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!

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