The house wins…

0807-cammy.jpgThe wait is finally over. Michael Cammalleri and the Kings have finally heard back from the arbitrator, and the result is a two year deal worth $6.7 million. But considering that Cammalleri was asking for $6 million per season, I’m sure he’s a little disappointed. But, that’s how the game is played. I don’t blame him for asking for the moon, that’s what I’d do.

Cammalleri did receive the largest amount from arbitration so far this off-season. So at least there’s something. But now that the waiting is over, we can now proceed with the business at hand. Frozen Fury, baby! This will be the first time I make the trek to Vegas to see the Boys In Royal Blue battle the Avalanche.

I’ve seen plenty of hockey games the past two seasons, but I’m really excited to see this exhibition game against Colorado. And why? Just the thought of going from a furnace blast of air in the face to going inside the icy confines of the MGM Grand to watch hockey sounds like fun.

Who’s going? What are you looking forward to?

Back when a record meant something

0802-bonds.jpgAs the world watches Barry Bonds chase Hank Aaron’s home run record, I have found myself oddly disappointed.

The whole backstory revolving around Barry’s alleged steroid abuse has put a damper on what should be the crown jewel of all American sports records, the home run record. This is the record that is most revered, and turns the player who obtains it from iconic to immortal. The player’s name reverberates through the annals of time, like that disembodied voice in the movie Field Of Dreams.

But instead, it has left such a bad taste in the majority of sports fans’ mouths, that this death march toward 856 has become most unbearable, especially for those of us in the newspaper industry. Every night since he’s been in striking distance, we’ve had to basically plan two front pages for both A1 and the sports section. And because he plays on the Giants, the majority of the games start at 7 p.m., so there’s a chance he might hit it right on deadline.

After another such night on Wednesday, I was thinking back to when another hallowed record fell. It was back in 1994, and once again, Southern California was the stage. It was on the lips of many sports fans, and there wasn’t a hint of hatred anywhere. And oddly enough, I was working at a newspaper at the time, albeit my college paper.

We were putting the Viking, Long Beach City College’s newspaper, to 0802-gretzky.jpgbed that night when Wayne Gretzky broke Gordie Howe’s all-time goal scoring record with a power play goal against the Vancouver Canucks. We didn’t have a television in the newsroom, so I was huddled around an old clock radio that I had found in the paper’s dark room. I was wearing my Kings jersey that night, and I spilled Mountain Dew on my desk as I stood up and cheered, sending day-glo green soda everywhere. Thankfully my mom took pity on me and removed the stain when I got home.

I had only been a hockey fan for a few years before then, but I understood that Wayne’s feat was truly a remarkable site. It seemed right that “The Great One” unseated “Mr. Hockey” for the all-time goal record. There was some grumbling by Howe when he did it, but no one really paid him any attention. It became, at the time, Wayne’s crowning jewel to his career. Fans in the Great Western Forum roared like the Kings just won the Stanley Cup. A career retrospective was shown up on the scoreboards. Gretzky embraced NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who looked estatic to be there. It was a moment to remember.

And if you think back, maybe you can remember what you were doing too.

Marc Crawford interview

On Friday, after four days of documenting everything I could on the ice, I was able to talk with Coach Crawford.
He was nice enough to answer my questions, and was very engaging to listen to. When I was editing the video, I was toying with lifting parts of it and making it shorter.

But then I thought of you, the Hockeywood faithful, who would hang on Coach’s every word. And if I cut something out, that would be short-changing you.

So here it is, the full interview. All for you. And when you speak of me, speak well.

Developmental camp video

Tuesday morning, I ventured out to the beautiful city of El Segundo to watch some of the Kings’ brightest young stars take to the ice at the TSC.

Needless to say, I was amazed at just how hard they were skating. I won’t bore you with my analysis. So instead of creating a lesson plan, I did what all good substitute teachers do, I brought a movie. Only instead of renting Thumb Wars down at Blockbuster, I made my own. Check it…



How to deal with those kind of Ducks fans

duckfan.jpgIf you are like me, and something tells me you are, you may find yourself in the unenviable position to eat some crow to a friend or co-worker who is a Ducks fan. Whether they are a long-time fan from when the Ducks were “mighty” or they just happened to jump on the Black, Gold and Orange bandwagon this post-season, these fans deserve your attention.

To help you maneuver through this difficult process, we here at Life In Hockeywood have some suggestions for you to maintain your dignity while still being able to command respect.

First, make sure you seek the Duck fan out first to congratulate them. By calling first or going out of your way to offer kudos, this will allow you to dictate the terms of the conversation. It takes most of the wind out of their sails as you offer your hand in true sportsmanship, and throws them off-kilter.Second, speak slowly and respectfully. It provides you with an appearance of someone who is sincere. Plus, by speaking slowly, they’ll be able to follow the conversation. But keep the discussion moving. To do that, see the following step:

3) Provide some observations about the series. Say things like: “Ottawa sure couldn’t get anything going in that last game,” or “The Sens’ first line just didn’t have it all series.” This keeps the focus on analysis of the Finals, and off of comparing the Ducks to the Kings. Also, keep changing the subject quickly, which will allow to to seemlessly transition to the next step.

The fourth point is key: give credit where credit is due. This means you should mention one of the Ducks players; be it Selanne, Giguere, Pronger… whoever. But then sneak in Kariya, like this:

“It’s good to see Selanne finally lift the Cup. He really deserves it. All the guys, really. Selanne, the Neidermeyers, Giggy, Kariya, Pronger… They all deserve the Cup, right?”

Nine times out of ten, the casual fan won’t notice P.K.’s inclusion. They’ll just blindly keep nodding in agreement, as you lay it on thick. Then you can set the trap.

“Especially Kariya. Man, he’s been there for ages. It was good to see him bring it home, right?”

If your friend is “that kind” of fan, they won’t see it coming. If they don’t say anything a second time, drop the hammer.

“Yeah, because Paul Kariya hasn’t been on the team since 2003. You did actually watch the playoffs, right? Wow, I’d think you would’ve caught that. Some fan you are…”

Dumbfounded, your friend will stammer, and try some retort. But it’s too late. They have been found out as the fair weather fan Anaheim is famous for.

Advantage: you.

See you in three years…

1130-kings.jpgWhen I started blogging about the Kings this season, I wanted to make sure I got to see certain teams in person. Being a SoCal native and a hockey fan has its disadvantages. Since I work nights designing front pages for the Press-Telegram Sports section, going to games is a bit hard.

However, I had a lot of vacation time that I have accrued this past year, so I picked several dates to would just happen to coincide with games I’d like to see. Asking time off for work was easy, convincing The Wife was another thing. A long-time Kings fan, she was a little jealous that I got to go to these games. But, I told her that this was going to be strictly business, and that I wouldn’t really be enjoying it, as if I was watching as a fan.

After I got the green light, I was cleared to see four teams that I’ve been wanting to see in person: the Rangers, Penguins, Flyers and Devils. I had guys that I wanted to see on each team, such as Jagr on New York, Sid the Kid on Pittsburgh and Brodeur on NJ. Since there are so many displaced East Coasters out here, I know they would represent their clubs en masse.

After Anze Kopitar put a puck past Brodeur in the shootout Monday night, I realized this would be thge last time I’ll probably get to see some of these guys at all. Jagr is on the backside of his career, and Brodeur is a legend. Lord knows how Crosby is going to be in three years. I feel lucky that I was able to witness Alexander Ovechkin last season, when I happened into the lower bowl seats against the Capitals.

I’ll just come right out and say it. This “plan” hatched up by the NHL to focus exclusively on inter-divisional rivalries is stupid. Coming off a lockout, the league needs more chance to show off their product. The fact of the matter is, the East Coast teams are ultimately better than the ones out here. No West Coast team has won the Stanley Cup. Why is that? Could it be that teams west of the Colorado River are regarded as novelties? Could it be as soon as a player reaches the peak of their skill, they would rather play in a city where there is actually snow, instead of rolling blackouts.

Hell, even the Anaheim Ducks are shunned by major papers out here in Los Angeles, and they are among the creme of the crop this season. The Sharks have some great young players, but does anything think they could take an Eastern Conference team in seven games?

1130-seinfeld.jpg Today, as I was working some magic on the front page for Thursday’s section, our esteemed columnist Bob Keisser made a rare evening appearance in Sports. After talking a few minutes about the Kings, he asked if Deano was going to make some moves this season. I told him what I figured: that we’ll probably send Conroy off for some prospects, as well as any other reasonable player we could unload. He made this comment: “I think it’s official that Kings fans can be considered ‘long-suffering.'” And I couldn’t argue that observation. It’s true. We haven’t been good enough to seriously contend for anything since No. 99 was skating around the Forum.

And like the Clippers of years past, the Kings’ only marketing strategy that makes any sense is to promote other teams coming to town. How successful can they be when the best teams in the NHL are shuttled in here every three years? Cue Jerry Seinfeld: “Who were the ad wizards that came up with that one?”

I know I’m not the only person who thinks this “plan” is really weak. When I told some of my friends that I’ll be going to some Kings games for free to blog, they were amazed at my luck. “Dude, that’s totally awesome. You are so lucky.” To which I replied: “Yeah, I’m lucky to go see Phoenix and Chicago.” Which prompted them to say: “Oh yeah. That kinda sucks.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’d go watch the Kings play an over-80 team from Leisure World playing broom hockey wearing socks and party hats. I love hockey, in any form. But to have the billion-dollar owner cite the lame scheduling on saving money on “travel costs,” it irks me as a hockey fan that they would fork out some extra coin to insure they show off just how good the league can be.

Instead, they want to stick it to the consumer to fork out $150 to be able to watch all the teams. But here’s a news flash, Gary Bettman: you aren’t the NFL. Each NHL team has 82 games a season, not 16 games like the NFL. Football games are events, hockey games have to compete against other stuff on the TV, like the NBA, CSI and infomercials.

Take this weekend… Which are you more apt to watch: The Kings taking on the Ducks or USC vs. UCLA? Back in the Press-Telegram’s Sports Department, I don’t think I have to tell you which is going to be on our screens.

Attendance is… down in L.A., Chicago, Colorado…

1017-empty.jpgDuh. Not surprising there. According to ESPN.com, L.A., Chicago and Colorado have played to small crowds this year. The announced crowd for the Kings last Thursday was 14,167.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the Hawks had 8,008 fans show up… in the 20,500 seat United Center. The Denver Post reported the Avs broke their streak of 487 consecutive home sellouts on Monday, when they came up a little over 300 at the turnstiles. That streak started back in 1995!

Bettman was quoted in the L.A. Times, saying not to worry. Two to three weeks into the season is nothing to get worried about. Well Mr. Bettman, I would have to disagree with you. You better pray that attendance improves, or else you are going to find out that even though the fans came back last season, they aren’t stupid.

Even though hockey in SoCal is treated with as much respect as lawn bowling and beer league softball games, there aren’t any other fans more rabid than Kings fans. How else could the team almost sell out their season tickets allotment? But the tide is slowly turning. Fans will voice their displeasure by just not going. And all the Luc Retirement Ceremonies in the world won’t change that.

Now is the perfect time to panic, because the second-largest market will be without a competitive team. The Ducks don’t count, because they are in Orange County. They might as well be in Montana, because TV stations and newspapers in Los Angeles really don’t care about anything on the other side of the Orange Curtain.

Smallest home crowd since 2001?

What do you expect? This is a rebuilding team, and L.A.’s finicky fans won’t tolerate a loser. The announced crowd was 14,167, but there was less than that.

When Bettman decided on this lame plan, did he take into consideration that fans really don’t want to see so many divisional contests during the season? I like going to the occasional Kings-Ducks game, but I’d rather go see clubs that have history behind them. How many times can I get excited about going to a Sharks/Kings tilt?

L.A.’s fans have far too much entertainment competing for their dollars than other regions. And even though the Kings’ season ticket holders are at 90%, how many of those were just for the Luc retirement game?

Mark my words, 14,167 won’t be the smallest home crowd for long.

L.A. Kings Hockey Blog