Will All The Real Kings Fans Please Stand Up?

October 14th, 1967. The Los Angeles Kings play their first game ever, at the Long Beach Sports Arena, defeating the Philadelphia Flyers 4-2. June 11th, 2012. The Los Angeles Kings play Game 6 in the Stanley Cup Final, defeating the New Jersey Devils 6-1. Two victories separated by 45 years. Think about that for a second, from a fan’s perspective. Think about all those years in-between. All those years spent on a few great teams and a lot of not so great teams; spent on the fleeting promise of glory and the near-constant, bitter taste of defeat – time and time again. All those years spent waiting…waiting for a chance to watch the team you live and die by lift hockey’s most coveted trophy – the holy grail of the sport – and now, for the Kings franchise and their fans, that wait is over.

This is a piece for and about Kings fans. Real Kings fans. Not the bandwagon fans. Not the fans that started to pay attention once something interesting happened. This is a piece about the Fans that have waited those 45 years for a chance to say that their team is unequivocally the best in the sport, and that they’ve got a big, shiny piece of hardware to prove it. Fans who remember the Triple Crown line and the Miracle on Manchester. Fans who know, off the top of their head, that that Luc Robitaille scored 668 goals over the course of his illustrious (and largely LA-based) career, good for 1st all time among Left Wingers. Fans who remember an LA Kings team before Wayne Gretzky made hockey sexy in Southern California. Fans who still shudder whenever the spectre of Marty McSorley’s illegal stick is dredged up. Fans like my friends Mike and Brian Fletcher.

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A ‘Swift’ Word on Band Wagon Fans

Taylor Swift hockey fan.

Taylor Swift, hockey enthusiast.

To pay the bills, one of my jobs is to drive around the Newport Beach/Irvine area and take a cooler full of boxed lunches (sandwiches, salads, spring rolls, your occasional quesadilla) into various office buildings and businesses, and sell the food. It kind of sucks, but it pays alright and gives me half of the day to do whatever else I need to do – you know, productive stuff, like reading Puck Daddy. One of the legitimately cool things about the job, however, is interacting with so many different people from so many different walks of life. People are generally happy to see you (you are, after all, bringing them food), so they’re almost always going to strike up a genial conversation, and over the course of a few months on the same route, you can really start to develop relationships with these people – it’s actually kind of cool (even cooler: this is how I met my awesome, hockey-loving girlfriend).

However, after about 9 months on this same route (basically, the entirety of the hockey season), without so much as an inkling that any of the people involved in the story about to unfold were even remotely into hockey, I walked into the break room of one particular office yesterday (the day of Game 4) and was greeted with a strange sight.

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The Ryan Lasch Signing: Great Story and A Marketer’s Dream

The Anaheim Ducks made a little bit of history on Thursday when they announced the signing of Ryan Lasch to a two-year contract. In signing with Anaheim, Lasch became the first Orange County born-and-bred player to join the organization. Aside from being a momentous occasion for Ryan Lasch and his family, this is a huge deal for not only the Anaheim organization, but also Southern California hockey at large – not so much because it’s rare for a Southern Californian hockey player to have this kind of opportunity (it’s growing more and more common, in fact), but more so because, if he can crack the line-up, he’ll prove to be a marketer’s dream.

A native of Lake Forest who attended Trabuco Hills High School, Lasch is a highly skilled, if undersized scoring winger who was a stand-out at St. Cloud State in Minnesota. Over the course of his four years at St. Cloud, Lasch became the school’s all-time leading scorer, finishing his collegiate career with 79 goals and 104 assists for 183 points in 161 games. A Hobey Baker Award finalist in 2007-08, Lasch was never drafted and never offered a contract by an NHL club, and so as many diminutive but skilled players opt to do, Lasch decamped for Europe. After spending the 2010-11 season with Sodertalje SK of the Swedish Elite League, Lasch packed his bags once again, moving to Finland to play in SM-liiga (the Finnish Elite League), for the Lahti Pelicans. (You may recognize the Pelicans from some of their ridiculously awesome commercials.)

As a Pelican, all Lasch did was lead the league in points during the regular season with 62, lead the league in points in the playoffs with 16, and help land the Pelicans a spot in the league championship before ultimately falling to JYP Jyvaskyla. For his troubles, Lasch was honored as a SM-liiga first team All-Star (along with Duck prospect Sami Vatanen), as well as becoming the recipient of a rare non-NHLer invite to the World Championships in Helsinki, where he suited up for Team USA along with Bobby Ryan, Cam Fowler, and Kyle Palmieri (who all three, no doubt, put in a good word to Bob Murray). So it’s been a bit of a whirlwind year for the SoCal Kid, but his work is far from finished. With the Ducks facing major questions on their 2nd line and in desperate need for some secondary scoring, Lasch just might, with a strong training camp in September (or whenever the new CBA is ratified [knock wood]), have a chance to do what no other Orange County native has ever done – suit up for the hometown Anaheim Ducks. So, what does this say about the state of youth hockey in Southern California, and in Orange County specifically?

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…or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Enjoy the Kings

As of this writing, we’re only about a half-hour away from the first puck drop in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Los Angeles Kings and the New Jersey Devils. As a hockey fan, I’m ecstatic. I’ve got butterflies. As an Anaheim Ducks fan, I feel a little bit sick.

In today’s Orange County Register, Jeff Miller wrote a piece about Ducks fans actively rooting against The Kings in the Final. In it, Miller offers quotes from a handful of self-described ‘die hard’ Ducks fans who just about all agree that the Kings winning the Cup would, on a scale from one-to-‘the worst ever,’ rank in at right under apocalyptic. Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration – but it’s not too huge of a leap. One such fan who sent in an email response, went as far as to say, “God help us if the Kings win the Cup.”

Another fan, Brian Clausman, of Newport Beach, opined, “I want to see [The Kings] lose, period. If they win, those fans will come in our building wearing their hats and T-shirts. I just don’t want to hear that crap.” Is this representative of the feelings of the majority of Ducks fans? Should it be?

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Traditions

Today is Sunday May 27th, and I woke up this morning realizing that for the first time in recent memory, there would be no playoff games to plop down on the couch and enjoy…which is to say that waking up this morning sucked.

As we wait for the puck to drop in the Stanley Cup Final series between the Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils, I’ve found that it is time to reflect – not so much on how we got here (the round-by-round blow-by-blow), but more how I got “here” – to a place in my life in which, as a born and bred Southern Californian, I’m counting down the minutes until the first game in a championship series between two teams I don’t have a rooting interest for, and in a sport that is, to put it kindly, non-traditional in a warm weather market. My parents didn’t know the first thing about hockey before I got into it, so it isn’t like they forced it on me. So, how in the hell did I get “here?”

Well, I got to thinking, and I realized that so much of what goes into eventually making a casual hockey fan a lifer, are the traditions we’re taught and/or develop for ourselves – or, specifically, the hockey-watching traditions that are instrumental in shaping how we learn about, experience, and grow to love the game. Read about one of mine after the jump… Continue reading

Welcome (Plus An Awesome Video)

Welcome to SoCal Puck – a blog written by a Southern Californian hockey fanatic. My name is Collin Insley, and my intent is to cover the happenings of all things hockey (from elite level to beer league) in Southern California. Stay tuned for more content, but for now, enjoy some awesome GoPro footage that some friends and I shot at our weekly Saturday morning pick-up game. 

The rink in the video is The Rinks: Huntington Beach Inline, which, along with roller rinks in Irvine and Corona and ice rinks in Westminster and Anaheim, is owned and operated by the Anaheim Ducks. The address:

5555 McFadden Ave.
Huntington Beach, CA 92649

Adult pick-up is held on Saturday mornings from 8-10am, and is only $5 for rink members ($10 for non-members).

Hope to see you at the rink sometime!