How I Came to Follow Hockey

Growing up in Los Angeles back in the 80’s and 90’s meant wearing Dodger blue and Laker purple and gold. Hockey and the L.A. Kings were there but they did not register. I could not relate to hockey. I could go outside and play catch. I could go to the park and get in on a half-court game. Hockey rinks and equipment seemed a world away.

As I got older, I would catch hockey highlights on ESPN in between baseball and basketball news. Despite not watching a complete game, I understood the appeal: the goals, the fights, the breakaways, and the speed. Things stayed this way up until 2010.

The Stanley Cup playoffs and the NBA playoffs occur at roughly the same time each year. The Lakers were on a championship run that year. It was also a hectic year at work that required several evenings working from home. Each evening, I’d turn on a basketball game and work on my laptop. On the rare night with no basketball game, I’d tune to hockey.

It was now June and the finals for both sports got underway—as did the Infocomm trade show in Las Vegas. I was there with coworkers, sales reps, customers, vendors, and many others for an entire week. The days were all business but the nights would be capped off with dinner, drinks, and sports.

It was the evening of June 9th and we found a sports bar and restaurant in the Aria Resort. We caught what turned out to be an extremely exciting final game of the Stanley Cup Finals.

The game was tied at one to begin the second period. The Philadelphia Flyers broke the tie about halfway through the period. That lead was short-lived as the Blackhawks tied it up about two minutes later. Just before the period came to an end, Chicago scored again and took a 3-2 lead into the intermission.

The third period was scoreless until very late when Philly tied it, probably right around the time most Chicago fans were beginning to celebrate. The game would go into overtime. Only four minutes into the overtime, Chicago’s Patrick Kane slapped the shot that finally gave the Blackhawks the win.

After the game, my attention fully turned to the Lakers-Celtics series. It goes without saying that series is close to my heart but it’s a story for another time. I left Las Vegas a few days after the Blackhawks’ victory; hockey was now more than background noise for my working evenings.

As the years passed, I would try to keep up with hockey standings during the regular season and catch a few playoff games. This way, I would be ready to enjoy the Finals during Infocomm. 2012 and 2014 brought the Cup to Los Angeles and the celebrations in downtown were as exciting as ever. Without those two victories, Los Angeles would have gone that entire decade (the teens) without a championship parade. Despite the Kings sitting atop the hockey world during that time, it felt strange to jump on the bandwagon then so I remained a casual hockey watcher.

2018 was the initial year of the Las Vegas Golden Knights and they made an amazing run. They reached the finals as the most exciting team to watch and I found myself again in that city on the night of the final game. The atmosphere in Vegas was electric. Every bar was packed and despite this being the Knights’ hometown, there were plenty of Capitals fans all around. The Knights lost the series that night but Vegas is Vegas. Capitals fans celebrated the victory and Knights fans celebrated the ride well into the night.

The 2018-19 basketball and hockey seasons got underway in October like they do every year. For the first year ever I was more excited for hockey. The Kings are not having a good year and it makes sense for me to start following them. I now realize the Kings are just as vital to Los Angeles as are the Dodgers and Lakers.

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