So here we are. That week-long wait for the Stanley Cup Finals to start is finally nearing the homestretch, and your Los Angeles Kings have landed in New Jersey. Later today is media day, which will be covered live on the NHL Network in a four-hour block starting at 10 am PST, should you find yourself home or in front of a television. We'll get plenty of generic quotes to analyze and obsess over to keep us busy until puck drop tomorrow night.
In the meantime, we've been bringing you excellent statistical analysis on the Cup Final. Robert and Niesy are breaking down the series with meticulous detail; definitely go back and check out their articles over the past few days if you missed any of them.
I'd like to take a moment to bring you something completely different. If you're already an LA Kings fan, of course, you need no further reason to cheer on your Kings. And if you're a fan of the New Jersey Devils, I highly doubt I'm going to change your mind. No, this post is directed at fans of the other 28 teams, the teams who aren't lucky enough to be preparing for the biggest games of their collective lives. Believe me, everyone here knows exactly how you feel; it's been 19 years since we've been here, so we're quite used to waiting for a final series to start without our favorite team involved. Some of you will be content to watch the hockey without any clear rooting interest, but some of you may want to pick a team to root for. And if any of you are still undecided, well, I'd like to try and make a case for our humble hockey club.
After the jump, I'm going to give you five clear reasons why you should cheer for the Los Angeles Kings to be crowned the 2012 Stanley Cup Champions. No pun intended.
(note of apology/disclaimer: yes, I ended up doing that oft-annoying "we as a noun for the sports team" thing a lot in this post, because it was just easier when writing from the perspective of the Kings trying to court random other hockey fans. if this annoys you or offends you greatly, my apologies in advance.)
1. Bob Miller and Jim Fox
This young lad went to greet the Kings at LAX following their decisive overtime victory in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals, and brought with him a sign that I couldn't agree more with. Win it For Bob indeed.
For those of you who don't know, Bob Miller has been the play-by-play voice of the Kings since 1973. It's been thirty-nine long years since he first started calling the games, and as any Kings fan could tell you, he's seen a lot of bad hockey along the way. To think that he has been the voice of the Kings for almost their entire history and yet has seen the team advance this far only once before, when they lost in 1993 to Montreal in 5 games, is more than a little bit stunning.
His broadcast partner Jim Fox hasn't served quite as long as Miller himself, as Fox joined the broadcast booth in 1990. That means they've served together as the Kings announce crew for twenty-two long years. That's given them quite the long time to develop chemistry in the booth, and it should come as no surprise that Miller & Fox are one of the most polished and well-rounded announce duos in the entire National Hockey League.
Last July, SB Nation's own Derek Zona wrote an excellent article in which he broke down all of the various local announce teams in the NHL and placed them into tiers, from one-star to five. Miller & Fox received his highest honor, being listed as a five-star announce team. Here's what Derek had to say about them:
Bob Miller, Jim Fox - Los Angeles Kings: Miller is relatively high up the list for play-by-play men, maybe a rung or two below Dave Strader. Jim Fox is an ex-King who has made a name for himself as a broadcaster, not just an ex-player in the broadcast booth.
The two have been together for two decades and play off of each other extremely well. They show no active biases during the broadcast. Miller knows everything about everyone in hockey over the last 30 years and Fox isn't far behind. Fox is insightful in short bursts during the action as well as in the pregame and at intermission. Neither are afraid to criticize players or coaches.
They're well-respected as commentators around the league, not just by LA Kings fans. But Miller & Fox hold a special place in the hearts of many of us who have followed this team for any decent length of time; they feel like the kind old grandfather or uncle that we've grown up with, just because we've been watching them for our entire lives, in many cases. They feel like part of our family. And after all the years of futility and terrible hockey this franchise has had, which they continued to call in an extremely professional and entertaining manner (there were some nights in the 07-08 season that I literally only tuned in to hear Miller & Fox, that's how awful the hockey was), they deserve a little bit of a reward.
They deserve a ring.
Our wonderful webmaster told a story once of Bob Miller on a roundtable discussion with other local LA sports broadcasters; each held up a ring they received when their team won a championship. Miller, a bit sheepishly and a bit in self-jest, held up his wedding ring and said "Well, I've got this." and then laughed. I'm glad he's proud of his marriage, but I want to see him get a real championship ring too. He's been at this for 39 years, he's one of the best in this business, and he had an awesome guest spot in D2: The Mighty Ducks. So he deserves it.
2. We'll give all future low seeds hope.
Are you as tired as I am of hearing that the LA Kings "aren't a real 8th seed"? Yeah, we get it, the team underachieved throughout the first-half of the regular season, they were a different team after changing coaches and an even better team after the now-infamous Jack Johnson-for-Jeff Carter swap. Fine. But none of that changes the simple fact that the Los Angeles Kings ARE an 8th seed, and no eighth seed has ever won the Stanley Cup.
No matter what the outcome of this series, there will be a new "lowest seed" to win the Cup, as the previous record is held by the New Jersey Devils as a 5th seed in the lockout-shortened 1995 season (kind of odd how that's working out, huh?). But if the LA Kings win the Cup as an 8th seed, no longer will you have to hear lazy television commentators digging out the 'ol "well, (insert team) can't win the Cup because they're an 8th seed." Or a 7th seed, since after all if a team ranked even lower has won it, who cares if a 7th seed has never won it before?
Of course, the stat-heads will point out that the past doesn't really influence the future and blah blah, and I agree. But regardless, it will be nice to get these commentators to shut the hell up about it forever.
3. Luc Robitaille wants you as a fan.
"Lucky Luc" is one of the most beloved players in LA Kings history, and has continued on with the organization as President of Business Operations for the franchise. He's one of the few executives in the NHL who seems to understand the appeal a team can have in 2012 beyond its local borders. With the internet, the Center Ice package, GameCenter Live, and on and on, any fan can follow any team no matter where they might be located. Yet so many franchises seem content to target only their local market (or in the Devils case, the local market of a longtime bitter rival with their asinine attempts at courting south Jersey, which is quite clearly Flyers' territory)
Not the LA Kings, as long as Luc is around. Under his watchful eye, the Kings have developed an explosive internet strategy (one aspect of this, their uber-popular @LAKings Twitter account, has received a ton of publicity throughout these playoffs, as you probably know) which allows them to appeal to fans across the globe. Luc has come out and said he wants the Kings to target any and all hockey fans, not just those in the Los Angeles area, and why not?
So if you're reading this as a displaced Atlanta Thrashers fan, or a fan of the game somewhere in the US or Canada that might not have a team local to you, this organization wants you as a fan. Why not start now by cheering on the Kings in the Stanley Cup Final?
4. We're not a typical LA team; "small-market team in a big market".
I had a conversation with a friend of mine the other day in which he basically said he was happy for me, since he knows how much the Kings mean to me as a fan, but immediately followed that up with "I can't root for any team from Los Angeles though." This got me to thinking; what is it, exactly, about LA and its sports teams that so many people elsewhere can't stand? If you asked someone like Rudy Kelly from our sister blog Battle of California, he would surely tell you it was born out of petty jealousy. But let's analyze it a little deeper than that.
When people say "typical LA team", I don't think they're talking about, say, the Clippers, in all due respect to them. I think the team that probably jumps out at people, at least given their semi-recent success, is the Lakers. And yes, as an impartial observer I can certainly see why the Lakers might be hated by others: they're a very glitzy, glamorous team built around a few big stars, and they tend to out-spend the majority of the league. Whether true or not, they have a perception of being attended primarily by A-list celebrities and various other "people who want to be seen".
Do the LA Kings really have anything in common with the Lakers, or at least people's negative stereotypes about them? Not really. There isn't much at all glitzy or glamorous about this Kings team. General manager Dean Lombardi has meticulously built a team, largely through the draft and trades (only two players on the current roster, Rob Scuderi & Willie Mitchell, were acquired as unrestricted free-agents), that stresses playing as a collective and playing a gritty, two-way style. Celebrities have started showing up for the Kings' Cup run, as you may expect, but they're a little bit more of a low-key, Rainn Wilson-type than Jack Nicholson. And Kings fans aren't simply attending games at Staples "to be seen"; we have a devoted, hardcore fanbase who has stuck with this team even through some lean times. Indeed, 37 of their 39 home games were sell-outs this season, even during a regular season that had some very well-publicized ups-and-downs.
As mentioned earlier, when the Kings came home to LAX following that Phoenix series, they had a huge throng of fans there to greet them. It was estimated around 4,000 fans showed up at midnight PST, more than had ever shown up to greet the Lakers, Dodgers, or any other LA sports team at LAX.
This isn't a case of people cheering for the Kings just because they're winning games. Yes, some people are doing that, but there's always going to be bandwagoners no matter what market you're talking about. This is, as I've heard many others describe them, a small-market team that happens to play in a big-market. If you're coming into this series thinking you "just can't cheer for an LA team", like my friend, I think you need to reconsider whether or not the Kings actually have anything to do with your preconceptions of what being an "LA team" actually entails.
5. We've never won the Cup before.
Okay, so I saved the most obvious one for last. The Los Angeles Kings have never won the Stanley Cup, even though they were an original expansion franchise in 1967. The New Jersey Devils, on the other hand, have three Stanley Cups to their record, in 1995, 2000, and 2003.
I'm sure their fans would love to add a fourth, but let's be real here. Instead of worrying about which fanbase is actually bigger (as I've seen debated in a few circles over the past few days), how about we just worry about which fanbase would benefit more from winning this series? If you're even a teenager, chances are you remember the last New Jersey Devils Stanley Cup. There are simply way, way more fans who will experience the far more profound feeling of finally seeing their first Stanley Cup victory in their lifetimes on our side than there is on theirs. I don't see how that's even disputable.
So root for the Kings because we've never won it before. Root for the Kings because some of us have literally been waiting our entire lives to see this team finally win it all. It's a wonderful story, seeing a franchise lift its first Stanley Cup in its 45-year history. A far more wonderful story than seeing a team end a nine-year-long Cup drought.
There you have it, five reasons why you should pull for the Kings once the puck drops tomorrow night. If you've got any of your own to add, or maybe even if you're a fan of the Devils who'd like to dispute any of my claims, have at it in the comments. Oh yeah, and one more thing: GO KINGS GO!