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Will I Find Another Believer, Another Who Believes

Will I Find Another Believer, Another Who Believes

All My Life- Foo Fighters

During the playoffs, a well-timed Wall Street Journal story by Hannah Karp, Called the LA Hockey CounterCulture was published (April 14, 2010). Being in Los Angeles for game three, I could not do a proper response and expansion of the article. Then with the playoffs moving forward after the LA Kings abrupt end in round one, I felt it best left till after the Stanley Cup found its temporary home in Chicago.

However, in that time I’m glad to be able to add direct insight from Captain Dustin Brown from an interview he so graciously provided, Los Angeles Kings fans themselves, as well as some other ‘fans’ from around the NHL.

Let’s start with Ms. Karp’s article. Paints the Kingdom a little, well dark and twisty, doesn’t it? I’ll go for the underground, punk rock, social shunning and Laker thumbing part. I fit most of that  but then there is the part about the Russian Metal Bands and Video Fantasy Games .

Then there is the working-class, loyalty driven, values versus status that Ms. Karp associates with the Kingdom. This makes sense, if you are a Kings fans you must be 1) a self-masochist or 2) have a loyalty level no less than that of our dear mascot, Bailey. Hollywood is typically that of the social elite. Who is doing whom.. I mean who is doing what. There is little room for the value-minded, working-class to gather and stay centered. The Kingdom seems to be a hoarding ground of sorts, for some.

If You’re a Moving Violation or A Movie-Star, You’re Welcome Round Here Now

Down By The Reservoir- The Bluetones- Last Chance Saloon

“When you are at work, and that one person comes in with that crown on their hat, it’s like an instant connection.”says 25 year-old Catherine Cariota, of Yucaipa, California. A recent convert of four years, Cariota has been a hockey fan for far longer. She refers to being a Kings fan as isolating. As a general hockey fan, I think most would agree that hockey fandom, can be isolating. Ironically, Cariota was a St. Louis Blues fan before becoming a Kings fan. Her boyfriend took her to a game and well, he and the Blues went right out the proverbial window. She was now Kingdom bound.

“Anyone who is a Kings fan is a diehard. I’ve never come across one that couldn’t name the whole roster . . . though I’ve met plenty of people who claim they are Ducks ‘fans’ that couldn’t name one player on the team now or in the past.”

Lori Baillie, works in Hollywood. She’s from Country Westlake Village, California and apart of the Kingdom for 15 years. You’d think that would drive her head-long into Laker-land yet she remains a loyal to hockey.

“It’s weird, actually” Baillie commented, “That’s the weird thing, I see a lot of people that are Dodger fans being Ducks fans and the same with Laker fans being Ducks fans. Seems a little weird to me.”

Ok, the Lakers fan thing makes sense, seems to fit in with the scheme of things. But.. the Dodgers? We’re going to have to back that train up. I mean isn’t there the hometown game on Friday, July 9th, at Dodger’s Stadium? You know, the annual game where the Dodgers honor all the LA Kings fans? How’s that work then? What do Kings’ fans do?

“Oh definitely give hell to Ducks fans,” she explained. “But I don’t think we’ll know who they are!!” Smarter than your average duck that night, they are, I suppose.

Then you take Rob Matheson of Los Angeles, California. At 35 years-old, he’s been a fan since the mid-80s (He dawned the purple and gold.) however his father began this dogmatic loyalty long before that. Often he discusses a need for himself, and then fans in general, to prove themselves not just in Los Angeles, but to the NHL. First, as a kid he often got teased for those jerseys. Then watched as those same kids come aboard the LA Kings express with Gretzky and ran for the Hollywood Hills when they couldn’t make the playoffs.

It is a funny point though, that Matheson brings up here. Does the Kingdom have something to prove, not just with the NHL but with each other? I know I’m often questioned on the roots and beginnings with the LA Kings (and maybe more rightfully so, being from NYC and now living in St. Louis).

However, almost begging my question he even specifically said, “My favorite player was Jay Wells! And I have the jersey to prove it!” Interest piqued, so I probed. “If you hadn’t asked me how long I’d been a fan, I likely would have volunteered that I had been a fan before Gretzky. I do take pride in that but I don’t necessarily look down my nose at fans who are more recent. As long as they are passionate, I’m glad to call them Kings fans.”

Could the NHL be coming around to the red-headed step children of the most disrespected sport in America? Discussing a road trip to Canada, Matheson explains the attitude of locals seeing him as a traitor at first. Then it changes. “I tell them I’m flew in from Los Angeles just to watch my team play, everything changes. We talk hockey in between periods. Then win or lose, I’m invited out for beers after the game.”

Thinking over her transition from Blue-note to the Kingdom, she considered the sense of loyalty of other fans in southern California. “I think there is a difference in mentality. The Lakers are a constantly winning team, so I don’t think it takes much to be a fan .  It takes more to stick to a team that is rebuilding.”

33 year-old Melissa Arvanitaki lives in Los Angeles and has been a fan of the LA Kings for over 20 years. Having been not just a Kings fan, but a sports fan as a girl, she knows what it’s like to be seen as ‘different’ (girl, you and I have some pow-wowing to do). She also agrees with Cariota.

“I love being a hockey fan in LA- it feels like I go against the crowd and don’t jump on the more ‘mainstream’ sports.” Additionally, Arvanitaki can see the good and bad of being the “other team” in Los Angeles. On the downside, fighting the attention the Lakers get is hard because of basketball and hockey season running simultaneously.

But then, like Cariota, she thought of the Kingdom. “We have a great group of core fans that will ride the roller coaster of emotions day in and day out. It feels like Kings’ fans don’t get a lot of respect because we are in LA but I think as soon as fans realize how long we’ve stuck with our team, the respect shows up.”

Captain Dustin Brown concurred during my recent interview with him, “There is a great hockey culture in Los Angeles…There is no doubt it has grown as our team has become more successful.” However, it is this next part that truly is the essence of it all. He added, “But I think this is the fact that differs- our fans are always faithful, not just when we win.”

Thought it might make sense to head north for some opinions as well. So I started in Vancouver and Toronto. Our Canuck friend of 15 years is Mikala T. and hails from Vancouver. The boy is 32, from Toronto, Canada and a Maple Leafs fan of 25 years. His name is Jose Simoes.

And while this started quite normally, concurrently noting that the team is receiving more attention as of late. Their comments both, unbeknownst to them, echoed each other in a way and caught me off guard.

Simoes kicked it off. “With the majority of the team being under 30 and the core being under 25, they have a youthful exuberance to them, and a ‘swagger’ that could be mistaken for cockiness to those on the outside.”  Huh. That’s a new one. Could things be changing and the Kingdom doesn’t see it? Did the playoffs do this already?

Mikala, from Vancouver, a Canucks fan, chimed in, “[From]when Gretzky was skating for them? Yeah, I’m sure things have changed.” Could the Kings be picking up that fight of the underdog and running with it… Growling instead of turning tails? She continued, “Maybe they’re not the ‘support act’ for the Great One.”

Another note from Arvanitaki also struck in accordance to how the team personality might be changing. That although, they aren’t here for the normal Hollywood celebrity, the LA Kings know who they are here for. “Because LA has so many distractions, I think Kings players like being here . . . to go on with their day-to-day activities and not be inundated with autograph requests.” However, she contemplates and notes, “But if a fan does show and ask for autograph, then they know they are really a fan.”

My story from outside of LA, having never lived in LA, it’s all about the team, the Kings. I could care less about the city and doesn’t that seem to be what this is about? It’s my loyalty to the team that keeps it afloat. I became a Kings fan out of a fight with my brother and stayed with it because it was out of the norm, then because I was sick of NYC. I love St Louis, but now I’m just too damn loyal to the Kings, to the team, to go anywhere. I’m stuck.

I can tell you this unique perspective though. Being a traveling fool that’s never lived in LA, I have met parts of the Kingdom where I least expect it. A 12 year old in Aspen Co., Latvians at a Gomez concert in Madison, WI and a roadie in St. Louis, Mo. Then when I expect to hear–“OH YEAH! Sure…” I get.. “You mean the Sacramento Kings?” Or… “You mean that other team in LA?” Or… “Are they still there since Gretzky left?”

Of course, my favorite, still, is that of a transplanted (five years mind you) musician living in LA who not only didn’t know there was a hockey team in Los Angeles but hockey, period. In America. Seriously. He still thought it was only in Canada. <hand to forehead>

My last personal note, after being at many rinks across the country,for Kings games and just general hockey action, and holding many hockey conversations in every corner of this country I still don’t think that anyone realizes that the Kings have finally turned that corner. It isn’t just a joke anymore when we talk about making the playoffs, winning the cup, rebuilding, the plan etc…  Today, the people still don’t seem to get it. This team, this Kings team is not that Kings team. My favorite line to match my Billy Idol sneer? “Items in your rearview mirror are larger then they appear.”

You know, maybe Baillie put it best, because she works in Hollywood. Is the culture of the Kingdom really that different from the rest of Hollywood?

“Not to me,” she said simply. “But, I work in the motion picture industry so I interact with a lot of crazy people!” Nice. Very nice.

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