Against the New York Rangers in the first game of the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals, local Los Angeles folks may have been fully converted into hockey fans, despite their best efforts.
A couple years ago when the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup, fans came out of the woodwork. Most were already fans of the sport who had just simply forgotten that Los Angeles had a team, or they were already sports fans who just liked being a part of a local spectacle.
This time around, there are newbies to the Kings, the sport of hockey, and sports in general, and they have suddenly become massive lifelong fans of the black and white clad ice skaters. Much of that may have to do with the opponent, a team that starts with New York and ends with doesn’t matter.
Local news stations have been interviewing fans outside the arena, giving them a chance to boast about their new knowledge of the sport. One fan even talked about how he learned what “hooking” was, and gave the general public the advice to “follow the puck” in case you weren’t sure what to do.
However, not all fans are experts like that guy, and some joined the party as late as Game 1 of the quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup. Knock them as I may, better late than never, because this game was the exact one needed to both ease in newcomers and snag them for life.
In the first period, there were two breakaway goals scored by the Rangers. Breakaway goals are perfect for the Los Angeles fan, because the anticipation that comes from a lone skater heading towards the goal requires no prior knowledge of the sport, and the goal scored does not need to be explained. The French guy stole the puck and scored, insert joke about the goalie Jonathan Quick not being quick enough by the aspiring comedy writer, and you got yourself a new hockey fan.
Everybody loves a comeback story in Hollywood, so now down 2-0, the Kings had to make a comeback. Just like in Hollywood, the comeback succeeded, but not without its obligatory dramatic doubt-inducing moments.
Many conversations likely went down at the end of regulation like this: A hipster turns to a man enshrouded in Kings’ gear and asks, “What now?” The overcompensating “lifelong” fan of two years turns to him with unnecessary added drama and says, “Sudden death!” The hipster’s eyes widen in curiosity, as he slowly turns back to the TV, now intently listening to the analysts during the overtime intermission report. Another hockey fan is born.
Then, as if written by the Hollywood writers that graced the Staples Center that night, the Kings steal the game-winning goal minutes into overtime, leading to a goosebump-inducing collective cheer from the crowd. Hockey fans are now multiplying like Baldwins and Kardashians.
As much as I might joke, it’s great to see a city embracing a team and a sport regardless of their prior knowledge. I commend the fans for making the move to the ice, and it may be one of the few spontaneous trends in Los Angeles worth continuing for years into the future.