So the LA Kings want to win a Cup? More power to them. [Editorial]
Anaheim Ducks fans: we need to get over ourselves. The Los Angeles Kings are a very good team, and pretty soon we won’t be able to laugh derisively while we point at them with a Cup-ringed finger.
Now, hold your rotten fruit and vitriol before you earnestly launch them in my direction — the Kings becoming hockey’s kings might not be the end of the world.
Consider for a moment the situation as we have watched it unfold on the ice via our television screens. When the Kings backed into the playoffs, few took them seriously. In fact, other than the Washington Capitals, perhaps no other team had so conspicuously failed to live up to lofty predictions this season. And much like the Capitals are now doing, the Kings are surpassing even the wildest pre-playoff expectations that had been beset by more than six months of inconsistent scoring and other sundry underachievement.
What are we as rival fans supposed to do — how are we supposed to feel? — when we must bear witness to one of our greatest enemies realizing an unexpected abundance of success? The answer may surprise you as much as it surprised me when the thoughts began crossing my mind.
It would not be outlandish to claim there was a nontrivial percentage of Ducks fans rooting for the Kings to defeat the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of this year’s playoffs. Whether that debt of schadenfreude is being repaid ironically is a matter for another debate, but the Kings are now sitting on the cusp of a trip to the Western Conference final series.
The team has found success through a combination of shrewd coaching, timely scoring, stingy defensive play, dividends from mid-season trade acquisitions and most importantly, airtight goaltending. What team does that call to mind (and don’t pick the obvious “2004 Calgary Flames” option)? Both Ducks squads that made trips to the Stanley Cup final had some or all of these elements, and watching the current Kings slowly decimate the best teams in the West has a satisfyingly familiar feel to it.
In the midst of this success, what right do we have as fans of a team not even two decades old to denigrate them for their past failures and resultant tribulations? Having only had to wait a dozen or so years to witness the Ducks capture hockey’s top prize, it’s spurious to claim we know how true Stanley Cup heartache feels. To put it in perspective, the Toronto Maple Leafs are the subject of frequent and incessant ridicule for a championship drought that has extended 45 years. The Los Angeles Kings entered the NHL in 1967: 45 years ago. While Hollywood may not jeer the team in the same scornful manner as a wantonly desperate Canadian fan base, the burden borne has been, for all intents and purposes, identical.
Speaking of Hollywood, Anaheim isn’t exactly what one might qualify as a traditional hockey market. Although neither city is in danger of losing its franchise, it bears mentioning that any success for hockey in the sunbelt is a success for all of the teams in it. In many ways, it was the Kings who paved the Ducks’ way into the NHL after Wayne Gretzky showed California kids that hockey was cool, too. Objectively speaking, their fans are entitled to as much happiness as any other expansion-era team (some of whom have already won a Stanley Cup), regardless of whether or not we subjectively feel they deserve it. That their team’s biggest crime is its proximity to our own is not in and of itself a reason to deny them their successes, especially because we were here second (technically third, if you count a certain teal-clad team to the north).
The last best reason Ducks fans should not despair over the Kings’ present success is simple: it will drive their own team to be better. After all, what calibre of rivalry exists when one of the participants never occupies the high ground? For the past five years, Ducks fans have been able to gleefully crow about their team being the first in California to cross the proverbial finish line. But as the years have dragged on and seen the Ducks’ on-ice fortunes sallow, the championship refrain has begun to ring hollow in everybody’s ears. A Kings Cup win would do more than kick a little kindling onto that dying fire — it would reignite the argumentative passions of both fan bases with all the fervor of scorching rocket fuel blasting a NASA shuttle into outer space. A bitter pill to swallow for Ducks fans, to be sure. At the same time, however, it will make Anaheim’s next Stanley Cup win — after which we can all flash a victory sign with a ring on both fingers — that much more fulfilling.
So if that fateful day arrives — in our lifetimes — when the Los Angeles Kings hoist the Stanley Cup, take heart: at least they’re not the San Jose Sharks.
OK, you can throw that fruit now.
Weigh in with your thoughts by reaching out to us on Twitter (@ducksallday).
Disclaimer: I would like to personally apologize for the lack of updates recently. With the Ducks out of the playoffs, the imperative to keep up with NHL happenings seems to have fallen by the wayside. Moving forward, more frequent updates — along with a new issue of Puq magazine — should be in the offing.