AUDIO INTERVIEWS: Includes audio of May 1 media conference call with Los Angeles Kings center Jarret Stoll, defenseman Matt Greene, and head coach Darryl Sutter..
LOS ANGELES — When the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim became a National Hockey League team in the 1993-94 season a rivalry was born between them and their neighbor, who played about 35 miles north, the Los Angeles Kings.
Since that time, whether it was at what was then the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California, the Kings’ first permanent home, to the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim, now known as Honda Center, and then to Staples Center in Downtown Los Angeles, there is a lot more trash talking between fans than usual when the two teams go head-to-head.
Twenty years after Anaheim joined the NHL, the team is now called the Anaheim Ducks, and the trash talking is no longer limited to Staples Center and Honda Center. Indeed, it is also plastered all over web sites, blogs and social media, whereever Kings and Ducks fans congregate to talk about their favorite teams.
If you haven’t already noticed, everything mentioned about this rivalry has been about fans. The reason? The Kings-Ducks rivalry was created by fans of both teams and it remains exclusive to them. In fact, contrary to what so many believe, the rivalry does not extend to the players.
Last season, when it appeared that the two teams were headed for a playoff showdown in the second round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Kings were anticipating that matchup.
“I remember us watching last year, Game 7, Anaheim and Detroit,” said Kings center Jarret Stoll. “We were kind of hoping for that matchup. We were all at a restaurant down at the beach, and we were watching.”
But the Ducks were eliminated by Detroit, dashing any hopes the Kings had for a second round playoff series against their Orange County neighbor.
Before the Ducks were eliminated by Detroit, Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick denied that a rivalry existed between the players of the Kings and Ducks.
“Everybody talks about a rivalry between us, but I haven’t seen it yet,” he said. “They’re competitive games, but you get that with any team in the Western Conference. I guess that if we did play them [in the post-season], it would be good to actually get a rivalry.”
Many insist that the close proximity creates a natural rivalry, but Quick quashed that as well.
“Just because we’re less than an hour from each other hasn’t made it a rivalry,” he stressed. “I don’t think we’ve played’em [in the playoffs]. If we [do] play them, it’ll be good to start forming a rivalry with them.”
But now, with the two teams about to collide head on in the second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Kings and Ducks fans will finally witness the long overdue birth of a true rivalry between their teams.
“Until you play each other in the playoffs, there’s not a lot of rivalry created, and that’s a big reason why the league wanted to go to the division part of it, to create those rivalries,” said Kings head coach Darryl Sutter. “If you look at this, it’s exactly what everyone wanted.”
“It’s going to be good,” said Kings defenseman Matt Greene. “You’ve got to play a team [in the playoffs] to get the rivalry going, but I think it’ll be fun. The distance makes it a good series already. We’ve just got to play.”
“Playing a team in the playoffs really helps build a rivalry,” Stoll noted. “If you look at who our biggest rivals are now—San Jose, maybe Vancouver, and soon to be Anaheim. It’s going to be exciting.”
Regular season matchups simply don’t do much in terms of creating or intensifying a rivalry.
“The regular season is one thing, [but] we all know that the playoffs are a totally different ball game, when it comes to physicality, how hard it is, how hard you’re battling,” said Stoll. “If it’s going to go to a six or seven-game series, I think it’s going to help out a lot [in terms of building and intensifying the rivalry].”
“It’s going to be a war,” added Stoll. “It’s going to be a battle. The travel is going to be great for both fan bases to really enjoy this series.”
The Kings are also excited about facing the Ducks, beyond the rivalry aspect of the series.
“You’ve been waiting for that matchup,” said Sutter. “The Ducks and the Kings have both have won Stanley Cups, and that, in and of itself, for one state, or one province, [is huge].”
“We’re looking forward to it,” said Stoll. “I think everybody in the room is. We were already talking about it last night, five minutes after the game [at San Jose] ended. You just get ready to go again. You get re-energized right away, and you move on. It’s exciting that it’s finally here. We know them very well. Sometimes you skate with them in the summer. During the [2012-13] lockout, we skated together quite a bit. You know them off the ice, but it’s going to be a whole new animal now, playing them in the playoffs. They had a great year, and they’re a great team. But we feel that we’ve got a lot of good things, too.”
“There’s eight teams now,” added Stoll. “There were thirty, then 16. It quickly goes down to eight, and we’re one of them. We know what it takes. We’ve got go to in and win a game, win Game 1, and go from there. But this series is really exciting for everybody. All of us players are pumped up about it, too.”
“It’s never happened. It’s exciting…for this whole area. I’m looking forward to it.”
Second Round Playoff Predictions
The following are Frozen Royalty’s second round predictions (Kings-Ducks prediction will be included in a series preview story, coming soon), which were posted on Twitter (@frozenroyalty) prior to the start of action on May 1:
in 5 over in 7 over
in 6 over
Raw Audio Interviews
(Extraneous material and dead air have been removed; click on the arrow to listen):
Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene (11:16)
Darryl Sutter (12:32)
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