8150 days: A Los Angeles Kings fan tale

After purchasing some concert tickets from a broker/buddy he asks me, “Hey, I have an extra pair of tickets for tonight's Kings game, do you want 'em?” I had never been to a Kings game before, but wasn't about to turn down free tickets. My wife Chris and I went to the game and watched the Kings beat the Quebec Nordiques 7-1. We had a blast and were both instantly hooked on hockey. The date was February 17th, 1990.

Over the years we have had the pleasure of being at several memorable Kings games:

  • The game outdoors at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas
  • The night they retired Luc Robitaille's jersey
  • The game where Jari Kurri scored his 500th goal
  • The amazing night where Wayne Gretzky scored goal #802 (I played hockey on the Forum ice after that game, but that's a story for another time)

All of those were pretty special to be at, but nothing can compare to what happened over a stretch of 30 days this post season.

Kings are in the 3rd round

For the first time in 19 years, the Kings had made it past the 2nd round of the playoffs. They had beat the #1 and #2 seeded teams in the West and we were starting to think that we were watching something really special. For as rocky as their regular season had been, the Kings looked damn good in the playoffs going 8-1 to that point.

John and Chris in Phoenix for game 1

The day before Mother's day we were sitting on the couch watching game 7 of the Rangers vs Capitols series. The Kings were set to start the 3rd round on the road in Phoenix the next day. Chris says, “We should have looked for tickets in Phoenix.” [Side note, is there any question why I love this woman?] Both amazed at what she just said, and just as amazed that I didn't think of it myself, I dashed upstairs to grab the laptop and started looking for tickets. There were still several seats available for both game 1 and 2, but when I looked at TicketExchange (a spot where season seat holders can sell their seats), I was blown away by 2 things; how many were available and how inexpensive they were. I bought a pair of seats 10 rows off the ice for game 1, we packed a bag and headed to Phoenix the next morning. The game was awesome. After the game we had dinner with a friend, crashed at the hotel and headed back to Vegas the next morning. While on the road back I told Chris, “If the series goes 5 games, we have to come back.”

Decent seats for game 5 in Phoenix

About a week later we were back on the couch watching game 4 of the series against Phoenix. After two periods the Kings were down 2-0 and it wasn't looking good. I dashed back upstairs and grabbed the laptop again and headed back to TicketExchange. Amazingly I was able to get seats in the 5th row, on the goal line for less than I paid for the 10th row tickets for game 1. I made the purchase and then we made a pretty crazy decision. Since the west coast games start so early (5pm), we'd get out of the game early enough that we don't really need to pay for a hotel. Instead, we'll just leave right from the game and head back to Vegas. With that in mind, we didn't book a hotel. It's not like playoff games have the possibility of going in to multiple overtimes, right? Right?

When we were there for game 1 of the series, even though the Kings won, the crowd was pretty jovial. It was only 1 game, plus, this was the most successful season in Coyotes history. Well, in game 5, at 17:42 of the first overtime the Kings scored. It happend shortly (12 seconds) after a controversial hit by a Kings player that injured one of the Coyotes and that jovial attitude we experienced in game 1 was gone. The fans were pissed, but we were elated! The Kings were going to the Stanley Cup Final for only the 2nd time in team history.

The Stanley Cup Final

I was rooting for the New Jersey Devils to win their 3rd round series against the New York Rangers. I felt that both teams were going to be a tough match, but with the Rangers, they have a goalie who has the potential to go on a run and win a series by himself. That's not to take anything away from Martin Brodeur, the Devils' goalie who is one of the best in history. But, Marty is 40, and as great as he is still playing, I think it's fair to say that his best days are behind him.

The Devils won their series and since they were the higher seeded player, Game 1 and 2 of the Finals would be played in New Jersey. As they had done in the 3 previous series, the Kings won the first 2 games on the road. They then came back to LA and won game 3. Since only 1 team in history has come back from being down 3 games to none in the Finals, at this point, as you would expect, LA's bandwagon was overloaded and it was a foregone conclusion that the Kings were going to win game 4 as well.

I knew it was going to be expensive, but I went back to TicketExchange to see how painful it was going to be to get 2 tickets for game 4. I was prepared to spend a fair bit to get tickets, but when I saw that nosebleed seats were going for $1600 each, as much as I wanted to be there, I just couldn't justify it.

Well, a funny thing happened in game 4. OK, it wasn't funny at all. The Kings lost. The celebration had to be put on hold. But surely they were going to win game 5 in New Jersey, right? I spent a few minutes contemplating a trip to New Jersey to watch game 5. Sanity won out and I never even got to the point of looking up flights or seats for the game.

We interrupt your hockey for some family time

LA Kings Tattoo

Game 4 took place on a Wednesday. On Thursday morning we woke up early and drove to Los Angeles to attend our niece's high school graduation. Our hotel was in Anaheim, the graduation was in Palos Verdes and dinner was in Beverly Hills. To say we did a lot of driving that day is an understatement. On Friday we got up late and I spent the day getting an LA Kings tattoo at House of Ink with my buddy, Scott. [Before we get to the tattoo shop, Scott tells me, “You're going to have to let me go first because if you go first, I can't guarantee we'd both get tattoos” – classic] The shop owner, Sean, is a HUGE Kings fan and was giving a 50% discount for any Kings tattoo. He also made an offer that if the Kings win the cup, he's giving away free Stanley Cup tattoos. The story got picked up by nhl.com. Pretty cool. Saturday we drove back to Vegas and watched game 5 on the couch. Sadly, the Kings lost.

On Sunday, I decided I wanted to get a new Kings t-shirt to try and change the Kings' luck. They played well in both games 4 and 5, but the bounces weren't going their way. We drove all over Vegas and weren't having any luck finding Kings gear. We then got a call from a friend who was in from out of town. We headed over to meet up with him for a late lunch. After lunch we walked around Town Square and found a shop that had Kings shirts. Excellent, we were set! We got home in the early evening and I sat down at my desk to do some work. Well, work quickly turned to reading every article I could about the Kings. Apparently, after the game 5 loss, people started ejecting from the Kings bandwagon at record speed. You would have thought that the series was over and the Devils had won it. Even though the Kings were up 3 games to 2, it didn't seem like anybody was giving them a chance. I then read something very interesting… ticket prices for game 6 were drastically lower than for game 4. STOP EVERYTHING. Wait, what?

Before even looking at ticket prices, I tell Chris this news. Knowing that I have a HUGE amount of work backed up on my plate, she gives me that look. The one that says, “you know you are talking crazy right now, right?” I sit on the idea for a while, trying to focus on work. It's not working. I headed over to TicketExchange once again. Fingers crossed, please let there be some affordable tickets available. Seat location didn't really matter. In the building was my only requirement. The search results popped up, and there they were… tickets. Bunches of them. They weren't cheap, mind you, but there were a handful of seats available for a price I was willing to pay. I haven't hit the buy button yet. I tell Chris about it. She says, “Well, let me know what you decide and if I need to go to sleep so I can drive in the morning” [again, so awesome. She was willing to drive so that I could get some work done on the way.] – I made some calls to see if I could get one of my developers to take care of some work for me. He says he can. It's settled then. I bought 2 tickets. After I stopped dancing around the room I decide that it would be best to drive to California immediately so I could get some sleep and then work from a coffee shop during the day. So, 90 minutes after having the idea to look for tickets and just barely more than 24 hours after getting home from Los Angeles, we were back in the truck and heading BACK to Cali.

Game Day

Without question, we are about to watch the biggest game in the 45 year history of the Kings franchise. If they lose game 6 and have to head back to New Jersey for game 7, well, I don't like their chances.

Even though I was exhausted, I couldn't sleep. I woke up way too early and headed to a coffee shop and got to work. Amazingly, I was able to concentrate and got a handful of things knocked off my list. I was shocked, really. But by noon I was realizing that I forgot to bring a jacket and LA was MUCH cooler than Vegas. I packed up the laptop, went and picked up Chris and we hit up the mall for a sweatshirt. Yes, a Kings sweatshirt, if you must know. By this time though, the lack of sleep was catching up. We headed back to my Sister's house and I was able to take a nap before it was time to head to Staples Center for the game. Once again, the game was going to be an early start, so we decided to pack up all our stuff with the idea that we would head directly back to Vegas after the game. Ambitious, I know.

The Sandly Cup

We got an early start because we didn't want to get caught on traffic and wanted to be able to find a place to park. We got to Staples Center 2 hours before game time and were able to get a great parking spot inside the Staples garage. I had all sorts of random thoughts about what might happen if the Kings win and the crowd starts to riot. It's sad we even have to consider these things, but we do. So getting to park in the garage at least gave me a sense of security. Not to mention, it made for a pretty short walk to the arena. Since we got there so early, we spent some time walking around LA Live, which was pretty cool.

Holy shit, the Kings won the Stanley Cup!

Our seats were about 4 rows from the top of the arena, but we were right at center ice. Two rows below us were the press boxes where the TV announcers sit and call the game. What I didn't know at the time and wish I had, Bob Miller and Jim Fox, the were sitting in the press boxes just behind us calling the game. It would have been awesome to at least give a wave to Bob and Jim. They are the voices of the Kings and they feel like old friends.

I'm not gonna lie, I was a nervous wreck. When the Kings hit the ice for warm up, just hearing the announcer say “Your Los Angeles Kings” in his familiar voice, I got a little choked up. Then again when they hit the ice for the game, during the national anthem, and when they scored goals 1, 2 and 3 in the first period. I was a mess. The entire time we were there I felt like I was seconds away from either vomiting, screaming or bursting in to tears. After the first period, the Kings were up 3-0. Knowing that anything could still happen, I turned to Chris and said “This game is NOT over.” In the second period the Kings made it 4-0 and I think at this point you could start to get the feeling that this was going to happen.

But wait! The Devils scored to make it 4-1. Then, right at the end of the 2nd period, the Kings took a penalty. I think the crowd was holding their breath during that penalty kill. A goal early in the 3rd period would have given the Devils a big boost and that would have made the 3rd period a nail-biter. I don't know if I could have handled that. But, as they had done so many times this season and playoffs, they killed off the penalty and from that point on, the Kings took it to 'em. They would go on to score 2 more goals late in the 3rd to send the crowd in to an absolute frenzy.

John and Chris at game 6 of the finals. About to watch the Kings lift the Stanley Cup

For the final few minutes of the game, the crowd stood and cheered. I have never heard a louder crowd. Not just at the end, but during most of the game. When the announcer would be announcing the goal scorers and assists, we could barely hear him. So it's no wonder we could hardly hear when he said “One minute. One minute remaining in the 3rd period.” But you could tell when he said it because the volume went up again. Then, as the clock wound down, the crowd counted down the last 10 seconds. And when the clock struck 0.00, the buzzer sounded, the streamers and confetti came from the rafters, and tears filled my eyes once again. The Kings are the Stanley Cup Champions.

Exactly 8,150 days after watching our first Kings game, Chris and I got to watch the Kings lift the Stanley Cup.

What a journey.

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4 Comments

  1. Chris on June 18, 2012 at 9:32 am

    Stupid post. [this means I have tears in my eyes] Great post, baby.

  2. Sheri Zampelli on September 16, 2012 at 10:56 am

    It was good to hear your story last night and to read your blog today. What an awesome journey it was. Here’s the video I did on my Flip. Hope it brings back good memories for you. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzIi7fxwRa8

    • John on September 16, 2012 at 10:05 pm

      That’s an awesome video!!

      Great meeting you as well. Hope to run in to you at an upcoming WordCamp. Like, Vegas maybe. 🙂

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