Thursday, November 25, 2010

Reigned in

After last night's (fantastic) game, I feel pretty safe making a confession:

I think I like the LA Kings.
Maybe they like me back, I don't know.

fightin' over me?
The Kings may not have played a great game yesterday, and while I'm pretty sure it's not just because they wanted to make the Habs look good in front of me... you never know. Regardless of their recent mini-slump, they look pretty good. Or at least, they did, sort of. I was happy just to be at the game, despite my seats in the Molson Ex Zone (I tried to get tickets to next week's Sharks game, but it appeared to be sold out so I "settled" for the Kings. It was probably my subconscious telling me I'm a closet Kings fan). The last time I saw the Kings, I easily found tickets in the 8th row of Staples Center. The last time I saw the Habs, my fabulous friend Cathie scored seats at the back of the reds. And here I was, trying to watch the game from way up high, surrounded by a more rambunctious (read: irritating) crowd than I'd seen in the reds.

Part of the reason why the Kings lost this game is because rookie goaltender Jonathan Bernier is still finding himself in the NHL. He wasn't stellar, but he showed promise. I was really impressed by a glove save he made about halfway through the second period. I'll have to watch Canadiens express when I get home later to have a closer look at all of the Kings and their style of play, but a few of their stars shined bright.
Drew Doughty was solid. I will neither confirm nor deny reports that I turned to my sister and asked "Can we keep him?" As if he were a puppy or something. Juvenile, I know, but... can we keep him?
Anze Kopitar didn't get a point last night, but he looks so good on the ice. (No, not like that.) Every now and then there'll be a player on an opposing team that I just can't stop watching, because they're so good. Kopitar is that guy. I can't quite describe it. He's just so good.

On the Canadiens side of things... how can I not talk about Lars Eller? He's really starting to take shape now that he's found the right linemates and is getting some much-needed ice time. (Not that much, but nine minutes is better than four.) I think he still needs time to reach his full potential, and I'm still not sure if he'll be the franchise-saving superstar that some people think he is, but he's proven that he can be an asset to his team. So happy he finally got that goal! Now if only Tom Pyatt can score his first of the season...

If you think my reasons for contemplating the Kings as my #2 backup team are a little thin, let me end with this: I think I'm done with the Molson Ex Zone. I may not have loved the Staples Center, because it was too quiet and the fans were way too negative about anything that was not the Los Angeles Kings, but that's about as far as it went. They did not boo their own players. They didn't get in everyone's way on the concourses outside the arena (maybe because there's so much more space). They didn't block aisles when others tried to pass them. What did I see last night? Habs fans taunting Kings fans (of which I saw a few). Did the Kings fans get angry? Not really, they played along a little and were polite the rest of the time.
There were some pretty loud boos for Scott Gomez when the starting lineup was announced. I've been disappointed with him for a while, but I'd never boo a Canadiens player unless he disrespected his team directly (there are worse things than having a terrible season, you know). Then Scott Gomez scored and his name was met with cheers. From the same people who booed him. Heck, even the dim-witted couple sitting behind me couldn't make up their mind about half the roster. (Actual exchange: "Cammalleri's got the puck! He's gonna score!" "What happened? That idiot!") And then there was the completely useless Bernier-booing that started about 30 minutes in. Why boo someone you have no reason to boo?

I had the pleasure of sitting near two Kings fans, a father and son, in town from Los Angeles. They were by far the best fans sitting in my section. They were fun, but they weren't loud or obnoxious. In the last two or three seasons (basically the whole time I've known anything about hockey) they've been to over 20 road games to see their Kings. They went to Ottawa before coming to Montreal, and I think the father went to Buffalo and Boston as well. They haven't missed a single home game this season to date. (The son told me this, of course, after I raved about that dynamite game against the Stars, which he obviously attended.) In fact, they've barely missed any games at all.

They found the Molson Ex Zone a little bizarre, and who can blame them? It's the section billed as "the fan section", but is it really? People pay less attention to the game in Molson Ex. The random beer girls (who my LA friends compared to ice girls, UGH) are pretty useless when you think about it: they're just there for eye candy (when there's an NHL HOCKEY GAME going on) and to get the crowd pumped up (which shouldn't be necessary, we're the loudest fans in the league). How about Molson stops wasting their money on hoochies and second-rate rock bands and gives it directly to the Canadiens? I think I speak for all fans when I say I'd rather have lower ticket prices than a "fan zone." The entire Bell Centre is supposed to be a fan zone. That's why every game is sold out.
I spent the entire third period talking to the son (I forgot to thank him for giving up Jeff Halpern) and now I miss Los Angeles. We talked about the team, the city, and its sports fans. Sure, not all Kings fans are as classy as he and his dad were yesterday, but they don't boo their own team.

Oh well. At least hockey fans here don't stab each other like football and baseball fans do in California.

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