25 September 2014

Are You Ready For Some Hockey??

Domestic violence.  Racist owners.  *Derek Jeter's farewell tour.  In what has seemingly been an endless summer of controversies and off-the-field distractions embroiling most of the professional sports leagues in North America, we hockey fans should consider ourselves lucky to have the shortest offseason of each of them (well, unless you count NASCAR).  But to me, it seems like this has been the LONGEST summer break the NHL has endured - it feels like forever since the Kings won the Stanley Cup in dramatic fashion, yet it was only just over three months ago.  14 weeks, in fact.  But now…it's time for hockey...

(Hank Hanna / The Business of Losing Weight)
But how can you tell?  The kids are heading back to school.  The weather is starting to change (okay, maybe not here in Los Angeles, but you get my drift).  And yes, we're starting to see the first few signs that hockey is returning.  Here in southern California, it started even sooner, as the Stanley Cup has been making its way around the city all summer, courtesy of the Kings victory tour.

18 September 2014

Hockey Road Trip: The Mysteries of Silicon Valley

It amazes me to think that I lived in Los Angeles for nearly a decade before I ever traveled up the coast to see northern California - and when I did, to attend a friend's bachelor party, I only stayed one night and flew back home the next day.  After continually putting off plans to finally go back to the Bay Area, I decided that my "quest" to see all of the NHL arenas would be a good excuse to visit San Jose for a weekend.

Interestingly enough, this trip only came about because I had another plan in place to go to Alberta at the end of January, but when that fell through, I saw that the Sharks would also be playing at home that weekend and seized the opportunity.  It wasn't until after we bought the tickets and booked the hotel room that I realized our game was on the same day as the Kings-Ducks outdoor game at Dodger Stadium.  Not that I had necessarily planned on attending that game, but I guess it would have been nice to have had that option.  (NOTE: The NHL has announced that the Sharks will be hosting the Kings for an outdoor game this season, which seems like a great chance for me to finally see some hockey under the California stars)

12 September 2014

Developing a Hockey Fan: Part 3

1991-1993: The Enduring Legacy of Park Place Productions

In Part 1 of this series, I described how hockey played virtually no role in my childhood in Illinois, which was followed by Part 2, where I detailed how a few significant events that occurred during my adolescence in Hawaii began to shape my impending love of the sport.  As I progressed through my high school years on the island, I found that my "sports priorities" began to change.  For starters, I chose to stop playing Little League baseball once I finished junior high, which is also when I experienced the growth spurt that sprang me up to a towering 6'5", leading me to a somewhat obvious decision to start playing basketball.  Though I'd become a bonafide "sports fan", hockey was little more than a fun video game or occasional TV program (if I remembered when to change the channel).

By the fall of 1991, I was your typical teenager who spent countless hours at the local shopping mall and played a LOT of video games.  We'd moved on from the NES to the Sega Genesis, and our sports fix came from the fine people at EA Sports - the soon-to-be titans had just released the first entry in their innovative and wildly popular John Madden Football games for the Genesis, with the initial game being developed by a small software company known as Park Place Productions (who would go on to become the largest independent video game developer in North America).  Following the success of the Madden game, Park Place and EA Sports teamed up to add a new sport to their gaming repertoire, releasing NHL HOCKEY.  Just another video game, perhaps, but I can safely say that it was the most important moment in my becoming the enormous hockey fan that I am today.

21 August 2014

Hockey Road Trip: Christmas in Big Ten Country

Seeing as how we don't really get to see the seasons change here in Los Angeles, I always make it a point to come back to the Midwest for Christmas - my father still lives in Illinois; my sister Jennifer lives in northwest Ohio; her daughter Kayla lives in Columbus; and my dear friend Tony and his wife Kasey (die-hard Chicago Blackhawks fans) live near Dayton.  During a previous visit, I was able to see a Columbus Blue Jackets game and quickly fell in love with Nationwide Arena, so I figured I could try to make this an annual ritual during my holiday visits.  At the same time, I thought this would also be a good opportunity to head up to nearby Detroit and see Joe Louis Arena, before it closes in 2017.

In the summer of 2013, Kayla came to visit me in Los Angeles and suggested I return the favor by visiting her in Columbus.  I'd only been there for one brief evening (long enough to see a Blue Jackets game and then leave town), so this seemed like a great spot to start my visit.

10 June 2014

One Memorable Night: Attending Two NHL Games In One Day

With the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks recently completing their first ever playoff series, as well as the Kings making their second appearance in the Stanley Cup Final in three seasons, I thought now might be a good time to look back at a particular day that occurred four months ago.  It was a pleasant Saturday during a very warm February in southern California - but it was also when I attended TWO NHL games in the same day...


Since opening in 1999, the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles has been home to the Los Angeles Kings, as well as both the Lakers and Clippers of the NBA.  As a result, the overlapping NBA and NHL schedule provides a very common scheduling quirk: the Lakers seem to have first priority, and frequently play home games on Friday nights, as well as Sunday afternoon/evenings.  From there, the Kings are often left to host their opponents on Saturday, with the Clippers playing home games on Saturdays while the Kings are on the road OR subjecting themselves to the "NBA to NHL" changeover when they play a matinee and the Kings host a night game on the same Saturday:

Allowing for the complex scheduling issues at the Staples Center usually results in the Ducks almost always hosting their opponents on Fridays and Sundays, providing the NHL with the opportunity for visiting teams to play both southern California clubs in a two-day stretch.  The uniqueness of this setup does raise an interesting question:

How often do the Ducks get to play a home game on Saturday?

12 February 2014

Hockey Road Trip: Rocky Mountain High Score!

One of the reasons for creating this hockey blog was to document my ongoing "quest" to see a game in each NHL city, and at the time of the launch, I had been to SIX of them:  these consisted of markets in which I had either lived (St. Louis, Los Angeles, Anaheim), attended college (Chicago), or had family (Columbus), as well as Phoenix, where I had visited a few times for Spring Training.

While planning my future "hockey road trips", I didn't simply want to drop in to the city, see a game, and then leave.  If possible, I'd like to soak in a little bit of the local culture, and experience as much of the unique aspects of the city as I could.  Also, if time allowed, I'd be interested in seeing an additional sporting event before I left the town in question.

My "travel companion" for these trips would be Chad, a longtime friend that I met in college, who had moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the entertainment industry like myself.  He wasn't too familiar with hockey, but he was always down for adventure and discovering something new.  My hope was that he would soon fall in love with the sport that I've been enamored with for so long.

When it came time to choose my first location late last year, I settled on Denver, Colorado - the fall trip allowed me the opportunity to leave the warm confines of Los Angeles and experience the crisp weather, a highly-anticipated NFL game, and an incredibly random "pop culture event" that happened to occur the same weekend I was in town.

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