Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Stanley Cup Final - Game 6: Sweet Emotion

Describing the feeling of watching the team you love win the Stanley Cup is a difficult thing. Part of the problem is thinking you know what it will feel like, then being thrust into the moment and realizing nothing could have prepared you for the reality. It's a sudden rush of blood to the head, a brain freeze and a study of shock and awe all rolled into one.

You don't just feel one feeling, you feel many. The feelings come in waves that alternately lift you up then knock you to your knees. Just when you think you're able to come up for air, a fresh memory happens and another wave of feelings hit and you're breathless all over again.

  • My mouth dropped in awe as the final horn sounded and silver and black streamers floated down from the Staples Center ceiling at the end of the game that decided it all.
  • I beamed with pride watching Dustin Brown lift The Cup for the first time.
  • I started to tear up watching Willie Mitchell finally realize his long held and hard fought dream.
  • I gasped in shock as Simon Gagne almost fell and took The Cup with him.
  • I grinned from ear to ear watching 22 year old Drew Doughty scream "WOOOOOO!" as he carried Stanley around the ice, hoping this was only the first time on the way to many more.
  • I chuckled watching Colin Fraser do a creative backwards hand off to Brad Richardson.
  • I winced with a tinge of regret seeing Scott Parse and wondering what might have been in a season devoid of hip surgeries.
  • And when the players families joined them on the ice, seeing their shared embraces, full of pride and love, the floodgates opened and I cried in earnest.
By the time I got home I was numb, exhausted, emotionally spent -- and happier than I've ever been in my life as a hockey fan. And I knew I would cherish those moments and all those sweet emotions for the rest of my life.

Because it's The Cup.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Stanley Cup Finals - Game 5: Cuts Both Ways

Being a walking bundle of contradictions goes hand in hand with being a Kings fan.

You believe in your team but acknowledge that history is NOT your friend where success is involved.
You want them to win but almost expect them to lose.
You worship your goal tender -- except when tries to stick handle.
You want goals but get goal posts instead.

And if you're like me, you want this miraculous Cup run to end as soon as possible WITH A WIN, but you also want see it in person. Because you've waited, wanted and wished for so long.

The Kings loss in Game 5 is potentially our gain in Game 6, my friends. And win or lose, it's also THE LAST TIME you will see your team on Staples Center ice this season. It has the potential to be the most epic moment you've experienced as a Kings fan -- or one of the most bitter disappointments. So much to gain, yet so much to lose.

At times like this it is easy to have your faith shaken. But even if you're a still a jumble of opposing feelings, you still have to believe in this team. Because belief is NOT never having doubts. Belief is acknowledging the doubt and pushing forward in spite of it. I BELIEVE. Do you?


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Stanley Cup Finals Game 4: Be-Deviled

I've spent the past two days thinking and thinking, replaying every critical moment in my mind and trying to figure out the X-factor behind the Kings Game 4 loss to the New Jersey Devils.
  • Was it because I got a defective glow stick?
  • Was it because I was not in my normal warm up photo spot?
  • Was it because I didn't see my friend George before the game? He swears that every time we say hello before a game the Kings win, but I was running late that day and missed him.
  • Was it because Kelly Hrudey was in the building?
  • Was it because all the press box guys were running out of phone battery?
  • Was it because Dennis Bernstein had to be wrong JUST ONCE?
  • Or maybe it's because the Hockey Gods know we're patient. They know we're willing to wait as long as it takes because the reward will be worth it.

And then I thought about Mike Richards. You see, I normally don't watch the players during the National Anthem, because the flag hanging from the rafters is behind me and I have to turn around to see it. But this night, I happened to glance at the Jumbotron and see him on the bench, eyes closed, head buried in his gloves as they perched on the end of his stick.

I could actually feel how much he wanted to win, how much he was praying for the strength to seize that moment. He's been through a Cup final before, and he knows it's a marathon, not a sprint.

And then I understood why the Kings lost. Because this isn't supposed to be easy. It's supposed to take blood, sweat and tears, with small pieces of your heart and soul thrown in for good measure. Because nothing this important is earned without sacrifice.

Because it's The Cup.


Capturing History In The Faces Of Los Angeles Kings Fans

Chaz Curry is a lot of things. Professional photographer. Surf enthusiast. Hockey player. Die hard Kings fan.

Perhaps most importantly, Chaz Curry understands the power of a moment. The Kings and their fans are part of a unique moment in history right now that we've all waited for, dreamed about and prayed would happen. Chaz Curry wants to honor that moment by commemorating it forever -- captured in the beauty of black and white.

Chaz Curry wants YOU to be a part of that moment too.

Hopefully you've seen this image somewhere on Facebook, Twitter or a blog already. If you haven't, I'm happy to bring it to you. It's your chance to be a part of Kings history -- OUR HISTORY.

If you're still not sure why you should do this, here is a more detailed description of the project posted by Chaz on his Facebook page:

I'm interested in putting together a simple and straightforward movie consisting of nothing but stellar black & white portraits of Los Angeles Kings fans.

Without giving away too many details, Kings fan would show up at a photo studio somewhere in LA or Long Beach on a Saturday or Sunday and we'd shoot thousands of portraits of Kings fans against a black backdrop, preferably wearing Kings gear.

The reason why I want to do this is becaus
e we as Kings fans have waited a really, really long time for this moment, and while I don't want to jinx anything, I'd love to show this off right after the fact.

Moreover, this is something that is near and dear to my heart to be able do for Tanner and his family (Steven M. Raboin, Scott Raboin, Tim Raboin). For me, being a photographer, I have long wanted to use my talents to give back to Kings fans in any way possible, and I strongly feel in my heart that someone somewhere is telling me to do this.

In return everyone will get a hi-res copy of your photo that you may print out, frame, post online, whatever your heart desires).

To be honest, I haven't seen any sort of fanbase in ANY sport come together and do something of this nature. Have you?

So I ask this, Kings fans - Would you be willing to donate a half hour of your time on a Saturday or Sunday for this Tannerhead Nation project and our beloved team or do we sit back and casually just root for them like every other sports fan does?

For me, this will be a ton of hard work during the long shoot and a ton of hours spent in post production, but when I'm old and gray dying in my bed I'll be able to tell my grandchildren about this moment and say that I made a difference. A moment no one can take away from us wherever we go in life.

This is what being a Kings fan means to me, and what it meant to Tanner Raboin.
Did that give you chills? A tear in your eye? Me too. I'll be there Sunday. If you want to join in, RSVP to the Facebook event HERE.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Stanley Cup Finals: Game 3 - Mad Genius

I was in a great mood yesterday morning, which was an amazing feat considering I was up at 5 AM trying to get to work early. Such is life in playoff mode. I had a lot to get done at work but I was making progress. Then, it happened.

A tweet from a friend asking whether Simon Gagne would be skating tonight? HUH?

After quickly consulting the mighty Rich Hammond and discovering Gagne would indeed be replacing Brad Richardson in the line-up, my thoughts went into a complete tailspin.

WTF are we doing messing with line chemistry NOW? Why can't the power play units just keep doing what they're doing -- they have to score eventually, right? Is this just about Gagne getting his name on the damned Cup? Is Richie hurt? SHIT, SHIT, SHIT!

The rest of the afternoon was a blur of work, stress, rushing home and rushing to Staples Center to make sure I had plenty of time to navigate the madness. On my walk downtown, a slew of frustrated thoughts were running through my head (not necessarily in this order):

  • I HATE 5 PM starts. Can I help that I live in a geographically superior time zone? I have to struggle to rearrange my day just so the East Coasters get their beauty sleep?
  • WTH is Gags doing in the lineup? REALLY. Is this mad genius or pure stupidity on Sutter's part? THE GUY HASN'T PLAYED SINCE DECEMBER!
  • I really should have taken the day off...
  • That freaking margarita machine better be working!

By the time the game was over, I only had one thought....


Nothing else really matters.


Monday, June 4, 2012

Stanley Cup Finals: Game 2 - Two Guys, A Girl And A Nail Biter

Finally free of hotel rooms in the Dirty South and safely back in Los Angeles, I was excited about the opportunity to enjoy Game 2 surrounded by my fellow Kings fans. I just had no idea there were so many of you!

That was the line to get IN to ESPN Zone...
Of course, half these people clearly aren't REAL fans because they don't even have jerseys, or even anything Kings themed in their wardrobe. I appreciate people wanting to join the playoff party, but I just feel like there should be some sort of system to give preference to long time Kings fans at these Kings of events and let the obvious band wagoners in last. You gotta earn your way in people.

In spite of Jay Flats begging me to stay, there was no way IN HELL I was waiting in that line to fight for average food and lousy ESPN Zone service. Thankfully I read the information the Kings sent out on ALL the restaurants supporting the Kings playoff efforts, so I decamped to the JW Marriott. Much nice environs, better food and plenty of 50" TV's lined up to watch the game. MUCH BETTER.

Once my cocktail and I were comfortably ensconced at The Mixing Room at the JW Marriott, I met a couple of new watch party buddies -- and die hard Kings fans - named Tim and Alex.

THIS is Alex. THIS is what a REAL Kings fan looks like.

We had an awesome time discussing the game and Tim did a fantastic job stealing us all some "GO KINGS" coasters for use later. When Drew Doughty carried the puck end to end and scored to put the Kings on the board, we sat dumbfounded at his amazing talent.

I think the gum is the secret to a successful end rush.

Then after a tight back and forth game for three periods, we all screamed and stood in unison when Jeff Carter scored the game winning goal. And it's a good thing he did, because Tim and I were both about to throw up from anxiety in the last minutes of OT.  Until Jeff carter took control of that play, the Kings OT effort was not looking dominant. The Kings were playing mainly to keep the Devils from scoring, which isn't the way to win a game. It could have easily gone the other way, but the Hockey Gods saw fit to keep Tim and I breathing and give the Kings a HUGE win.

The Kings continue to defy expectations and make the journey to the Stanley Cup look like a walk in the park. Tim, Alex and I are all excited to be seeing them LIVE in Game 3 -- because we're all going. WE are Kings fans, people. We don't need no stinking bandwagon.

Some other fun stuff the boys and I discussed during the game, plus some other great stuff I saw at LA Live:

  • Tim and Alex were both talking about how bad they need hair cuts as soon as the playoffs are over. And they may throw in a professional shave as well. #PlayoffProblems
  • We all agreed the only goalies that should stick handle the puck are named Marty. Quickie is much better this season, but he still makes us nervous. The only possible exception to the "Marty Rule" is Ron Hextall because we're afraid of him.
  • We're all conflicted bout whether Stoll and Penner will be offered contracts when this is over. We all agree if one or both come back, they'll be taking a cut in pay. I still think Stoll is the more likely guy to get an offer.
  • What does Jonathan Quick have to do to get a goalie interference call? Two Devils sat on his head and flipped his helmet off. Mike Smith would have gone postal and beheaded someone with his stick if he took that much abuse.
  • All season long I watched Drew Doughty do those end to end rushes with no goal resulting. Apparently that was just practice for tonight.
  • Conn-Smythe watch: If he keeps playing like this, add Drew Doughty to the list of possible contenders. That said, Quick is still the odds on favorite after another sparkling effort in goal. (Jesus, as much as I complain about Doc Emrick's commentary, did I seriously just use the term "sparkling?")
  • It's nice to see the local TV stations finally care about the Kings. Let's hope someone got them the correct logo for their broadcast.

  • There is a pop-up merch stand in the middle of LA Live now, so there really wasn't an excuse for those band wagoners in the ESPN Zone line not to dress appropriately. Check out this beauty.

  • There is also a big trailer with a super size images of our boys plastered all over it. If super sized Drew doesn't make you smile, you don't know how to have fun.

  • Nice to see the police are guarding the building now that the Stanley Cup Finals banner is up.

  • The Sandley Cup sure looks pretty all lit up at night!

  • And finally, one of my favorite moments of the weekend was yesterday afternoon, when a good friend reminded me that Kovy's last name rhymes with "upchuck." That explains a lot.
Now my nerves are back in anticipation of Game 3. I hope the margarita machine at Camachos is working or it could be a REALLY rough night...


Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Stanley Cup Finals: When Life And Hockey Collide

At the beginning of the post season, I picked the Kings to lose in the first round and resigned myself to being happy with any playoff appearance given the rocky nature of the regular season. As the Kings kept winning, heading deeper and deeper into the playoffs, I realized I was totally unprepared for what a playoff run means in terms of impact on your every day life. And frankly, I was overwhelmed. Happy, but overwhelmed. And I still am.

I never knew you could use the tickets in the back of the book until this season....

My previous playoff experiences as a Kings fan have felt a lot like a vacation. You go away for a week or two of complete hockey immersion, then it's over and you return to "normal life." I've learned a legitimate Cup run is NOTHING like a vacation. It's a full time job. Constant news and blog posts to read. Videos of every player answering the same hackneyed questions to watch. Facebook and Twitter posts coming from people you rarely interact with who have suddenly taken a keen interest in your thoughts and feelings as a Kings fan. Some days the flow of information and commentary seems endless.

If I was independently wealthy, all this would actually be enjoyable. But like most of you, I have a full time job and the demands of that job don't care that this is the biggest moment of my life as a hockey fan. Occasionally something has to give, which in my case were my blog posts for the last two games.

Immediately after the Conference Championship, I was on a 6 AM flight to Huntsville, AL for work, followed by a couple of days back in Los Angeles then another early flight to Memphis, TN. Between the time changes and 10 hour days at work, I hardly knew which end was up. Because of the first trip, I didn't attend a watch party and the only experience I had seeing Dustin Brown pose next to the Campbell Cup was on video late the next day. The night of the win itself was difficult because my boyfriend is a Coyotes fan. Let's just say we didn't agree on ANY aspect of the Kings and Coyotes on-ice OR post game behavior, which made thinking about writing a post-game recap less than fun.

Then I watched Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals from my hotel room in Batesville, MS. I had such a long day at work I actually managed to fall asleep during part of the game. It probably had something to do with Doc Emrick boring me with his awful game commentary, including the play of Drew Droughty and the fact that the Kings were a "big" team. Plenty about how "skilled" the Devils were. The Kings just played "big." And don't even get me started on the Martin Brodeur love-fest put on by NBC. All I could think looking at his cheeseball grin was "YOU CHEATED ON YOUR WIFE, YOU JERK. WITH HER SISTER! DON'T SMILE AND PRETEND YOU'RE NOT A TERRIBLE HUMAN BEING. AND YOU CAN KISS MY ASS WITH YOUR SCORPION KICK."

OK, now I feel better.

But the struggles of the last two weeks have a huge silver lining -- no more work travel until after the playoffs are over. So no matter what happens from here on out, I'll be there to experience it all. I plan to enjoy every blissful moment.