I'm writing a hockey column. I never thought I would write a hockey column. I never planned on writing a hockey column, but I also never thought the Los Angeles Kings would still be playing hockey at this time of year. While the Lakers and Clippers needed seven games to get through the NBA Playoff's first round, the Kings are in the NHL's Final Four.
Now I must admit that I haven't followed the Kings during the regular season, but I've grown up with them, so it's not completely like I'm a fair-weather fan. I went to several games a year with my dad, long before that Gretzky guy showed up for a few seasons. That Gretzky guy, incidentally, was on the team the only other time the Kings have gotten as far as they have gotten this year, and that's what makes this run kind of special.
This year's Kings ended up as the final team in the NHL's Western Conference to make the post-season, but they took out top seed Vancouver in five games (out of seven), and swept the second seed St. Louis Blues in four. They opened the Conference Finals with a 4-2 win Sunday Night at Phoenix to take a 1-0 series lead. This year's Kings are 9-1 in the playoffs and 6-0 on the road. They play in the same building as the Lakers and Clippers, but it was almost as if they were invisible until a couple of weeks ago.
Actually, the Kings have been virtually invisible since their inception in 1967. Dad took me to maybe a half-dozen Kings games a year in the mid to late 1970s. Those teams didn't do much, but I can name more of those players (Dave “Tiger” Williams, Rogie Vachon, Frank St. Marceille, Butch Goring, Danny Maloney, and the “Triple Crown Line” of Marcel Dionne, Charlie Simmer, and Dave Taylor, just to name a few) than I could members of this year's squad prior to the playoffs (I knew Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty, and that's about it. They had a guy named Jack Johnson (same name as Gold Sox manager) but they traded him).
Prior to the Great One's arrival, the best moment in Kings history came in 1982. In a playoff game, the Kings came back from a 5-0 deficit to beat Wayne Gretzky's Edmonton Oilers 6-5. The “Miracle on Manchester” as it became known, was a playoff record for biggest comeback. Gretzky arrived in Los Angeles in 1988, but it wasn't until 1993 that the Kings got as far as the Western Conference Finals, and ultimately to the Stanley Cup Finals against the Montreal Canadiens. The Kings took the first game, but then lost four straight in that championship series.
So okay, maybe I know more about the past than the present when it comes to the Kings and the National Hockey League. I do watch the Stanley Cup Finals every year, and the cup skate is the best celebration in all of sports. To tell you the truth, I kinda got away from it after the last lockout (1994-95). When the owners and players settled, a lot of the rules changed. There were no more ties, they added the shootout, and that trapezoid thingie behind the goaltender. So I'll say it, I'm jumping on the Kings bandwagon this year, but just don't think of me as a fair-weather fan. I know my franchise, even if it hasn't been as storied as some of the others in Los Angeles. Go Kings!
Oh yeah, the Lakers and Clippers: Whether you like Kobe Bryant or not, how could the other Laker players look like they were the ones that were sick, when Kobe played Game Six in Denver Thursday night looking like he had just eaten a plate of tuna fish that had been sitting on the counter for a month? Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum should be ashamed of themselves. The Lakers lost that game, but got Metta World Peace back (that name is even weirder to say now after Metta elbowed Oklahoma City's James Harden in the face and was suspended for seven games) in time for a game seven home win Saturday.... The Clippers have only been in Los Angeles for 28 years (compared to the LA Kings 45), but Sunday's Game Seven win in Memphis puts them in the second round for only the second time, and just the third time in franchise history (counting San Diego and Buffalo). Yipes. And congrats.
Do we really get a kick out of it?: I don't follow English Premiere League soccer, but I saw the highlights on SportsCenter of Manchester City's clinching of the league title. They had to win or cross town rival Manchester United would get the crown. City got two goals in stoppage time for the championship. Does British soccer really have a large American following, or is this a creation of ESPN?
It's Hamiltonian: I missed Jered Weaver's rage because I was watching the hockey game, but the Angels pitcher was very upset about being taken out of the game in the third inning Sunday after giving up a two-run double to the Rangers' Josh Hamilton (I did see that play because hockey was in a commercial). The big question is (and they talked about it) why did Mike Scioscia let Weaver pitch to Hamilton in the first place? Hamilton now has 9 home runs, 15 RBIs, 12 hits, and 10 runs scored in his past six games.
Twittermania: Last week, I wrote that I have joined Twitter. I'm still enjoying it and holding myself to one “tweet” per day (I guess I don't need to put “tweet” in quotes anymore. Oops. Did it again), all about the Gold Sox. I'm up to a whopping seven followers now—only 24,103,535 behind Lady Gaga. I just now learned while writing this column that there is a website called twittercounter.com where you can see who has the most followers. I'll spare you the suspense by telling you it's Lady Gaga, then Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Rhianna, and Britney Spears. I would have guessed Kim Kardashian, but she is number eight. Follow me @goldsoxradio so I can add to my total.
Tweets of the week: Two tweets from San Francisco Chronicle writer Susan Slusser (who I used to know from my Kings days) about new Oakland A's third baseman Brandon Inge— “That's two grand slams and two three-run HRs in five games, and 16 RBIs in those five games.” “Four of those five have been four RBI games, including tonight. Most weeks, he'd be the AL player of the week.” Hamilton has made Inge's accomplishment invisible outside of northern California and maybe Detroit, where he used to play... This tweet is simpler, and funnier from A's pitcher Brandon McCarthy (and retweeted by MLB)—“Siri, how do you get Josh Hamilton out?”