A few days ago I overheard our newest employee–she’s filling the void I left when I transferred–talk about her love for the Los Angeles Kings.
She’s already been to all their home games. She has her own Kings blog. In short, she’s nuts for them.
Upon overhearing this, my mind was immediately transported back to the mid-80s, back to the days when I shared the very same sentiments for my local hockey team.
But things were much different back then. I could drive to The Fabulous Forum for any given home game, walk up to the ticket booth, plop down $10 for a nosebleed ticket and have myself a great time with my fellow Kings fans, most of whom you’d see at every home game.
On a good night, there may have been 5,000 people in attendance. But those 5,000 people could boo with the best of them.
Year in and year out, the teams, despite the likes of Marcel Dionne and Dave Taylor, were horrible. I don’t think there was a team in the NHL that shuddered at the sight of those purple-and-gold sweaters with the huge crown on front. But hey, that’s why those 5,000 people showed up each night. They were true fans that, no matter how terrible the teams were, would show up to cheer them on.
How bad were these teams? I recall one of the peanut vendors walking the aisles saying, “Get your peanuts for the practice game. Three hours of misery coming up, better get your peanuts.” It truly was an AHL atmosphere. Attending a game was more or less an exclusive event for the small group of people in the know. And if you ever saw someone on the street wearing a Kings shirt, you’d stop and talk hockey because there was a good chance they were at the game last night.
Then things changed.
The Fabulous Forum was painted blue and white and became The Great Western Forum. Limos began to show up at games. Celebrities now had rinkside seats where they paid less attention to the game and were more concerned with how to pitch their next movie. Tickets were virtually sold out, prices went up astronomically and before I knew it, there was a Disney-owned NHL team in Anaheim, fer Chrissakes. AN-A-HEIM.
Suddenly, that exclusive club of fans was shoved out of the stands and replaced with bandwagoners who had no clue–16,005 of them. And that’s when I stopped going to games.
So what happened? Some guy named Gretzky came to town. And while I admit to attending a few games during the Gretzky Era, the atmosphere had changed drastically. It was no longer about having a good time, but more or less a way of saying, “Yeah, dude, I was at the Kings game last night! Did you see Dyan Cannon there?”
Gretzky’s move to L.A. definitely changed the dynamics of hockey forever, and it’s doubtful those days will ever return. But I’ll always have those sweet memories of sitting a few rows behind Bob Miller and Nick Nickson, booing until I was hoarse whenever Harold Snepsts had the puck.