Friday, September 30, 2011


Drew gets his money.
Dean gets his contract length.
The Kingdom rejoices.
The Queen gets her King back.

Once again, all is right in Hockeywood. All we need now is The Cup....

Is it October yet?


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Kings vs Coyotes: Don't Worry, It's Only The Pre-Season

Pre-season games are like going back to school after summer break. You wander the halls, screaming and hugging every old friend you spot and talking about expectations for the year. You probably don't learn much the first few days, but you enjoy the renewed camaraderie before getting down to the hard work you know is coming.

Hey guys! What'cha been up to this summer?
There were new faces and old on the ice last night, along with new moves and old rust. It's too early to worry about the fact that the power play wasn't really working, and new rookie goalies aren't supposed to be great in shoot outs. So even though the Kings lost in the shoot out 2-1, there were still some good takeaways from the game. And at least Patrick O'Sullivan wasn't the Coyote to net the overtime game winner. Small victories, people.

Here are The Queen's notes from the evening.
  • Mike Richards does a relatively short warm-up skate. He was the last one on the ice and the first one off. Based on fan demand for Richie photos, this will require a change in strategy.
  • I was happy to see Boedeker got a boarding call and game misconduct for nasty hit on Muzzin. Hopefully this is the start of some improved discipline around the league.
  • There was a lot of discussion on the ice before the first power play. Mike Richards led the talk, which probably went something along the lines of "OK guys, I know we haven't gotten to this in practice yet, but someone just feed me the puck and I'll try to hammer it in." IF that was the strategy, it didn't exactly work, but at least I saw different guys shooting from different locations so it wasn't the "old" power play. Rome wasn't built in a day, so it's going to be a work in progress for a while.
  • Loktionov is going to kick ass if they give him a chance.
  • I thought Stoll's shot had actually improved there for a bit. Maybe he can see better with that visor? Or maybe not based on his shootout performance.
  • Voynov looked incredibly solid and confident. Muzzin was a mess at both ends of the ice. Before this game, Muzzin was my pick to stick on defense, but I'm rethinking that idea. 
  • Thomas Hickey held his own last night. Not outstanding, but solid in both ends. He looked a little nervous in warm-ups, and you just look at his face and know the pressure he's feeling to make this team. He played well that under pressure, which is a great sign. There is still hope for The Thomas Hickey Experiment.
  • Poor Kyle Clifford had a rough night. Too much time in the box with penalties from maybe just trying just a little too hard. He should have had a goal in the first but for an AWFUL goalie interference call.  And his tilt last night was not one of The Big Red Dog's better fights either. But I still love watching him give the death stare to opponents.

  • Brad Richardson worked his butt off tonight. There is no assignment that guy won't take if it helps the team and lets him play in the NHL. If everyone on this team had his work ethic 100% of the time, you might as well give the Kings the Stanley Cup now.
  • Scott Parse didn't do a whole lot for me -- or for the team. Not especially fast, not a fantastic shot. I don't know where this awesomely skilled guy Dean lauded last season went, but he's not wearing #21 this season.
  • Jordan Nolan still needs some seasoning. His passes weren't great and he looked really tentative at times. Nerves might have come into play as well.
  • I love watching Quickie flip his hair when he takes his helmet off. It's like hockey porn. 
Is it October yet?


Monday, September 19, 2011

Camp Observations, Queen Style!

Lots of ink and video has already been devoted to the first two days of training camp by the fantastic pro writers that cover the Kings. I love hockey but I am not the sharpest technical mind in the blogging game, so I thought I'd give you a purely fan-style perspective on camp so far. Here are some mostly non-hockey related observations, with a few nuggets of questionable wisdom thrown in.
  • Seeing Anze Kopitar back makes my heart happy. He hasn't lost a step since last season, and the smile at being back hasn't left his face.
  • Jonathan Quick is kinda hot with longer hair.
  • Watching goalies do conditioning skates in like watching oompah-loompahs. They practically have to be bowlegged to move around their gear.
  • Mike Richards is a STUD. He let off a shot yesterday that almost took Jonathan Bernier's head off -- top shelf and straight into the net. He can stay.
  • Rich Clune's mouth hangs open in exactly the same position 100% of the time that he's skating. Oddly, it's a look that works for him.
  • Watching a whole squad of professional hockey players get confused by a drill is funny. Even the brand new video demonstration tool with the cool TV couldn't help it make sense. Back to the whiteboard!
  • Seeing Willie Mitchell's sneer makes my day. Every team needs a badass and he's the baddest of then all.
  • It's so funny watching Matt Greene absolutely BURY Jarret Stoll in the net knowing in only a few days they'll bring their bromance back to warm-up skates at games.
  • Jonathan Bernier drew the short goalie straw being assigned to Group A. He spent every session getting pummeled by Dustin Brown, Mike Richards AND every rookie dying to make an impression on the coach. Poor guy even broke his twig.
  • Davis Drewiske is really too beautiful to be a hockey player. He looks like he belongs in Ralph Lauren ads.
  • If Dustin Brown, Mike Richards and Simon Gagne stay together as a line, the Western conference opposition is going to be in a lot of pain, much to the delight of Kings fans.
  • Matt Greene will own you of you have the puck.
  • I love Andre Loktionov more every day. Slava Voynov is growing on me, although I wish he'd bring the long hair back.
  • Speaking of hair, Matt Greene's hair will always be just a somehow. Then again, Greener is a little "off" himself.
  • Our prospect Michael Schumacher may not drive a race car, but he skates like he's powered by one.
  • Kyle Clifford's smile is like Disneyland. You can't go there and not smile too.
  • I can't wait until the day my favorite smile is back on the ice again....
Photo courtesy of Nichole Glaze Photography. Smile courtesy of Doughty Enterprises, LLC.

Finally, if you haven't checked them out already, get all The Queen's photos and video from Saturday and Sunday on the Kings Court Facebook page and YouTube channel. Because a picture of your favorite King is worth more than all the words I just wrote.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Doughty Damage Done

If you had come to me at the end of last season and said, "Queen, I know you love Drew, but getting him under contract is going to be a problem and you're going to end up disappointed in him" I would probably have laughed and then punched your lights out. Amazing how a summer can change things.

I finally have to admit it. I'm disappointed in Drew.

Drew Doughty could have the best reasons in the world for not having signed a contract up until now, but I'd still be disappointed. Because even if he's "right" to take the stand he has, he's still tarnished his reputation -- not just with the fans, but more importantly with his teammates. And whether he reports for training camp tomorrow (which is looking less and less likely by the hour), the damage is already done and there may be no way to clean it up -- at least not permanently.

Get ready to spend the season watching your back, my friend.
Publicly, his teammates will be stand-up guys and express the desire to have him in the locker room and emphasize that he's part of the team no matter what. They will say his contract is none of their business. But privately, they likely have the same frustrations any co-worker would have with someone who is perceived to not be doing things in the best interest of the team. "Who the hell does this guy think he is? You think we ENJOY giving up a Sunday to go put up with fans? He gets to make huge money and sidestep all the crap we put up with?"

The fan base will be even more critical. People like me who were Doughty fans previously may still adore him, but that adoration will always come with the caveat of "I love him, except for that whole contract mess in 2011." God forbid he makes it back and isn't perfect at everything -- fitness, on-ice performance, statements in interviews and interactions with fans. One wrong step and the moaning and groaning will start -- "I knew this would happen. This kid has ALWAYS been overrated. Now we have proof! He never should have gotten such a fat contract." And the Doughty haters already out there will be nodding their heads, saying "I told you so..."

The truth is at the end of the day, this whole situation is less about reality than perception. The thing Drew Doughty and his agent have done most poorly through this whole process is manage public perception. Because of that, he's painted himself into a corner where nothing he does from here forward will be good enough. The doubt in his ability, his motivation and his heart will always be there.

Maybe the Kings truly are the evil empire and Dean Lombardi is Darth Vader, trying desperately to neutralize this powerful young hockey Jedi. Drew is just trying to keep from getting screwed over. But is that what the perception is right now? Absolutely not. The perception is that he's greedy and selfish, and in the absence of information from the Doughty camp on their position and the rationale behind it, people will assume the worst scenario. Maybe even his own team mates.

At whatever point Drew Doughty resumes his career with the Kings, one thing is certain. He's no longer the same player we knew before this mess. He'll never be that person again.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Hockey Fest 2011: Meet The New Kings

Plenty of folks were excited for the Q&A with the newest members of the Kings -- Simon Gagne, Mike Richards, Colin Fraser and Ethan Moreau. Shortly after the State of the Franchise session, the concourse was packed with a standing room only crowd. No pressure there, new guys.

The discussion was moderated by Kings radio personality Nick Nickson, and after introducing each player he spent time asking a series of questions of the panel before letting the fans jump in. Most of the opening questions and answers were pretty basic, as were the answers -- typical press conference stuff. To a point, that was probably necessary with this group. They don't know the fan base well, and we don't know them so there isn't a shared history or cool inside jokes that would make for more interesting commentary. Even so, there were a few fun moments.

Here are The Queen's overall observations about each player, including some of their answers to the more interesting questions posed by fans.

Mike Richards
  • Mike Richards resume is simply jaw-dropping. He's won awards on every team he's played with. The most interesting stat Nick shared is that he holds a NHL record for the most short-handed 5 on 3 goals. This is a guy that can get it done in the clutch. I'm impressed.
  • In keeping with what I've read about him, he seems pretty quiet and reserved for the most part. His answers were safe, although his creative pronunciation of "organization" (it ends up sounding like organ-eye-zation) made me smile.
  • At times he looked liked a deer caught in the headlights, but it must be strange sitting on a stage with about a thousand people starting straight at you, so I'm inclined to give him a break.
  • I especially loved that all the other guys were wearing dress shoes while he rocked the old-school sneakers.
  • Favorite player growing up: Joe Sakic
  • Pet Peeve: Certain players who will not be named that chip everybody (pretty sure at least one of those is a New York Ranger)
  • Best answer of the day: When asked whether he will be changing his Twitter name because his number changed, he responded "I'm really terrible at it (Twitter) and I don't know how."

Simon Gagne
  • Gagne seemed to be the most talkative of the bunch and gave the longest answers to the questions asked. He has that totally adorable French Canadian accent so I had no problem with him talking as long as he wanted!

  • He got the full court press from Justin Williams and Mike Richards when the Kings expressed interest. He and Williams stayed in touch after their playing years together in Philadelphia. 
  • Gagne was the only player on the panel that was never a captain on any team he played for. He was an assistant captain in juniors.
  • Favorite player growing up: Joe Sakic
  • Nicknames: Gags, Gaggie

Colin Fraser
  • Fraser was in an unusual situation for this event, being at the center of Mulletgate and all. He may be the player the Kings got "stuck" with in the Ryan Smyth trade, but you'd never know it. He was funny and charming -- and if he sticks around he might give Matt Greene a run for his money in the snarky quips department.
  • His surgically repaired broken foot is now ready to go back in a skate, but as of Hockey Fest that hadn't happened yet. However, he was optimistic about skating soon and would see what happened from there.
  • Fraser grew up a Canucks fan but made it clear he "Isn't one any more." Good boy.
  • Favorite player growing up: Trevor Linden
  • Nickname: Fraze
  • Best answer of the day: "Coming from Edmonton, you know, we finished in 30th so...I'm happy to be here!"

Ethan Moreau
  • Although he's gone on record saying he's funnier than Matt Greene, you would never know it. Moreau probably spoke the least of any of the players, but after you've had a long career in the NHL, how much is there left to say?
  • I loved that he seemed to be on the verge of sliding off the chair the entire time.
  • Favorite player growing up: Wayne Gretzky
  • Nickname: Chop
  • Best answer of the day: A woman got confused about a hitchhiking incident involving an Oilers player last season that she thought was Moreau -- but wasn't. She kept telling him not to pick up hitchhikers here in LA. He was obviously confused and she kept pressing saying "You don't know what I'm talking about?" as the crowd kept yelling "WRONG GUY!" Finally, he shut her up with this AWESOME one liner -- "I did a lot of things in Edmonton but that wasn't one of them."

Of all the comments during the panel, the best one went to Nick Nickson himself. A fan asked Gagne and Richards what they thought about Los Angeles being called "Philly West" because of the large number of connections between the current Kings organization and former Flyers. Nick's response? "Do the Flyers mind being known as Kings East?"

Thanks to all the new guys for being great sports with the Kings passionate fan base. We're glad you're part of the team!


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hockey Fest 2011: State of the Franchise

Prior to Hockey Fest, Dean Lombardi had agreed not to publicly discuss the Doughty negotiations. So much for that plan.

The State of the Franchise session kicked off with the Kings general manager talking about critical situations -- game situations and business situations. The road to success is full of them, and he emphasized that this organization is ready to handle the critical situations coming at them and more committed than ever to success.

Since Dean and the Kings staff knew there was no getting away from it, Bob Miller had the task of lightening up the mood by asking if he could have the first question of the day since Dean was "pretty sure he knew what it was." The audience got the joke and laughed along.

When he did answer the inevitable Doughty status question, Lombardi referenced the lessons he learned from his tenure in San Jose dealing with multiple RFA holdouts and had this to say:
"I've been through this once before....I couldn't look them in the eye....I can assure you that is not the problem here."
With the ball firmly in Doughty's court with THAT answer and the elephant finally out of the room, Dean, Terry Murray, Jeff Solomon and Ron Hextall fielded a host of other questions from fans. Here are some of the more interesting comments of the morning.

  • Regarding what the Kings will do to improve their anemic power play, Terry Murray responded "Dean, you wanna talk on that?"
  • One brave (and possibly stupid) fan asked if captains will change because Mike Richards is on the team. After the booing subsided, Terry Murray settled the issue. "Dustin Brown is our Captain."
  • "I've never seen a player overprepared to play in the NHL." - Ron Hextall
  • On the latest "Mulletgate" update, Jeff Solomon stepped right up to the plate. "Dean will hand me the mic so I'm the one that gets hit with a fine this year."
  • "Maybe we got a little ahead of ourselves with the Brad Richards thing." - Dean Lombardi
  • When asked about the recent trend of Manchester players leaving for greener pastures in Europe, Lombardi said "You better get the muzzle Solly, because this is gonna get me irritated..."
  • And finally, a fan named Frank asked if there is truly any loyalty anymore with regard to players and their feelings about the organization they play for. "This could be a 3 hour conversation," responded Lombardi.

Once the questions were done, the most anticipated moment of the morning arrived as the Kings active roster members were introduced. It was a beautiful sight seeing them all lined up in those new road jerseys!

Dustin Brown also shared a few remarks, emphasizing that this year feels different for the team. They're on the verge of something amazing, and they know it. Hearing him speak sent chills up my spine.

Brown started by thanking team owner Phil Anschutz for his unwavering support and calling him "the best owner in hockey, if not the best owner in all professional sports."  He welcomed his new team mates, which I thought was incredibly classy. Finally, our Captain made the expectations for the season clear as a bell:
"Last season left a bitter taste in our mouths. It's time to get rid of it."

Is it October yet?


Kings Court Comes to YouTube!

If you've been following Kings Court on Facebook for a while, you know The Queen likes posting video from practices, games and Kings special events. While I love giving those great "exclusives" to all you loyal members of The Court, it seems a shame not to share our riches with all those other Kings fans that haven't discovered us yet, right? Right!

So without further ado, The Queen presents the Kings Court YouTube Channel!

Kings Court YouTube Channel

All the video content you were getting on Facebook will now be posted here. I'll still be linking the videos to the Kings Court Facebook wall, but having them permanently stored in YouTube accomplished a couple of things.
  • Easier searching for your favorite videos
  • Easier sharing with your buddies that don't love Facebook as much as you do
  • A more rested Queen (because frankly, the Facebook video uploader takes FOREVER and the YouTube uploading process is much more efficient!)
Here's a little content preview and possibly my favorite moment from Hockey Fest. Who wouldn't want to be serenaded by Kevin Westgarth on their birthday!

Check out the new channel, and I would LOVE your feedback on what you'd like to see, how it can be better, etc. And as always, thanks for your support of Kings Court!


Monday, September 12, 2011

Hockey Fest 2011

Another Kings Hockey Fest is in the books, and while it was a long day it always feels like a great roller coaster ride -- you're going crazy while you're on but it ends and the first thought in your mind is "Let's do that again!"

Hockey Fest may have it's detractors  but I think it's the perfect segue into the pre-season after a long summer without enough ice. With the exception of one missing roster number (three guesses who that is and the first two don't count), ALL the players came out and did their part to welcome the fans in grand style. And I have to say, they are VERY EXCITED about the coming season -- and so are all the Kings fans I talked with during the event.

Since I packed a lot into my Hockey Fest experience, I'm going to break it up into several posts to avoid one "Mother Of All Blog Posts." Look for those over the next several days. I'm a slow writer. For now, I'll share a few quick observations of the day overall.
  • The players all looked GREAT. Dustin Penner is still a very large mammal, but he looks lighter than he was. And the new road jerseys looked FANTASTIC on everyone. I'm considering skipping meals for a few weeks to save some scratch to buy one.
  • The biggest topic of discussion the entire day was Number 8 and all the other numbers he may or may not be considering. Shocker, I know. It was interesting to get some perspective from my fellow die hards on that one. That's a whole other blog topic coming soon. 
  • Seeing so many people enjoying the family skate was incredible, and I envy them for getting to enjoy such nice smooth ice. The best part? It's going to stay that way longer thanks to the greed of the NBA. I love it!
  • Bailey seems...different somehow. I can't put my finger on it, but something is up with that lion. I'm going to have my spies work on getting to the bottom of that situation. I think maybe he ate too many pens during the Kids Conference...
  • Kudos to the kids that participated in the Shoot Out Challenge, which was judged by Dustin Brown, Davis Drewiske, Jarret Stoll and Anze Kopitar. They showed some incredible skill and creativity, and I can't even imagine what an amazing experience it had to be getting to hang with NHL players for a bit. We did learn that Brownie is very stingy with his scores. Kopi and Stolly were pretty calibrated. I have no idea why Whiskey was even a judge, but I guess the Kings staff wanted to make up for the fact that he got stuck handing out Lemonheads at Tip-A-King last year.
  • Speaking of kudos, those firefighters played an exciting game! No word yet on how much money they raised, but I'll let you know once I can find out. I will say those commemorative jerseys were SHARP!
  • Hats off to the Kings Booster Club for supporting Dustin Brown's charity KaBOOM with their merchandise sales! Club President Lee Ann Kleine was telling me they were busy all day and sold out several items. Thanks to all of you that bought things to add to your collection. The boosters are also going to have some very unique raffles going this season, so look for more details on those once the season starts -- and prepare to purchase raffle tickets!
  • Bob Miller is the nicest man alive. He got stopped on the concourse while the new player Q&A was happening and patiently chatted with everyone and signed autographs for at least 15 minutes. The man is pure class.
  • And speaking of class, THANK YOU to all my fellow Kings fans that stopped me to say hello. I enjoyed putting faces to Facebook and Twitter profiles for those of you I met for the first time, and I can't wait to see you again during the season. You folks are the reason I love doing what I do with Kings Court. THANK YOU, THANK YOU THANK YOU!
While you're waiting for your favorite slow writer get all these blog posts done, check out the Kings Court Facebook page for photos and video of the event. And if you're kicking yourself for not attending this year, make sure to plan better for next season. I'd love to see you at Hockey Fest 2012!

Is it October yet?


Friday, September 9, 2011

Kings Court Featured Fan: Peter Naumann

Our featured fan of the week is Peter Naumann. As I was emailing back and forth with him about his answers, he reminded me to make sure to refer to him in this post as Peter "Duck Hater For Life" Naumann. I knew right away this was a fan I could relate to!

Here are Peter's answers to The Queen's fan survey, including a response from his Mom's point of view. Enjoy!


1. How did you first get introduced to hockey?
Well, my Mom’s side of the family is from New England, and my Grandfather went to Harvard Law. My Mom started watching the Kings when they moved to California, and passed the passion of not only the Kings, but Hockey as well down to her children.  

2. When did you become a Kings fan, and what do you remember about your first Kings fan experience?
My first game was in 1983 vs. the Blues, Marcel Dionne scored 2 goals and assisted on two others for a 5-0 rout. I was hooked from then on.

3. Who is you favorite Kings player of all time, past or present, and why?
Wow. That is hard. I love so many players for different reasons. I’d have to say, out of all the greats, Luc, Gretzky, Dionne, my Favorite player of all time has to be Bernie Nicholls. Guy was a goal scoring machine!!! And I just loved his attitude toward playing the game. No one can forget the Goal he scored off of his back, although some fans forget the other 70 goals he scored that season.

4. What is your favorite memory of the Kings?
I remember vacationing @ Mammoth Lakes when Grumpy’s was full of Kings Fans watching Game seven of the Campbell Conference Finals. The place just erupted when #99 scored his third goal of the game, completing the hat trick. My Mom cried so much, and it was a proud Kings moment shared with all. Good F’N Times!

5. What is your favorite item of Kings gear and why?
Favorite Kings Gear is my Autographed Puck and Card of Dave Taylor. It’s a beacon in my house of importance. Whenever I look for keys, wallet, ipod, and can’t find it, I can usually find it “behind Dave Taylor”. Mr. Reliable.

6. If you could watch a game from any location in Staples Center, where would you be and why?
I want to watch a game from Bob’s and Jim’s Seat, just to gain perspective. I have sat pretty much everywhere else.

7. If you could be a King, what position would you play and why?
Goalie, no doubt. I used to play Goalie, and it was the most fun I have ever had playing organized sports.

8. If you had a chance to address the team right now, what would you say?
Just strap it up. We fans are not too fickle. We can take losing(hell, been taking it for 50 years), but one thing we cannot accept anymore is lazy, lackadaisical play. If you lose, lose respectably.  Oh, and losing to the Ducks. Also never acceptable. You have the talent, you’ve had the experience, and I am sure you players are as interested of how far you can go as us fans know you can. GO KINGS!

9. If you could have dinner with a current Kings player, who would you choose and what would you say to them? 
Brad Richardson or Scott Parse. I’d just like to hear what they have to say being secondary pieces of the team. How are things from their perspective? Although, my mom would like to have Dinner and a Movie with Jarret Stoll. ;)

10. What is the best thing about being a Kings fan?
All the awesome people I have met over the last few years, and the excitement that builds more and more year after year. It’s really exciting to be a Kings fan now, and I’m loving every second of it. Also, another great thing about being a Kings fan is Mobbing on the Ponda Center to show Ducks fans what it means to love your team. HA!


Don't forget Kings fans, if you'd like to submit your answers and become a Kings Court Featured Fan, click this link for directions!


Thursday, September 8, 2011

In Memory of Pavol

I was up early the morning the news broke that a plane carrying the KHL team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl crashed during take-off, killing almost everyone on board and opening yet another gaping hole in the hearts of an already grieving hockey community. The fact that I was scheduled to board my own plane in a few hours made me uneasy enough, but the loss of so many talented people left me with a knot in my stomach that stuck with me most of the day.

As I followed the news on Twitter from the Burbank airport, I scanned the roster of those lost. One name immediately jumped out and grabbed hold of my heart -- former Los Angeles King Pavol Demitra.

Demitra played a mere 58 games for the Kings during a forgettable 2005-2006 season, a year before I became a hockey fan. I never saw Demitra play for my beloved Kings, but I will always remember his name because his trade to the Minnesota Wild brought the Kings the first player I ever loved -- Patrick O'Sullivan.

Because I missed the highlights of Pavol Demitra's career as a King, I reached out to my fellow Kings bloggers to get their insights, and they graciously responded. In some cases, they had already written fantastic posts about Pavol on their own blogs, so I'll share those here as well.

For Mayors Manor, Demitra was "as exciting as they come."

Surly & Scribe contributor Howard Roark wrote a comprehensive profile of Demitra's short but memorable career with the Kings.

Matt Reitz of View From My Seats and Pro Hockey Talk wrote about the frustrations of the deadly off-season that 2011 has been for hockey fans. He also shared a memory of Demitra's shoout-out prowess and notable creativity.
"The strongest memory that I took from Pavol's lone season with the Kings was a relatively nothing play in an insignificant regular season game. If you remember, Demitra came to LA in the first year after the lockout. I remember during one of the shootouts (back when they were an exciting novelty), he was the first shooter I remember swinging way out wide to make a move on a goaltender. Before that, it just seemed like shooters were magnetically drawn to skate directly towards the goaltender with as little imagination as possible. When I saw him do his thing, I saw the possibilities for some of the moves that players are dropping today. His play in the Olympics reminded me of all of the creativity that he teased us with in that single season."

Several bloggers, including Keith Korneluk from KingsCast and Jesse from Life in Hockeywood recalled the most colorful moment of Demitra's career as a King. There is nothing like a hat trick on a free hat giveaway night!

I got a wonderful collection of memories from my fellow writers, but the comment that moved me the most was this observation from the always eloquent Bobby Scribe:
"As for me, it's simple - fans so often look at players as assets, as if they are an interchangeable means to an end. That opinion is probably shared by many successful owners and general managers. What we forget is that they are flesh and blood with hearts and minds, each are fallible and experiences the range of human emotion we all do. They have dedicated their entire life to become professional hockey players and their ultimate goal, one we must remind ourselves of in such a tragic moment, is that they do it to become a part of our extended family known as the "team." When they die, a part of our family dies."
Rest in peace, Pavol. In our hearts, you'll always be a King.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Kings Court Featured Fan: Chris Van Deusen

Just when I was starting to worry that no other Kings fans wanted to share their stories with the rest of Kings Court, I got a surprise email from the King of the Die Hards himself -- Chris Van Deusen!

Chris is the owner of the Facebook "Die Hard Kings Fan" page and he loves this team with plenty of Pride, Passion and Power! Check out his fantastic answers to The Queen's fan survey AND be sure to support his Facebook page as well. He does a fantastic job. Enjoy!


1. How did you first get introduced to hockey?
When I was about 6 years old, I was the national poster child for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA, yes, I was one of “Jerry’s Kids” heh.). As such I did a lot of charity events for MDA, my favorite being the Magic Johnson Sports Award Dinner. That year the award went to Wayne Gretzky. Getting to meet #99 himself was something I’ll never forget. It was like I was hooked on hockey after that night, playing wheelchair hockey any time I could and learning as much as I could about a sport where hitting was encouraged. Whaaat?? I was 6!

2. When did you become a Kings fan, and what do you remember about your first Kings fan experience?
This is going to be a weird answer because there are sort of two answers. The first time I knew I was a Kings fan was when I was either 6 or 7 years old and some good family friends who were (and still are) season ticket holders took me to my first ever hockey game and it was the Kings vs the Red Wings at the Forum. Already being hooked on hockey, it didn’t take much for the Kings to rope in this fan. Now, I say there are two answers because until about the end of the ‘09-‘10 season, I always felt like a solo Kings fan. I got involved on the Kings Facebook page and made friends with Erik E. and at the next game I went to he introduced me to a good amount of the crazy people who I now consider my Kings Family. I felt like a “true die hard” as cheesy as it might sound.

3. Who is you favorite Kings player of all time, past or present, and why?
I can only pick one?! I think I will have to go with Rogie Vachon. The guy is a living legend of Kings History and is without a doubt, one of the all time best goalies. The thing that makes me pick Vachon out of all the rest of our great Kings is that he was a fantastic goalie in an era where there was little protection. In my opinion, you have to have major cahones to let guys shoot pucks at you when your padding & protection is half the size of the gear Quick wears today. How this man is not in the hall of fame is beyond me, even from a non-King biased standpoint.

4. What is your favorite memory of the Kings?
So many memories! Ugh, so hard to choose just one. If you mean personal Kings memory, I think it would have to be from last season. There was a game (which shall not be named!) where our guys were boo’ed off our own ice after the 2nd period. The internets exploded in debate over bandwagon fans vs the right to boo your team. I decided to take my answer to the team. I created a sign that said “Win or Lose, Kings 4 Life!” and took it to the very next home game. Got there early for warm up and put my sign on the glass like everyone else does, but to my surprise, a few of the guys actually noticed the sign! Mitchell, Scuderi, Quick, & Westgarth read the sign and cracked smiles. That was something I didn’t expect since they’re usually so “in the zone.” If you mean team Kings memory, it’d have to be the final moments of last season’s away game in Dallas where the game was won in literally the final seconds. If that doesn’t scream “Never say Die!” I don’t know what does. Sharing an Elevator & talking serious “hockey talk” with Bob Miller was also pretty amazing too though!

5. What is your favorite item of Kings gear and why?
My first jersey. I know, I know, lame that I didn’t get my first Kings jersey till I was 27 but hey those things are pricey! This one has sentimental value though because my father helped me find it, making Kings Hockey sorta “Our Thing.” It’s the last of the CCM era jerseys with the drawstrings and really nice shoulder patches. When my father helped me find it, I knew I had him hooked as a Kings fan.

6. If you could watch a game from any location in Staples Center, where would you be and why?
The Die Hard in me says section 315 with the gang you can hear from anywhere in Staples. However, I would kill to watch 1 game from the only wheelchair seats on the glass. Yeah, you know those seats. There are only 3-4 wheelchair seats that are actually ON the glass, but AEG is evil (and slightly illegal imo) with them. They’re the seats right next to the tunnel the guys come out from so AEG gets around the wheelchair issue by calling them “VIP Seats” which makes them $400 a seat. 1 seat over from them is a $300 price difference. For one night, I’d love to sit there, cheer on our guys each time they march out, and bang on the glass like the hockey nut I am.

7. If you could be a King, what position would you play and why?
I’d probably play goalie. I used to play winger in wheelchair hockey, but goalies are just cool. Plus that’d make 2 goalies in the family and my cousin could give me her advice at it. This wheelchair also has no 5-hole when turned sideways! Plus I couldn’t possibly be worse than Luongo now could I? 

8. If you had a chance to address the team right now, what would you say?
“PUT DA BISCUIT IN DA BASKET!!” No, seriously, It would probably be along the lines of “Men, the time is upon us. The time to claim Lord Stanley’s Cup as our own, is now. You have been put together exactly for that purpose. There is no question about your skill. It is there. Your level of heart cannot be denied. You wear it on your sleeve. For too long this team has been overlooked by the rest of the league, but I say NO LONGER! The plaque above the very castle doors you walk out of each night says one thing: Protect This Kingdom. There is a team in our Kingdom, a team that believes they can beat you. Go out there and show them that they are wrong! Show the league that they should fear the Kings! Protect your Kingdom! Make the League bow down to the Crown! The time is now Kings, and your loyal army stands ready.” Ok, so maybe it’s a lil dramatic but hey! It’s still good, no?

9. If you could have dinner with a current Kings player, who would you choose and what would you say to them? 
Big Willie Mitchell. When I met him at Hockey Fest last year, he seemed like a really cool guy and very down to earth. I think it’d be cool to talk to him about all the work/research he is working on in regards to concussion injuries as well as get the viewpoint of a “veteran King.”

10. What is the best thing about being a Kings fan?
The best thing about being a Kings Fan is getting to know all of the friends I now talk to almost daily. People use the “Kings Family” line a lot, but it’s because it’s true. Since running the Die Hards page, I’ve grown a second family, my Kings Family.


Don't forget Kings fans, if you'd like to submit your answers and become a Kings Court Featured Fan, click this link for directions!


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Why I'm Afraid For My Boys

I spent a decent chunk of my evening reading post after post on various hockey blogs and sites about the passing this summer of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak. While the circumstances surrounding their deaths of these 3 current and former NHL players were different in certain ways, they all had two very important things in common -- they made their mark in the NHL through fighting and they all died far too soon.

As I was reading, I couldn't help but think about two of my favorite Kings and what their futures could hold if they're not careful. And I started to cry thinking about it.

My mind went back to Tip-A-King last season.

Kevin Westgarth had one of the "special event" booths, and he spent the day not only signing autographs and taking photos, but participating in fun "sparring" sessions with fans. These little boxing matches were captured on video and translated frame-by-frame into old-fashioned mini flip books you could take home. I was a little apprehensive about the sparring business but Westy talked me into it and it was fun.

Then when he was signing my jersey, I saw the horrible, jagged scars across the knuckles of his hands. One hand was especially bad, a reminder of his last full season with the Monarchs when he opened up cuts so heavy they trouble healing and had to be restitched several times. As I cringed looking at his hand, I looked up and asked how much it hurt. He looked down at me and smiled, then responded that while it hurt at the time, it just goes with the territory.

Then there's Kyle Clifford.

On the ice, he's known for a thousand yard stare that intimidates opponents with it's icy intensity. When he drops the gloves, he fights like a man possessed. Up close and personal however, those blue eyes are warm and mischievous just like the grin he gets posing with fans. He's just a sweet and friendly kid working his tail off to live his dream.

I am a fan of both Kevin Westgarth and Kyle Clifford because of what they do on the ice -- which includes demonstrating their toughness when it's required. I even have videos of some notable Westgarth fights, including one where you can hear me screaming in the background, "RIP HIS HEAD OFF, KEVIN!"

But the more I see bad things happening to the NHL's beloved tough guys, the less I want to see either one of these two players keep dropping the gloves. Because they both are more than fighters, more than hockey players for that matter. They are tremendous people that will still have so much to contribute to the world long after their hockey careers are over.  I want to see them stay around for that. So this season, I'm going to be rooting for fewer fights and more of everything else these two contribute to the team I love. I hope you'll join me.