Why I’m a Fan of the Kings: Spite Watching Gone Wrong

“It turns out that when you watch something ironically for long enough, sometimes you end up liking it.”

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June 2014. A little after 10:00 pm Central. A puck flutters off of Nick Leddy and in behind Corey Crawford.

In an apartment on the north side of Chicago, I shout several very emphatic curse words and then reach for the remote. I don’t need to watch a bunch of happy Los Angeles Kings celebrating on my ice in my city.

Fast forward to now.

What’s a Chicagoan doing writing for a Kings website? How did I get here? Am I sure I didn’t take a wrong turn somewhere?

Like, I get it. This scenario is so ridiculous that it’s gone full on internet meme, freeze frame, record scratch, “I bet you’re wondering how I got here”.

Well, friends. It turns out that when you watch something ironically for long enough, sometimes you end up liking it.

I didn’t set out to be a Kings fan. I really didn’t. I thought I’d already figured out my divided hockey loyalties, between where I grew up (Pittsburgh) and Chicago, which I’ve called home since 2006.

But I started watching a lot more Kings games after 2014. At first, I watched because I was angry and annoyed and I wanted to understand just what made this team of two-time Cup winners so great.

And then I kept watching because I realized that I liked the players. I liked the defensive focus. I liked having a west coast team to root for when they played a central division rival. I still don’t particularly enjoy the heart attack I have every time Jonathan Quick goes on an adventure, or lunges at a puck like an angry cat, but I’ve come to embrace it as part of the fan experience.

I even stopped wanting to set things on fire whenever I heard the words “that 70s line”, and instead turned into the world’s most unlikely Jeff Carter fan.

I liked the whole team aesthetic – there are many things that the Kings’ media crew and game day ops do well, and the way that the whole organization has at times embraced its “man in the black hat” National Hockey League villain status is both very slick and very convincing.

I really, really liked the lasers at the Staples Center.

We don’t get lasers in Chicago.

It helped that, as I was tumbling down the slippery slope from hate-watching to sincere admiration to full-out closet-full-of-Kings-gear fan, that my west coast friends were there to guide me, feed me little bits of media, clips of slick goals, whatever it took. (I think they just wanted to lure me away from being a Blackhawks fan, but it worked.)

And so one day, I’m staring slack-jawed at the television as Alec Martinez sends his team to the Stanley Cup Final.

And then I’m letting myself be charmed by a video of Martin Jones and Tanner Pearson showing a reporter around their place.

And then I’m arguing with friends over why their reasons for hating the Kings are dumb. The day I found myself defending Dustin Brown, I knew I’d finally completed my metamorphosis, into a beautiful, black and silver-edged butterfly.

And so, I’m here. I’m all in.

The Kings didn’t have to convince me to like hockey. I was already there – growing up during the heyday of Lemieux and Jagr in Pittsburgh gave me a pretty good hockey foundation.   But they did have to convince me to get over a devastating playoffs loss, and somehow, they did it.

It was probably the lasers.

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