of the island that is my heart) I don’t see myself ever voting the Kings off – ever.  Too much heart, too much respect, and they’ve shown me too much love.

I’ll be at the game tonight. I hope you make history boys and get your name on Lord Stanley’s Cup once again. You’ve earned it and you’ve earned my unwavering support. I’m proud to call you my team!

Olympic Hockey Orientation Invitations

Let's do it again, boys!

Let’s do it again, boys!

So the Hockey Canada has sent out it’s invites to who they consider the best of the best of Canada’s NHL talent. The list has some hits and some fairly major misses in my opinion. Let me break it down for you.

Goalie Invites
Roberto Luongo, Carey Price, Mike Smith, Brayden Holtby and Corey Crawford.
Hits:  I am not Bobby Lu’s biggest fan but he bailed out Brodeur, and our Country’s ass, in the 2010 Olympics and kept us in medal contention so you can’t not pick him. Price didn’t have the best year last year but he’s been solid in the past. Holtby is young but when he’s hot he is sweltering.
Misses: Crawford won the Stanley Cup so I can understand the invite, but… I’m not sure he’s ready for the pressure of a Nation. And as for Smith. He is much too much of a diva and a baby to be of any value to Team Canada. His flopping and tantrums will go over like a lead balloon in an international setting. Also, I feel like Cam Ward should have gotten an invite. Yes, he was injured last year but he is still a stronger choice than Smith.

Forward Invites
Patrice Bergeron, Jeff Carter, Logan Couture, Sidney Crosby, Matt Duchene, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Getzlaf, Claude Giroux, Taylor Hall, Chris Kunitz, Andrew Ladd, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, Rick Nash, James Neal, Corey Perry, Mike Richards, Patrick Sharp, Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Joe Thornton, Jonathan Toews.
Hits: Anyone on the 2010 Gold Medal winning team deserves a callback (Toews, Nash, Getzlaf, Bergeron, E Staal, Perry, Thornton). I can’t deny they’ve gotten us there before… even though I am not a fan of Perry, Gretzlaf or Thornton. New additions that I am ecstatic about: Jeff Carter. I have really and truly fallen in love with the way he plays. He’s got grace, percision and size. Kunitz is another great choice. He is a sniper and paired with Crosby, especially, he is a goal-scoring-titan. James Neal. He’s brilliant, the end. JORDAN STAAL. Why is he in all caps? Because he is JORDAN STAAL. His transition year in Carolina was less than stellar but I have faith that shorty-scoring beast from the Penguins is still in there and ready to re-emerge. Plus he’s won with his brother before, on a Junior level. I’d love to see it again. Stamkos and Giroux are also strong and obvious choices… on paper. (More on that in the misses…)
Misses: Brad Marchand. He is not that good. And more importantly, he is the exact opposite of everything that is suitable to Olympic-style hockey. His cheap shots, ignorant attitude and genuinely violent style is not something I want associated with our Country on this stage. I honestly don’t think I can cheer for a team with him on it. Not even kidding. Other choices that leave me lacking: Milan Lucic (for very similar reasons as Marchand) and Couture, who I think is yet to actually prove himself in a pressure situation. Also, I adore Claude Giroux and his skills are unquestionably excellent, however, he and Crosby hate each other. I might be thinking like a “chick” here but are these two actually going to be able to play together? If not, I pick Mr. Golden Goal. Also leaving off Jarome Iginla after he set up the game winning golden goal, from his effing knees no less, is a travesty. Nothing short of a travesty.

Defense Invites
Karl Alzer, Jay Bouwmeester, Dan Boyle, Drew Doughty, Mike Green, Dan Hamhuis,Travis Hamonic, Duncan Keith, Kris Letang, Marc Methot, Dion Phaneuf, Alex Pietrangelo, Brent Seabrook, Marc Staal, P.K. Subban, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Shea Weber
Hits: Pretty much the whole list. Even though I can’t stand playing against Keith, Seabrook, Subban and Weber I know they’ll be assets to my Country’s team. And I know, unlike Marchand and probably Lucic, they won’t embarrass us. I’m particularly happy about Letang and Hamhuis as I think Letang’s offensive defense and Hamhuis’ solid, clean defense is exactly what we’ll need. And yeah, the fact that Marc Staal’s inclusion means 3 out of 4 Staals could be on the Olympic Team makes me giddier than a Belieber at a Justin concert. I am a Staal groupie and proud of it.
Misses: I would have liked to see Kevin Bieksa, but maybe that’s just the Canucks fan in me. I think he was worth a chance.

If I was picking the final roster
The 2014 Socchi Olympic Team Canada Men’s Hockey Roster would be… drumroll….
Three Goaltenders: Roberto Luongo, Starter. Carey Price, Backup. Corey Crawford, 3rd.
14 Forwards: Jonathan Toews, Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Jeff Carter, Patrice Bergeron, Mike Richards, Jordan Staal, Eric Staal, James Neal, Claude Giroux, Steven Stamkos, Rick Nash, John Tavares, Martin St. Louis.
Eight Defensemen: Kris Letang Dan Hamhuis, Drew Doughty, Alex Pietrangelo, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Dan Boyle and Marc Staal for the STAAL TRIFECTA!

So what are your thoughts? Who do you think got missed? Who do you think, from these invites, should make the team?

Duncan ‘Crocodile Tears’ Keith

Duncan Keith and Jeff Carter were shoving and slashing each other in front of the net during a hockey play. As the puck moved down the ice, the two players kept shoving each other. Then Carter takes a tap at Keith’s glove which had come off. Then Keith takes his stick and whips it at Carter’s face, cutting open his chin.

In typical Duncan Keith fashion, Keith tells the media after the game that yes, he meant to hit Carter, but not in his face. “I’m sorry” and “I feel bad”. Sure he didn’t cry but Keith’s constant “remorse” for his constant malicious acts are as close to crocodile tears (def: a false or insincere display of emotion) as you can get without the water works.

His apology is as fake as his excuse.

Jeff Carter is 6’4 and he wasn’t crouching or bending in at all. Keith is 6’1, and if he was aiming for Carter’s chest his stick would have been around his own chest level. Instead, Keith’s stick went up, WAY UP, well past Carter’s chest. He knew exactly where he would clip Carter.

Furthermore, for me, Keith has cried wolf one too many times. After maliciously slamming his elbow into Daniel Sedin’s face he claimed he’s an “honest guy” who  is “not trying to hurt anybody.” Keith told Shanahan he was just trying to stop Sedin from playing the puck. Just doing his job…. with his elbow…. and no puck in play anywhere near him. Yeah, I didn’t buy it then and I’m not buying it now.

And let’s take it off the ice for a minute. Keith made a sexist comment to a female reporter and when there was public outrage he claimed he was a good guy who “respects everyone”. Keith expected us to pretend we didn’t hear him be disrespectful because he tells us he’s respectful? Yeah, it doesn’t work that way.

And that takes us back to the Carter incident. Even if we can suspend disbelief for a second and believe Keith really was going for the chest, it’s still suspendable play. Because it was swinging a stick at a player out of anger with the intent to hit him. His excuse is basically ‘yes I was doing something illegal, but I didn’t mean for it to be THAT illegal.’ Fact is, Keith didn’t want to draw blood only because he knew it would come with at least a penalty and possibly a suspension, not because he thought it was wrong to bust open the face of a top Kings player. (And one of the prettiest faces in the NHL).

And frankly, the refs got it wrong. With no play happening and no puck involved in the incident, Keith shouldn’t have gotten a high-sticking penalty. He should have gotten a game misconduct. And I have no doubt the only reason Keith apologized to Carter repeatedly is because the cameras were rolling and he knew Shanahan would see it.

Here’s hoping Shanny is smart enough to know crocodile tears when he sees them.

Dear Vancouver Canucks, I don’t believe.

canucks

Dear Vancouver Canucks,

I now know how my parents felt when I got bad grades in school and they knew I was smart. They knew I wasn’t trying. That I didn’t seem to care. They watched me physically and mentally CHOSE to fail and they could not do a single thing about it. I’m sure my parents will thank you for that life lesson. Me? I’m too angry to thank you.

You are simply and truly not living up to your potential. You haven’t all season, except for that one game against Chicago. Just like the year before, except that one game again Boston. The core of this team have achieved greatness a great many times and made it seem like it wasn’t an achievement, it was simply normal. Kesler, Bieksa, Henrik, Daniel, Burrows, Edler.  Lapierre, Higgins, Raymond, Luongo, Schneider – YOU ALL made a Stanley Cup final possible 2 years ago. TOGETHER. So how is it possible that this year (and last) you look like a bunch of guys who have never played together let alone made it to a GAME SEVEN FINAL together?

You clearly don’t believe in yourselves anymore and even more evidently, you do not believe in each other.  I refuse to believe you are all too old, past your prime, missed your chance. But it’s not ME who has to refuse to believe it – IT’S YOU.

Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins lost in G6 in 2008 but they didn’t let the world tell them they’d missed their only shot. They wouldn’t get a shot again for years, people said. They came back the very next year and believed they could still win it and they did win it. Detroit has won back-to-back Stanley Cups. There is no reason at all, on paper, that you can’t make it all the way to the end this year and win it.

Coming back from a 3-0 series deficit seems impossible, but you must have believed that getting past round 1 was impossible or we wouldn’t be in this situation. I have been going to a lot of Los Angeles Kings games now that I live here. Last night they went down 2-0 pretty early to the Blues. They stayed behind or tied throughout 2 periods, but you know what they didn’t do? They didn’t give up They didn’t meltdown. They treated every time they had a puck on their stick like it was a chance – BECAUSE IT’S ALWAYS A CHANCE. They took shots – some had little hope of going in but they took them anyway. It kept them in the game, it kept their mentality on winning and when the real opportunities came up – and they could take the shots that count – they could make them goals. Because they were ready. They never stopped trying so they never had to “start” trying.

A few other teams have this kind of work ethic. Detroit owns this kind of game play, as Anaheim is finding out. YOU, Vancouver Canucks,  used to have this kind of game mentality. Now you’re just a bunch of frustrated, pissy emotional babies. Seriously.

STFU and stop making excuses, apologies or complaints to the media. Stop talking to them at all. Nobody wants to hear your crap. Don’t let the media in pre-game. Talk to each other instead. Figure out where you lost your way. Why the Sedins aren’t scoring. Why Burrows isn’t. Where Higgins and Raymond have gone. Why Bieksa and Edler can no longer cover the opposition effectively. TALK IT OUT and find your way again.

Ask yourself why? Why do you find it so impossible to do what you’ve already done? You KNOW you can get out fo the first round, you know you can beat San Jose, because YOU HAVE.

I will always love you but right now you’re giving me no reason to believe in you. Give me a reason to believe in you again. Please. I’m begging you.

 

5 Ways to Keep Busy in the Lockout

It’s official. The NHL is in full lockout mode. The whole season may or may not be lost, only time will tell, but chances are the season won’t start as scheduled. Here’s some ways to keep hockey alive in your heart, or just keep busy, while we wait for the NHL to give us what we want and deserve – a season.

Make a Gary Bettman Voodoo Doll
Crafts are a great way to pass the time. They keep your hands busy and keep you away from mindless TV and boring sports like football or the World Series. Why not make your own homemade voodoo doll. Better yet, a Gary Bettman voodoo doll! Make sure you have LOTS of pins!

Go No-Pro
Let’s face it, just because the big boys can’t figure it out doesn’t mean hockey is completely dead. There’s always the minors. These guys will one day be the big boys so support them now and see them while the seats are affordable. There’s the Chicago Wolves, with the loveable Eddie Lack (the future Robin to Schneider’s Batman) to cheer for or the Abbottsford Heat. Heck you can even just hang around 8 Rinks and watch beer league. Whatever it takes, people. Whatever it takes…

Re-Watch the 2010 Olympic Hockey
Let’s face it. This was amazing hockey, especially if you’re Canadian. And even if you aren’t, chance are there were members of your favorite team on Team Canada’s 2010 Olympic team. Hawks fans have Toews to cheer, Vancouver fans had Luongo, NJD fans – Brodeur, Pens – Sid and Fleury, Canes fans – Eric Staal. Leafs fans….. sorry no Leafs players on this winning team but you’re used to watching other teams win anyway. You can buy the whole series and watch the entire Olympic run – both mens and womens. It’ll keep hockey alive in your heart.

Youtube it!
When all else fails and you need a hockey fix, head to youtube. There are some really
great clips of just about every team. Interviews, recaps, montage videos are all there. You can watch Claude Giroux’s get a Gordie Howe hattrickfollow a Canuck for a day or even watch Blackhawks face-off against Blackhawks in a popsicle eating contest. No seriously…

Donate $ to Charity
What does this have to do with hockey, you say? Well, every team has a few organizations and causes they support, right? For the Canucks it’s Mind Check, Autism Network and Canucks Place. A lot of money comes into these organizations because hockey is being played – through 50/50 draws and other events associated with the actual game being played. If there’s not games, these charities aren’t getting the same donations. So take the money you would have spent on tickets to that Bruins-Canucks match-up you were dying to see in person and donate it to one of the Canucks’ charities instead. It’ll make you feel good… maybe not as good as watching Hamhuis hipcheck Marchand but it’s a  close second.

Bonus Option:  Live in Denial
If none of these options appeal to you and you just can’t wrap your head around losing the best sport out there, then simply pretend it’s not happening. Denial doesn’t just have to be a river in Egypt people. Wear your jerseys on the days that we’re supposed to be Game days, talk to the Barista at Starbucks about how well your doing in your hockey pool, ask your boss if he saw that sick hat trick by Ballard last night (hey, if you’re going to seem crazy, may as well seem REALLY crazy)! It may not bring hockey back but it might get you time off work and a psychiatrist to help you through the lockout.