When 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?
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.