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2012 Stanley Cup Final: For Many LA Kings Faithful, Being On The Verge Of A Championship Is All Too Surreal

Los Angeles Kings forwards (from left) Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar and
Justin Williams spoke to the media following their 4-0 win in
Game 3 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final on June 4, 2012,
at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Photo: Gann Matsuda/FrozenRoyalty.net

COMMENTARY: Coverage of the Los Angeles Kings’ meteoric rise and dominating run though the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs by out-of-town media has focused too much on some tired story angles. Also, for many local hockey fans, the Kings’ playoff run is very hard to believe.


LOS ANGELES — As the Los Angeles Kings have blown through one opponent after another in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, some of the stories that stand out, outside of those describing what has happened on the ice, have been a bit surprising, and sadly, some have been rather disappointing.

Some of the “roll your eyes” story angles:

Fact is, that’s all really old news that no one cares about anymore. Even the fact that the trades happened this season is ancient history, in terms of why the Flyers traded them away. To be sure, although both are part of Flyers’ history—Richards was their captain—they are now destined to be remembered for their accomplishments with the Kings, not with the Flyers.

  • Out of town media still working off the tired premise that Los Angeles is not a hockey town.

This angle has been ongoing since the Kings made the playoffs this season. Come to think of it, this is a story angle that comes up every season, at some point, and will probably never die.

During the first round against the Vancouver Canucks, questions based on this were brought up by Vancouver media. To their credit, we did not hear much of these questions from St. Louis or Phoenix media during the second round or the conference finals, not that they would have any basis to ask such questions, with the teams they cover in the same boat as the Kings, in that regard.

But with the Kings in the Stanley Cup Final facing the New Jersey Devils, a team that has won three Stanley Cups, the assumption from so many (not just the media) is that there is no hockey tradition here, that Southern California hockey fans are not real fans, and could not possibly know anything about the game.

Even one of the questions during the press conference following the Kings 4-0 win in Game 3 on June 4, with Carter, Kopitar, and right wing Justin Williams, was based on those assumptions…

…and was quickly shot down by Williams.

“Ever since I’ve been here, this place has been sold out,” Williams said, with a rather perplexed, maybe even a mildly disgusted look on his face.

Only now are out-of-towners beginning to get a glimpse (yes, just a glimpse) of the truth…that the Los Angeles area is a hockey town, and has been for years and years. The difference is that, unlike most other National Hockey League cities, Kings fans in this metropolitan area are spread out miles and miles away from Staples Center, and in every direction, extending out over many suburban areas, and even across several counties. As such, the Kings will never have a large concentration of fans in close proximity to Staples Center to give it a constant “hockey town” feeling, as so many other teams have.

To his credit, Hockey Hall of Fame writer Eric Duhatschek of the Toronto Globe and Mail noted that during the Kings’ media availability on June 5.

Former Kings left wing and current President, Business Operations Luc Robitaille also touched on that subject.

“There are [approximately] 16 million people [in the Los Angeles metropolitan area],” said Robitaille. “We know we have 2.5 million hockey fans. We know. We’ve done some research, so we’re very familiar with who likes hockey in Southern California.”

“We know they’re not all LA Kings fans, but we’re trying to reach them all,” added Robitaille. “We hope to grow it to 3 million, and that all of them will be Kings fans. But we know that we’re sharing with the [Anaheim] Ducks, and then, [on a broader scale], we’re sharing with everyone [Angels, Clippers, Dodgers, Lakers, UCLA, USC].”

“Then we have our core fans who have been following us, some of them since 1967, some since the Triple Crown Line. Those people are very, very passionate, and they’ve been following us for years. We didn’t make the playoffs for eight years, and we were still averaging 17,000 a game, which is amazing.”

Maybe after the Kings’ current run, and perhaps, winning the Stanley Cup this season, the hockey world will begin to figure out that Los Angeles really is a hockey town. Just don’t expect more than a relative handful to figure that out, as the stereotypes, evidenced by the never-ending questions raised by out-of-town media, are still way too strong.

Someone Pinch Me!

As the Kings have moved through the playoffs in such dominant fashion, losing just twice in 17 playoff games, they not only became the first NHL team to lead all four playoff series by a 3-0 margin, but they are also nearing something that has not been done since the Edmonton Oilers did it in 1988.

Should the Kings win tonight in Game 4 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final (5:00 PM PDT, NBC Sports Network), not only will they sweep the series against the Devils, but they would also tie the 1988 Stanley Cup Champion Oilers for the best record in a playoff year.

What makes that even more remarkable is the fact that the Oilers were a dynasty team back then, having won the Stanley Cup in 1984, 1985, 1987, and 1988. They were absolutely loaded back then, with the likes of Glenn Anderson, Grant Fuhr, Jari Kurri, Kevin Lowe, Marty McSorley…and some guy named Wayne Gretzky, who would be traded, along with McSorley and Mike Krushelnyski, to the Kings on August 9, 1988 (Gretzky and McSorley would later be joined by Kurri; they helped lead the Kings to the Stanley Cup Final in 1993, where they lost to the Montreal Canadiens in five games).

Fast forward back to the present…in stark contrast to the 1988 Oilers, this year’s edition squeaked into the playoffs as the eighth seed in the Western Conference, making their dominating journey through the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs a surprise, but not for the reasons many might think.

As a hockey writer, I look at the game, and the Kings, objectively, taking my observations, comments from players, coaches, front office types, etc., analyzing them, and presenting them to all of you for your consumption.

But as a very wise, learned hockey writer, whom I admire greatly, wrote last season, “…to cover hockey, you have to love it,” and I would not be covering the Kings and the NHL if I didn’t love this game dearly.

That love for the game began in 1973, when I was a ten-year-old, living in Culver City, California, about six miles from what was then known as the “Fabulous Forum,” in Inglewood, where the Kings played from December 30, 1967 to October 20, 1999.

Coincidentally, back in those days, the Kings practiced in Culver City, at what is now known as the Culver Ice Arena, so, as a kid who played roller hockey in the neighborhood schoolyard every day (long before inline skates existed), it was easier for me than it was for most in the Los Angeles area to become a Kings fan. I even had former Kings defenseman Gary Sargent’s name written on my stick, which I still have, by the way.

For me, the only downside to being a Kings fan back then was that my parents, who had no idea what hockey was, were not about to purchase season tickets, so I had to be satisfied with my father taking me to an occasional game, maybe a couple of times a year, watch the 15 or so games that were televised on KHJ-TV 9 (now KCAL) here in the Los Angeles area, and then listen to Bob Miller and Dan Avey on the radio (KFI AM 640 and later, KRLA AM 1150) for the remainder of the games.

With the Kings in the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, and on the verge of winning the whole enchilada for the first time in their 45-year history, I am finding it difficult to keep the journalist and the hockey fan separate. Indeed, although I now look at the Kings and the NHL objectively, when it comes right down to it, I am still a hockey fan, just like everyone else who has devoted a lot of years to covering this great game as a journalist.

As stated earlier, I became a hockey fan and a Kings fan in 1973, some 39 years ago, the same year Miller, the long-time Voice of the Kings, became the Kings’ play-by-play announcer.

Over the course of those 39 seasons, the Kings have played some good hockey, but the vast majority has been either mediocre, or absolutely horrid. Kings fans who have been following the team for that long are conditioned to expect the worst, and as the Kings have moved through the playoffs this season, that conditioning has always been there, keeping these questions in the back of my mind, not to mention that of many other long-time Kings fans:

When is the bottom going to fall out? When is the inevitable collapse going to happen? When is disaster going to strike?

Even Miller acknowledged having similar thoughts as we spoke informally following Game 3 on June 4.

During the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Kings have torn through Vancouver, St. Louis, Phoenix, and now, New Jersey. Although their work is not yet done, and anything could still happen, the Kings are just one win away from winning their first Stanley Cup Championship.

After the way their season began, after qualifying for an invitation to the post-season party by the skins of their teeth, and after all the ways this team has found to disappoint and break the hearts of their fans throughout their history, what the Kings are doing now, and seem like they are about to do, maybe even tonight, is just all too surreal.

Is this a dream? Will reality smack me in the face with what the Kings have done so often in their history when I wake up?

For the Kings fan that still lives inside of me, the objective, professional journalist side of me says that the Devils are done, and even if they manage to win tonight, they have virtually no chance to win four straight games against a better team.

But even with the journalist within me telling me that, that surreal feeling of dread that has been conditioned into my psyche is something I cannot shake, no matter how hard I try.

All part of growing up as a Kings fan, I guess.

Stick tap to Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News for mentioning this story on the Farther Off The Wall blog.

Related Videos

2012 Stanley Cup Final, New Jersey Devils vs. Los Angeles Kings, Game 3 Highlights, June 4, 2012

Used with permission. All videos provided by KingsVision at LAKings.com, or NHL.com require Adobe Flash Player. As such, they are not viewable on iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch).

 


Tickets for the Kings’ upcoming home Stanley Cup Finals games against the New Jersey Devils – June 6, 5:00 PM (Devils vs. Kings: Game 4); June 11, 5:00 PM (Devils vs. Kings: Game 6 – if necessary )are available from Barry’s Tickets, an official partner of the Los Angeles Kings. Use the code, “Royalty010” to get a 10 percent discount on their “Best Value” tickets.


Creative Commons License Frozen Royalty by Gann Matsuda is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. You may copy, distribute and/or transmit any story or audio content published on this site under the terms of this license, but only if proper attribution is indicated. The full name of the author and a link back to the original article on this site are required. Photographs, graphic images, and other content not specified are subject to additional restrictions. Additional information is available at: Frozen Royalty – Licensing and Copyright Information.

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LA Kings Retired Trainer Pete Demers Had To Be A Jack Of All Trades

FROZEN ROYALTY EXCLUSIVE: In the second story in a multi-part series based on an exclusive interview with retired Los Angeles Kings athletic trainer Peter Demers, Frozen Royalty looks back at Demers’ start with the Kings back in the early 1970’s, and how different the job was back then compared to the present day.


When now-retired athletic trainer Pete Demers (shown here in a 1974 photo) started his 34-year career with the Los Angeles Kings, he was much more than just the head athletic trainer.
Photo: Demers Family Collection

LOS ANGELES — Today, National Hockey League teams have a head athletic trainer, at least one assistant athletic trainer, an equipment manager, a couple of assistant equipment managers, and a strength and conditioning coach. Most teams also have a massage therapist.

But back in the late 1960’s when Pete Demers began his career in professional hockey, through the time he became the head athletic trainer for the Los Angeles Kings in 1972, things were very, very different.

Indeed, when Demers started working with the Rhode Island Reds of the American Hockey League in 1965, or during a brief stint in 1968 with the Columbus Checkers of the International Hockey League, and even with the AHL’s Springfield Kings (the Los Angeles Kings’ minor league affiliate at the time) starting in 1969, there were no equipment managers, strength and conditioning coaches, or massage therapists. Read more of this post

Retired Athletic Trainer Pete Demers Goes From Stick Boy To 34 Years With Los Angeles Kings

FROZEN ROYALTY EXCLUSIVE: Many will recognize and remember retired Los Angeles Kings athletic trainer Pete Demers, who spent 37 years in the organization. But few know what his job entailed, beyond assisting injured players, or just about anything else, for that matter. In this story, the first of a multi-part series, Frozen Royalty looks at how Demers got his start in professional hockey.


Retired athletic trainer Pete Demers started in the Kings organization
in 1972 with the Springfield Kings of the AHL, before his 34-year stint with
the Los Angeles Kings.
Photo: Demers Family Collection

LOS ANGELES — He never scored a goal in the National Hockey League, but was always at the players bench. He never made a pad save, blocked a shot, or threw a body check on NHL ice, but he was a bigger part of the Los Angeles Kings than most would probably give him credit for.

To be sure, after 34 years and 2,632 consecutive games with the Los Angeles Kings, retired trainer Peter Demers, arguably, the Dean of professional hockey trainers, past and present, left a huge, indelible mark on the franchise.

Of course, those who remember Demers, who retired following the 2005-06 season, have probably seen him behind the bench at a game, or when he has had to run out onto the ice to care for an injured player. But few know much more than that, not only about Demers himself, but also about all the duties and responsibilities of an athletic trainer for a professional hockey team, work that relatively few people ever get to see. Read more of this post

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