NHL Lockout Destroys Los Angeles Kings Fan Momentum
It is a truly daunting task to find any optimism in the NHL labor negotiations. The two sides have taken to the media to convey their thoughts, most recently with Florida Panthers forward Kris Versteeg calling Gary Bettman and Billy Daly “cancers”.
After a somewhat lengthy hiatus, the NHL and the players association met briefly on Monday and plan to meet again later in the week, but neither side seem to be showing any urgency. What was once a race to get an agreement done before the September 15th deadline has become lethargic, with neither side one enthused enough to meet frequently.
For fans who pleaded with Bettman and Donald Fehr to reach an agreement, they have resigned to the prospect of there being no hockey for an elongated period of time. Despite suffering through two other lockouts, this one has left fans especially bitter, and even more so, powerless. After spending years and years helping to fund their favorite teams through the purchasing of tickets and fan gear among other things, they’ve discovered a harsh reality: their opinion means nothing. While big hockey markets like those in Toronto, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Detroit deal with the serious consequences of no hockey, out in Los Angeles the momentum behind a great hockey season has been whisked away in the cool LA breeze.
The Los Angeles Kings had a good regular season in 2012, posting a 40-27-15 record, but crawled into postseason play as the 8th seed in the Western Conference. But come playoff time, the Kings put on one of the most dominant team performances the sporting world has seen. Faced up against the top seeded Vancouver Canucks, the Kings cruised to a 4-1 series win, then proceeded to steamroll the St. Louis Blues and Phoenix Coyotes on their way to the Stanley Cup.
All of a sudden, the hottest place to catch a hockey game was in the town with one of the hottest climates. Predominately a basketball town, celebrities such as Will Ferrell, David Beckham and Matthew Perry went from sitting courtside to sitting center ice.
Guided by sensational netminder Jonathan Quick and captain Dustin Brown, the Kings would down the New Jersey Devils in the finals, bringing Los Angeles their first Stanley Cup ever. Just like that, the city exploded. In a city where everyone is looking for something new and trendy, cheering on the Los Angeles Kings was just that. For possibly the first since the Wayne Gretzky days of the mid 1990s, the Kings had the chance to finally establish a true fan base. How could people not relate with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, the two seemingly wanna be frat bros in a city where there’s always a party? After years of being a second (or even third) thought, the Kings were giving the Los Angeles Lakers a run for their money in LA sports superiority.
And then the NHL closed its doors.
The Los Angeles Kings were throwing the coolest party around, and the league said it had to be over at 11. No team will come out of the lockout a winner, but there will certainly be losers, the Kings maybe being the biggest. With the 2012-13 season not in progress, the Kings have already lost their momentum in a mere matter of months. The Lakers traded for Dwight Howard. The Los Angeles Clippers are on of the hottest teams in the NBA. And the Kings?
They go back to being an afterthought, just like the rest of the league.
Jake Pavorsky is a contributor for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @JakePavorsky.