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Today the Kings Bandwagon, Tomorrow Our Future?

Red Wings, Nucks, Caps...these are "Gold Games" best deal in hockey.

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Red Wings, Nucks, Caps...these are "Gold Games" best deal in hockey. via

I moved to Los Angeles in 2007. I left Buffalo, where for my last two years there, hockey was the hottest ticket you could find. The city fell in love with the Sabres again as the team went to the Eastern Conference Finals in consecutive years.

Southern California was different, the Ducks had just won the cup, but the region was not hockey friendly. Most sports bars will show the same NBA game on 4 screens rather than put one hockey game up. On the bright side, I never paid more than $30/seat for Kings games. (I spent $75/ticket for great seats in Anaheim, Stanley Cup inflation...this year, I got 4 tickets at the Pond for 20 bucks) In 2007 as a poor grad student, I dropped 20 dollars total on 2 tickets in the 300 level, part of LA's College Night promotion.

I walked into the lifeless building and watched movie ads projected onto the ice. Nothing gets you into the spirit for hockey like watching an ad for "The Water Horse: The Legend of the Deep" The always raucous west coast Buffalo transplants took over the building with "Let's Go Buffalo" chants, mine were met with "If you love Buffalo so much go back"

The struggling Kings put a new goalie in net that night, and the unknown American goalie named Jonathan Quick earned his first career start and win against my beloved Swords. I believe we played Patrick Lalime, so if you are a Sabres fan, you don't have to remember the game to know how it went. Kings won 8-2. Sidenote: They play that stupid song "I Love LA" by Randy Newman after every goal. It's an annoying song to hear once, 8 plays in one night is torture.

For Kings fans I assume it's a rare good night. Your typical game for a season ticket holder has to be about as trying on your patience as being a diehard Bulls fan.

You probably pay full price for season tickets, only to see people like me let in at a fraction of the price.

Instead of a nice evening with familiar fans who grow to form a kind of family, you get loudmouth transplants like me yelling LA Sucks! between never ending "Let's Go BUFF-A-LO <clap clap clap clap clap>

and the Ducks just won a cup after being a franchise for about a decade, so that has to sting for a long-term Kings fan.

Fast forward to 2010, the next time Buffalo is in LA. This time working but still with a valid college ID, I splurged on some 200 level seats, $30 each, gotta love college night and I may just be lucky, but it seems every night is college night. Miller is in goal and playing like the guy who would get Team USA a Silver later that year. I chant USA USA when Miller makes a save, most fans look at me puzzled, I don't think they knew Miller would start for the Olympic team in a few weeks. A knowledgeable fan said, well that Quick might give Miller a run for his money at the Olympics...I laughed it off no way in 2010...but seems he's probably correct for 2014.

That year the Sabres are a better team on their way to a division title. The Kings are still bad. The fun starts up, and this time its a good game. 3-3 after regulation, and a thrilling 4-on-4 OT has everyone on their feet. After overtime ends, the game is still tied. Quick has been amazing, "that Kings fan knew his stuff" I thought to myself. At that very moment, someone asked: "What happens now?"

Really? The shootout has been in play for half a decade. Now I'm back to believing all Kings fans are hockey ignorant. That guy probably knew two players Quick and Kopitar, maybe Jack Johnson he just got lucky. Kings won in shootout, 4-3 and I go home happier than the 8-2 debacle a few years earlier.

Fast forward to 2012. The Kings are crowned as champions. I'm kinda bitter..."They didn't earn it, they don't even care!" The team with 20 dollar tickets has scalpers selling fake tickets for $200. The fans who asked "what happens after overtime" now call the City of Angels the hockey capital of the world, and I don't think their doing it ironically. They didn't even boo Bettman. 250,000 people attended the championship rally, that's almost as many people as the entire population of Buffalo.

LA winning is like watching that girl you really liked in High School get asked to Prom by your better looking friend. You know she was his backup date and you know he won't treat her as good as you would. The cup deserves better, I'd rather she go to Toronto Winnipeg where at least they'll treat her right. We know Simon Gagne can't handle the Cup. I watched the cup celebration and the ensuing riot proof celebration outside and I see a teenager, in a Boston Red Soxs hat on. He jumps in front of the camera and screams: "We did it, it took 44 years but we did it." I instantly wonder how the LA diehards can stand this.

Was this bandwagoner so late he couldn't pick up 1 piece of Kings merch earlier that day?
Could the diehards even get to the game? Did the tickets get to rich for their blood?
Did the season ticket holders go capitalist and sell their playoff tickets for a nice profit?
Did they have to sit with fans who, lacked in hockey knowledge but made up for with blind enthusiasm for a winner?
Could they stare the bandwagon in the face, and smile, or did somewhere deep down inside did they die a little bit?

You put all this effort into a losing cause, there has to be a selfish piece inside of you that wants to prevent others from joining in once the team is winning right? Or is that just me?

It seems they have handled it better than I would have. They've celebrated, they've embraced their 15 minutes of fame in the city (NBA free agency is coming up), they've made fun of themselves, and they have tormented the hell out of the Anaheim Ducks fans in the region.

Reverse it to 2008, I am, despite never really seeing UB win, a hope springs eternal kinda guy. I planned a trip to take my native Californian girlfriend to see the east coast for the first time. She wanted to start the trip in Washington DC. I countered with Detroit. The trip was to start the day of the MAC Championship and I wanted to make sure I could be there. Then we lost to Central, then we lost to Western. I'd seen this act before. Lose close, then lose big, then quit around November 1st. I can no longer justify Detroit hopes, (at least to her) we book our trip to Washington DC. Of course then UB wins ALL the GAMES minus Kent State (damn you Julian Edelman), and best undefeated Ball State in Detroit for the championship.

If someone ever uses that MAC Championship Game as a badge of commitment, and gives me the "you weren't there" I think I'd take it back to 1776 and challenge that fellow to a duel.

Fast forward to 2009, I flew back to LA after 14 days on the east coast trip, and immediately have to fly back to the east for the International Bowl. UB's ticket allotment is sold out before I can buy some for my group.

My feeling, righteous indignation. In 2006 I worked a home game attended by 462 people. (The Miami of Ohio game). Granted the game was postponed, it faced off directly against the Bills and the city was in a state of emergency, but I was there. In 2009 we're selling 10,000 tickets in a few days. I watched the International Bowl at a bar in Buffalo, full of people in Royal Blue, with the UB game on the Big TV and the audio on the Bulls, the Sabres game that day was on the small TV, the audio was on the Bulls...The Bandwagon was rolling.

International Bowl attendance also a sore subject for me, duel-worthy soreness.

Being out west I hear stories about massive bandwagons, the Eugene residents who discovered the Oregon Ducks circa 2003, the Boise residents who discovered the Broncos circa 2006 even the LA natives who rediscovered Trojan football around the Stanford game 2011 after a few years away from the Coliseum. (No hate mail please I'm an alum Fight On! and what not)

If Buffalo ever did what we all hope they do, sustain high-level success, I wonder would I even be able to enjoy it?

Sitting with that guy who only watches NFL, and says oh the refs got it wrong, when a WR pulls down a pass with only 1 foot in bounds?

Living next to that neighbor who hates UB for moving to Amherst but suddenly starts flying a UB flag in his lawn?

Or when people start hating on us like Temple, but we can't say anything about it for fear of becoming Temple. (Impossible, we have a MAC Championship and a win vs a winning team in the MAC)

What will you do when:

someone accuses you of chasing the bandwagon?

UB tickets are out of your price range?

I don't know what I'll do. But I have hated the Kings too long to learn from them, especially after they stole my girl Cup. So until that day comes, I'll appreciate being 3-9, and start shopping for duel slapping gloves.