Monday, September 27, 2010

Make My Day Mondays

Has someone ever done something for you that absolutely made your day?  I could have been a big thing or a small thing, but the feeling of gratitude it gave you was probably stronger than any thing else you felt that day.  Guess what?  It feels pretty amazing for the person doing the giving as well.  That's the concept sports agent Scott Norton is working to promote through "Make My Day Mondays."

"Make My Day Mondays" came on my radar by way of Kings Captain Dustin Brown, a Norton Sports client and tremendous doer of good things for other people.  And when my Captain gets behind something, I follow him.   Here are two of Brownie's recent do-good Tweets!

Dave Strehle over at NHL Hot Stove wrote a terrific post on Norton's new initiative, and since he's five times the writer I will ever be, I'm simply going to link you to what he wrote so you can learn more about the "Make My Day Monday" movement:

The bottom line is this -- every Monday, do something to make someone else's day a little bit better.

Here are some examples of good deeds and positive buzz for the "Make My Day Mondays" movement on Twitter just this morning:

So here's where YOU come in Kings fans.

If you're on Twitter, use the hash tag #MMDM when you post what YOU did to make someones day better.  Mention our Twitter handle (@LAKingsCourt) and we'd love to feature some of the great things our followers are doing in future blog posts!  If you don't want to start Tweeting, you can simply post your MMDM good deeds on the Kings Court Facebook Fan Page.

And I'm going to start things off.  I have two extra lower level tickets to Frozen Fury in Las Vegas.  I want to give them away to someone who wants to see the game and cheer on the Kings.  I can't pay to get you to Vegas, but I can treat you to a game.  The first person to DM me on Twitter will get them.  Good luck!


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Training Camp Casualties

So the Kings made their first round of cuts from training camp, and so far the players I chose to stick around are still in the hunt.  The only miss on my list so far is Brandon Kozun, who was assigned to Manchester.  While I didn't pick him to make the squad, I was hoping the kid would get a longer look this time around, including an appearance in Las Vegas.  But don't worry, he's far from done.  I hope he takes the criticism I've heard that he's too small to ever play at the NHL level and use it as motivation to become the league's next Martin St. Louis.

More cuts will be coming in the near future, and while the full picture is still far from clear, I didn't see anything in training camp this weekend to change my mind about who makes the squad and who will eventually go home.  I'm excited to see how it all plays out.

But training camp also created a casualty of a different kind -- a personal one.  It happened the first day of camp, and it took me a little bit of time to calm down enough that I could talk about it.  Now that I'm convinced everything is OK, I can share the story of how training camp almost killed MY PHONE!

I get a lot of comments about my iPhone for two reasons.  First, it's rarely out of my hand.  Second, it has a very cool Kings-themed skin.  One of my dearest friends (who incidentally doesn't like hockey) got it for me last Christmas, and it's probably my very favorite gift from last season.  If you'd like to "skin" your phone, laptop, or other electronic device and show your Kings loyalty, here's a link:

What you may not have noticed in the photo above is a chunk missing from my previously perfect Kings logo skin, and beneath it, a ding in the phone itself!  Let's take a closer look.

Ouch...that hurts!  So you're probably wondering how on Earth this happened if the phone never leaves my hand?  Well, let's just say I was a little excited to be seeing the boys at camp and I combined that excitement with a little too much multi-tasking.  I was sitting down on the floor next to the glass shooting photos and video.

Shooting STEADY video takes two hands, so I sat the phone down on my leg.  Then a woman came walking by and asked me to move.  A security dude (the same one that sees me sit on the floor at EVERY PRACTICE) had already come by once to say I couldn't sit there because someone (NOT a practice regular) complained, so I figured I had better oblige this woman.  As I shifted my leg, the phone slid off, hit the glass, and bounced down into this narrow space between the boards and the floor.

I sat there stupified for a minute.  My practice-watching companions, Jen and Brianna Wells, noticed from the look on my face something was wrong as I stared at the floor.  When they asked what was wrong, I blankly stared and said, "My phone."  "Where is it?" they asked.  "Down there," I pointed.  Confused looks ensued.  Then they laughed.  It's a good thing I love them.

After we all got our bearings and notified facilities, I waited.  And stewed.  And started to panic.  I knew I depended on my phone for pretty much EVERYTHING , but I honestly felt completely lost thinking about it down there.   Would I ever get it back?

Then Mike Timoney, one of our friends from the Kings Crew, came by to watch practice.  When we told him the story, he got us real the form of Kings Alumni Daryl Evans.  After briefly surveying the situation, Daryl just shook his head. "But it's a KINGS PHONE!" I pleaded.  "If it was a Kings phone, it would have already jumped back up out of that hole," Daryl replied.

Daryl did confirm the phone could be retrieved, but I had to wait until the crowd cleared out because they had to pull up one of the bleacher seating boards.  WHAT?  I can't be the first person who's done this, right?  Isn't there a door to a crawl space?  Something?  Sadly, no.

So at the next break in practice, Daryl got one of the facilities guys to come out with his fancy screwdriver, pull up the bleacher seating in one section, and climb down to save my phone.  It was moist from the ice condensation, beaten and permanently scarred, but thankfully still working.  And now every time I walk into Toyota Sports Center, Daryl looks at me and just shakes his head.

I am now convinced my phone was a hockey player in a prior life.  They get beaten up every day and still come back for more.  And every scar has an interesting story.


Hockey Humor: The Official Canadian Temperature Conversion Chart

Hockey fans are serious about their teams, maybe even a little TOO serious sometimes.  So when this came through my e-mail, I knew it was just the blog topic to lighten things up a little.  Unless you're a Leafs fan....

The Official Canadian Temperature Conversion Chart                          
50 Fahrenheit (10 C)                                                    
 Californians shiver uncontrollably.                                      
 Canadians plant gardens.                                                
35 Fahrenheit (1.6 C)                                                  
  Italian Cars won't start                                                
 Canadians drive with the windows down                                  
32 Fahrenheit (0 C)                                                      
 American water freezes                                                  
 Canadian water gets thicker.                                            
0 Fahrenheit (-17..9 C)                                                  
 New York City landlords finally turn on the heat.                      
  Canadians have the last cookout of the season.                          
-60 Fahrenheit (-51 C)                                                  
 Santa Claus abandons the North Pole.                                    
  Canadian Girl Guides sell cookies door-to-door.                        
-109.9 Fahrenheit (-78.5 C)                                              
 Carbon dioxide freezes makes dry ice.                                  
  Canadians pull down their earflaps.                                    
-173 Fahrenheit (-114 C)                                                
 Ethyl alcohol freezes.                                                  
 Canadians get frustrated when they can't thaw the keg                  
 -459.67 Fahrenheit (-273.15 C)                                          
 Absolute zero; all atomic motion stops.                                
  Canadians start saying "cold, eh?"                                      
-500 Fahrenheit (-295 C)                                                
 Hell freezes over.                                                      
 The Toronto Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Who Goes Home?

As I watched the Kings-Coyotes game at Staples Center last night, I couldn't help thinking about the rookies and prospects participating in the game.  Playing on NHL ice was the dream of every one of those guys growing up, and just as soon as they get a taste of the dream, they must also face the inevitable decisions from the club they hope to join -- because roster cuts are coming.

Like many things in life, not everyone gets their dream when they want it.  They have a shot, but there just isn't room to keep everyone.  So they work hard in camp, try to play their best and showcase their unique (or in some cases not so unique) talents, hoping to catch management's eye.  During warm-ups last night, I watched them intently.

Some looked perfectly at home, while others seemed scared, ready for the other skate to drop at any moment.  In reality, even the ones that feel confident may not get a spot.  Sometimes the club is just "going in another direction."  But like life, setbacks are temporary, and if you're completely committed to your dream, you'll do whatever it takes to make it happen one day.

With so many potential new Kings in camp, I haven't been able to watch everyone closely enough to comment on their future, so I'll just list the guys I have spent time watching and share my predictions on where they're headed.  I'll report back in a few days and we can see how I did.

Let's start with defencemen.
  • Davis Drewiske wasn't playing at the end of the season last year due to a shoulder injury, and Coach Terry Murray publicly shared that he didn't think Drewiske's level of grit and board play was the same after coming back supposedly "healthy."  Watching him in camp, I think he's back to his old pre-injury self and will earn a spot on the roster.   It's a win for our defense because he's a big body and a solid, though not exceptional puck handler.
  • Peter Harrold is probably in the strangest situation of anyone on the squad because he's been used in both defensive and offensive roles.  He's not stellar at either, and he's not the biggest body on the team, so I'm not sure where that leaves him.  Unless he's packaged as part of a trade, I suspect he stays with the club and is a healthy scratch most of the season.
  • Alec Martinez was a call up a couple of times towards the end of the season, and serviceably filled his role but didn't do anything memorable.  At 6' 1" and 208 pounds, he's not the biggest guy out there but he's physical enough.  Even so, I don't think he earns a spot out of camp and will play in Manchester.
  • Jake Muzzin is a big physical guy with an interesting back story.  He did an overage year in juniors due to injuries and has really had to fight to get to this point.  Dean Lombardi likes that kind of character, so they're giving him a long look, but ultimately a season in Manchester will tell the story of his true potential.
  • Colten Teubert will never play at the NHL level.  I know it might sound mean to pick on the guy when he has a hand injury and hasn't really even participated in camp.  But I've never been a Teubert fan, and I'm not starting now.  Expect him to play with the Ontario Reign to stay close to Los Angeles in the event they can offload him as a part of a trade package.
  • Thomas Hickey is at a crossroads in his career.  He was plagued with injuries during his first AHL season, but battled through them to make an appearance with Manchester in the Calder Cup play-offs and make a positive impression on the coaches with his contributions.  He's been working out in Los Angeles all summer, more than sufficiently handling his duties at camp and the coaches are high on him.  I'm gonna go out on a limb as say he makes the squad out of camp.  Whether he stays will depend largely on how he fits into the defensive picture when Matt Greene returns from shoulder surgery and we have an "extra" D-man.
And now for the forwards.
  • Bud Holloway had an exceptional play-off run with Manchester, but has never seemed to bring that level of game to camp, at least in a way you notice.  He's a terrific guy, but sadly I don't think he has a shot.
  • Trevor Lewis also won't be making the team.  Maybe it was nerves, but he looked a little lost during the game last night, and he's not the kind of aggressive physical presence to fill a third or fourth line role.  Back to the Monarch's kiddo.
  • Dwight King looked like Trevor Lewis last night, only slightly taller.  He'll be back in Manchester as well. 
  • Justin Azevedo will also be headed back to Manchester.   He's one of the smaller guys out there at 5' 7", and he's less skilled than other small guys like Kozun, so he doesn't fill the kind of role the Kings need up front.  
  • Brandon Kozun will stick around longer, and may even make it to Frozen Fury in Las Vegas because he's a dynamic player to watch with a good scoring touch.  Ultimately, he needs to grow a little more physically, which he can do most effectively back in juniors.  He's got plenty of time.
  • Andrei Lotkionov will also see more playing time before his eventual return to Manchester.  He shows a ton of promise, but we're loaded at center and he has too much scoring talent to get wasted on the 4th line.
  • Moller, sadly, has reached the end of the line with the Kings.  He played almost a full season 2 years ago, in the same rookie class with Drew Doughty and Wayne Simmonds.  When he didn't make the squad last year, I expected he would go back to Manchester, rule the ice as one of their top 3 scorers, and prove he deserved to be back.  It didn't happen, and in camp this past week everything about his body language and lack of jump in his step spoke volumes.  It makes me sad because I've always been a Moller admirer, but I'm pretty sure he's done.
  • Brayden Schenn will be one of the last cuts, but I predict he'll go back to juniors for another season.  Not because of lack of talent or physicality, mind you, because the kid has all the tools, and he showed it last night going hard to the net to help Dustin Brown bang in a dirty, gritty goal.  But Schenn is a long term play for the Kings -- he's a keeper, and patience will pay HUGE dividends with this kid.
  • Rich Clune will make the team.   The nickname "Clunatic" makes him a fan favorite, he's a fast skater and good but clean agitator who will drop the gloves and take on a guy a head taller than he is if that's what it takes to get the job done.
  • Kyle Clifford has a similar game to Clune, although he's also bigger and just a bit faster in my estimation.   To a great agree, Clifford's fate is probably tied to whether Kevin Westgarth makes the squad.  Westgarth is more of a "traditional" heavyweight enforcer, and if he proves his skating ability has progressed enough during the summer he will take the spot on the 4th line that could otherwise be open for Clifford.   I predict Westgarth makes the squad.
So now you have my picks to fill the Kings open roster spots.  I'd love to know what you think, so get those comments coming!


Friday, September 24, 2010

Pre-Season Do's And Don'ts

When you've waited all summer for hockey season to arrive, attending your first pre-season game is an emotional moment.  The feel of the hockey jersey fabric on your skin, the shine of freshly made ice at your arena, the hugs from friends you haven't seen in months -- it's a heady thing.  So it's natural that your emotions may be running a little higher than normal, which can sometimes cause you to react too quickly when things don't get off to the start you've been anticipating all summer.

For instance, let's just say your team loses not only their first home pre-season game, but the game being played in your opponent's city by the other half of the squad as well.  That's right -- two losses in one night.  Admittedly, it's enough to put a die-hard fan a little on edge. 

So to help you survive the pre-season roller coaster of emotion, here is a short list of do's and don'ts I find helpful.

  • Continue to breathe.  
  • Remind yourself it's only the pre-season, and these games do not count towards the official season standings and your play-off hopes.
  • Remember that your rookies and prospects need your support.  They're going to start getting cut from the big squad tomorrow, and you don't want them to feel like losers because they're the future of your team.
  • Be grateful for what you DO have (that AMAZING BRAND NEW HIGH-DEFINITION SCOREBOARD, for instance).

  • Forget to breathe.  Hyperventilating in the middle of a game isn't pretty, and it won't win you friends in your section.  Remember, this is just the pre-season.  If you're getting this upset already, your chances of seeing your team through to a Stanley Cup final are ZERO.
  • Scream insults like "Earn your money, you bum!" within earshot of your star player.
  • Freak out when a stick gets stuck somewhere it shouldn't be.  These zebras are professionals, and they'll take care of the problem before one of your players impales himself flying around too close to the boards.
  • Call for the replacement of your Number 1 goalie because he lets in a couple of soft goals.  The guy hasn't played in a REAL GAME in months.  Let's give him a chance, OK? 

Most importantly, remember the only pre-season game that really matters is Frozen Fury, so relax and get ready to head to the sports book.  Because once the Kings shake off the rust (what the pre-season is for anyway) and get the REAL season started, things will return to normal, and we'll be going back to the play-offs where we belong.  You can bet on it!


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Are You Ready For Some Hockey?

I always love coming home to mail that isn't a bill, especially when that mail includes my latest copy of The Hockey News!

OK, I know what you're thinking.  Yes, I am aware Sidney Crosby plays for the Penguins, and no, I have not abandoned my Kings to become a Penguins fan.  What caught my eye is the text in the little red circle next to Sid's face.

The Hockey News talking about OUR KINGS!!  Heck yeah!

In his column, Proteau Type, THN writer Adam Proteau has this to say about the Kings:

"In any case, the Kings are a team that shouldn't be missed wherever they're playing.  They are the West's version of the Washington Capitals - young, dangerous and on the precipice of achieving something big.  They might still have a season or two of growing pains - like the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins had to deal with before they made their quantum, championship leaps - but there may be no more thrilling team in hockey to watch this year."

Can I get an amen to that, Kings fans?

And the icing on the cake?  Drew Doughty is already predicted to be a Norris Trophy Candidate, as picked by both the media and the fans!

Can life get any better?  Yes, it can...because I'm off to Staples Center to see the Kings first home pre-season game.  So say it with me everyone.....


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Training Camp Observations

Is it just me, or was it a REALLY LONG SUMMER without hockey?  After a too-early exit from the play-offs, Kings fans had a long wait, made even longer by the free agency mess spawned by "The Battle of Kovalchuk."  Thankfully, the wait ended this weekend with the full club starting Training Camp at Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo bright and early Saturday morning.

I attended camp both Saturday and Sunday and took a ton of photos and video.  Those are all posted on the Kings Court Facebook Fan Page for your viewing pleasure.   After watching 14 hours of drills and conditioning skates, I'm more excited that ever to get this season started! 

Here are a few highlights:
  • Everyone is in great shape, from a conditioning standpoint.  Even the "old" guys (Smyth) have a jump in their step that was awesome to see.
  • Drew Doughty is still a huge fan favorite.  Cheers of "DREEEWWWW!" started the minute he took the ice Saturday.  Although apparently he's forgotten about the pain of cracking 7 teeth last season, because he's skating without a mouth guard again.  Nice smile, but BAD BOY!
  • No one is going to knock Dustin Brown off his skates...NO ONE.  I wouldn't try to take his puck, either.  (I'm looking at you, John Zeiler....)
  • If you were worried about Ponikarovsky being Frolov 2.0, worry no longer.  Poni is a definite upgrade -- bigger, faster, more engaged.  He's like The Bionic Fro.
  • Having two athletic, well conditioned, young, talented goaltenders is a FANTASTIC problem.
  • A line including Zeus, Simmer, and Poni would be downright scary...and I mean crash-the-crease and bang in some ugly goals scary.  I think I love it.  And I also think Poni and Simmer have a little bromance going judging from all the chest bumping out there.
  • Drew Doughty and Willie Mitchell are going to make a nice pairing, and I think Jack Johnson and Rob Scuderi are gonna work out well too.
  • Davis Drewiski is DETERMINED.  Everything about his work in camp screamed, "I want my spot back."  I think he gets it.
  • Kopitar needs to officially change his name to Kopi-Star.  I smell some big points totals coming.
  • Justin Williams is still a huge question mark.  But he looks good out there, ladies.  Do we keep him around just to up the hotness quotient?  Probably not, so I hope he brings some game.  I'm reserving further judgment until the season starts and I see play for real.
  • Kevin Westgarth has improved his skating, but on a few drills his head didn't seem to be telling his feet to do the right thing.  Maybe the hair is finally starting to drag him down?
  • Thomas Hickey is as good as he can possibly be at this point.  Is it good enough?  I still don't know. 
  • Dylan King won't make the team, but he earned the love of everyone in the crowd with that epic black eye.  Remember Dylan, chicks dig scars....
The bottom line?  It's a great time to be a Kings fan.  So don't go're in for an exciting season!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Welcome to Kings Court!

So you've found me, and you may be wondering why you're here.  You're a passionate LA Kings fan, and you want to read everything possible about your team, but you're busy.  You've got a life.  There are so many hockey blogs, sites and message boards to read already.  Why add another one?

Because, if you'll go on this journey with me, I want to try to do something different.  I want this to be more than a blog.  It's the launching pad for a community of Kings fans.  I'm not a professional hockey writer, or a hockey expert of any kind -- but I am a fan who actually LIVES in Los Angeles.   I have season tickets, I go to almost every home game, I attend practices when I can and I support Kings events outside of games.  And through all those experiences I've met a tremendous group of people -- my hockey family. 

More than any other sport I've followed in my life, I believe in the power of hockey to bring people together.  I want YOU to share that experience, so I'm inviting you to be part of my Los Angeles Kings hockey family.   If you follow this blog, you'll meet the people that make hockey in this city so great.  And just like a family, we'll get to share crazy photos, videos, and observations as we follow our Los Angeles Kings in their quest for Lord Stanley's Cup.

So now that you're here, let's get this party started!