Los Angeles Kings: Pacific Division Rivalry Meter


Every spring I go through the same playoff ritual.  Whether the Los Angeles Kings make it in is inconsequential–although that hasn’t been an issue for a few years now. Winning the Stanley Cup is great, but I’m driven by another directive. I hate it when the teams I absolutely loathe succeed.

If you’ve been a lifelong Kings fan, you’ve had to sit there and watch while almost everyone around you got to celebrate the ultimate prize. It stung even further when some of the younger franchises experienced it even when their respective fan-bases weren’t knowledgeable enough to truly appreciate it.

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Coming off a Stanley Cup winning year, I’m still pounding the keyboard harder having to write about these other teams.  Imagine spending the rest of your life trapped in a room listening to Gary Bettman’s greatest speeches.  That’s the level of pain I’m fighting off.

Here’s a rundown of the hatred you should have for each Pacific Division team.  I’m an angry man.  Hopefully, this will be cathartic:

Edmonton Oilers – Level of Hatred Scale(1-10): 3

Even in the years when the Oilers were dominant, it was hard to really hate them.  If you love the sport of hockey, there was so much to appreciate.  Mark Messier’s grit.  Paul Coffey’s skating.  Grant Fuhr’s instincts.  Jari Kurri’s ability to find space.  And so on…

Of course, watching Wayne Gretzky in his prime is something that will go unmatched in my lifetime.  It amazed me that he wasn’t blessed with great speed, size or skating ability, but he was very skilled at hockey.  He also was the most instinctual athlete I’ve ever seen.  There has also never been a player in sport that could anticipate a play so far ahead of others.

Back in the early 80’s, we knew they would be a great team,  even as the Kings performed the greatest comeback in sports history (and yes, I turned off my radio down 5-0):

You felt sorry for Edmonton when the “trade” happened.  They won another Cup, but you could witness them painfully transition into being a small market team.  The Kings even seemed to be on a binge collecting Oilers like McNall collected coins for a period.

There hasn’t been much of note between Edmonton and Los Angeles since that time.  Can you name a great Oiler since Messier left?

Arizona/Phoenix Coyotes – Level of Hatred Scale: 5

Even though they’re from a neighboring state, it’s hard to build any hatred for a team that seemingly has one foot out the door.  When they first played downtown, the arena was poorly suited for the sport with a bevy of obstructed-view seats.  They did no better moving out to Glendale as people felt like they were halfway to LA after making the drive.

Strangely, the Coyotes now play in what is the coldest arena I have ever been in.  It could be the number of empty seats or that it’s too cold for anyone to venture in.  It’s the very definition of a ‘chicken and the egg’ problem.

The team is clearly in the bottom of rankings for Phoenix’s favorite team.  I know more about Arizona State Golf.  If you’ve ever seen a person wearing any Coyotes memorabilia, odds are they accidentally thought they were purchasing Cardinals gear.

There isn’t a lot of history between the two teams.  Dave Tippett has done an outstanding job coaching the team after leaving the Kings staff, but could only do so much with that talent. There was a playoff match-up with the Kings during the Kings’ first run to the Cup, but the Coyotes seemed out of steam by the time the series started.  Maybe the rivalry will kick it up a notch when they move to Seattle?

Calgary Flames – Level of Hatred Scale: 6

To most NHL fans, it’s hard to remember whether they are still in the league, let alone rivals.  One word of caution, don’t let their dormancy fool you.  Back when they were Stanley Cup contenders, there was no other team I hated seeing in the Fabulous Forum.  Their fans would parade around with flags and banners as if it was an Albertan Mardi Gras.

They just had a collection of players that got under your skin.  Theo Fleury, Joel Otto, Rob Ramage.  I have to stop before I name the whole team.

While, they were within one game from winning the Cup ten years ago, they’ve been bottom feeders for the better part of the century.  Don’t let their recent ineptitude fool you.  Their fans have been building an arsenal of hate and venom they can’t wait to unleash.  It’ll be nasty and you’ll yearn for the day when they return to doormat status.

At least I got to witness live the greatest playoff goal I had ever seen in person, in 1990.  Mike Krushelnyski’s shot was angled so perfectly that you could see the goalie’s pained expression as the puck crossed the line in slow motion. It just warms the heart.

Dallas Stars – Level of Hatred Scale: 6

They aren’t in the Pacific Division anymore, but they get honorary mention here.  When they were good, they were ‘bad’ to watch.  If the Devils defined the ‘clutch and grab’ era, then the Stars were the Western Conference representatives.  And yes, the low point of hockey was when those two teams met in the 2000 Stanley Cup finals.

When you take Mike Modano, one of the most skilled players in the game, and make his primary responsibility to act like a third line checking center, you knew there was something wrong with the sport.

It always seemed like the Stars were on ESPN2.  Playing the Blues.  If someone called me with extra tickets, I knew it was going to be against Dallas.

The neutral zone trap isn’t as prominent, but I don’t know who they are anymore.  And I don’t really care.

(And congrats to Los Angeles native Josh Bogorad for being promoted to host the pre and post-game shows for the Stars.  I’m willing to bet he has a full body Triple Crown Line tattoo underneath somewhere.)

Vancouver Canucks – Level of Hatred Scale: 7

The rivalry has trended up in recent years as the Canucks found themselves front-runners in the division for many seasons.  We got a strong taste of it from their 2010 playoff match-up with the Kings.  Whatever line was out there was the one you hated most.  I still can’t tell the difference between the Sedin twins.

Two words can sum up this divide: Green Men.  At first, seeing the full body suits was cute, but it got tired real fast.   Somehow, the crowd kept eating it up.  Maybe short term memory loss is problem that should be looked at in the Pacific Northwest.

I don’t think Vancouver gets along with others and vice-versa.  I think most of Canada wishes they seismically could somehow move into the USA. There’s a superiority complex, even though they don’t have much to show for it.  They should also be fans of Oregon Football.

San Jose Sharks – Level of Hatred Scale: 9.5

In their early years, I would make it down to the Shark Tank (so creative) whenever the Kings were in town.  Hockey was as foreign to them as rain is to Southern California.  I would hear the fans demand “Check Gretzky” whenever he was on the ice.  Little did they know that this action was only allowable when he had the puck.

Equally annoying were the fans celebrating the begone Larionov and Makarov era with novelty “Russian” jerseys.  Could you imagine spending your  disposable income to letter a team jersey with “GLOVESAREOV”, “TAKENOTIMEOV” or “ALLBETSAREOV”?

Along the way, their fan base has become more knowledgable, but have never overcome their color-blindness.  They’re wearing teal.  It’s no wonder they have always been bridesmaids.

There is no other team I’d rather raise the banner against tonight than the Sharks, especially after the historic comeback.  I know they will take it personally.  They’ll play hard.  Maybe even win.  But we all know the team will catch Thortonitis at some point during the season.

Anaheim Mighty Ducks of Anaheim – Level of Hatred Scale: It goes to 11

Simply put, you cannot hate a franchise more in sports than the Ducks.  Their path is so unreal, I still question their existence.

We all know about their forced origins.  Thank you, Disney.  And along with that association came the disgrace of a hockey jersey.  Purple, teal and Donald Duck?  No right-minded person would be connected to that concoction of design elements.

May 12, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf (15) holds Los Angeles Kings center Trevor Lewis (22) in a headlock in game five of the second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Honda Center. The Ducks defeated the Kings 4-3 to take a 3-2 series lead. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Ducks came into the league a year after the Sharks, so their fan base has been suffering from a similar ignorance of hockey. To the Sharks’ credit, their fans have found a way to wander into games.  Not so much for the Ducks.  Even with their success, you could confuse their crowds with the Atlanta Thrashers’.

It hurt when they won the Cup before the Kings, especially when led by the think-tank of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Chris Pronger.  I’m sure Orange County still hasn’t learned what a Stanley Cup is.

Changing their logos and colors was an acknowledgement to their earlier mistakes, but for true Kings fans, they will never forget it.

It warmed the heart to beat the Ducks during last season’s playoffs in almost as debilitating a fashion as with the series with the Sharks.  Even hearing the home crowd getting drowned out by the Kings’ faithful is another reason why it’s hard to respect the franchise as a whole.

Best case scenario: Anaheim gets a NBA team. Ducks crowds become even thinner.  The team moves to Las Vegas and goes through an entire re-branding.  Unfortunately, it’ll take another fifty-seven years until their name gets rotated off the Stanley Cup. I can wait.

Last question.  If you hate a team this much then why don’t you wish to raise the banner against them?  Answer: They don’t deserve the recognition!