Celebrating hockey in LA with temperatures in the high 90s – especially when a street hockey tournament is a part of the festivities – may seem a bit odd. However, Los Angeles hockey fans are used to attending hockey games in warm weather. (I’ve been comfortable in shorts as late as the second week in November…) I know from talking to them that those playing in this year’s street hockey tournament were definitely feeling the heat. I’m sure they all wished the skies would cloud over and the temperature would drop. In spite of the heat, teams competed all day in two divisions. A team even came in from San Francisco to participate in the tournament.
I didn’t attend the Friday night kick off party, but those who did seemed to think 1,000 – 1,500 hockey fans showed up for the event. Some fans I know thought the prices for Hockey Fest were too high to spend given the economic climate, but clearly many fans had no issues with the price for the weekend.
Many of the NHL trophies were presented in the event tent at Hockey Fest. They were very well presented and encased in separate glass cases so guests could walk all around each trophy to find their favorite players engraved on each one. I had seen all the trophies (along with the Stanley Cup) together at the NHL Awards party, but I hadn’t been able to get close enough to see all the names on each trophy and the awards from 2009 have been added by now, too. Having most of the NHL trophies in one spot in southern California was definitely a treat for hockey fans in the area. The Kings also had a lot of areas set up for fans to shoot pucks (and even find out how fast their slap shot is moving), a beer garden, two autograph locations, a few vendors, and a team store. I was very surprised that the only locations for purchasing Kings and Hockey Fest merchandise required a paid admission. Since the street hockey competition was open to the public without a ticket, I would have thought they’d want to sell merchandise to those hockey fans, as well. Perhaps they’ll consider that next year.
Kids definitely aren’t afraid to ask whatever they want to know and the kids only press conference where children were allowed to ask Anze Kopitar, Matt Greene, Wayne Simmonds, & Teddy Purcell anything they’d like definitely led to some amusing questions and answers. At times, it seemed the guys had gotten together to practice their comedy routine and perfect their answers to the kids’ questions. Matt Greene repeatedly mentioned that he didn’t have a girlfriend (and even tried to claim that he couldn’t get one), going so far as to quickly say his cell phone number when talking about hoping to get a girlfriend someday. The kids asked questions about Kopi’s number choice (which I found out years ago hadn’t actually been chosen by him – or anyone – specifically because of his draft number… it was just the luck of the draw), why he wears the tinted visor (looks cool), their favorite jersey logo, favorite goalie (Greene pointed out that they didn’t like goalies very much as a general rule), and even if Kopi still lived with his parents. Teddy Purcell mentioned that he looked up to Teemu Selanne, even though he knew he’d get booed.
In their interview after the event, Kopi and Teddy joked that they’d worked on their routine for a couple weeks, but then more seriously answered that they were just trying to keep things light and fun for their young fans.
Marcel Dionne was incredibly entertaining (as always) with the Triple Crown line. It’s not that Dave Taylor and Charlie Simmer weren’t good, just that they barely got a chance to speak. The fans were clearly happy to see the Triple Crown line back together again for the first time in a long time and hearing the guys talk about their history with the Kings and describe the clips shown.
The Hockey Operations talk with the fans was very similar to Dean Lombardi’s breakfasts with the GM and state of the franchise events. Lombardi, Ron Hextall, & Terry Murray continued their tradition of being up front with fans and openly answering questions as clearly as possible. They talked about the goaltending situation (though fans only asked about Quick & Bernier), the team’s playoff potential, the need to go to the net (and Ryan Smyth’s addition to the team), why they wouldn’t bring Heatley into the Kings’ locker room… Lombardi even mentioned that maybe they can get some of the Ducks fans back. (As we know, many Ducks fans are former Kings fans who switched to the Ducks when they were created or when they started doing better than the Kings 7 years ago.) This segment ran long, since the Hockey Ops guys wanted to answer as many of their fans’ questions as possible and an hour just wasn’t enough time for this one, even though it looks like the Kings are on the right track.
Bob Miller’s one man show was just as enjoyable as expected and one of my favorite events of the weekend. Miller showed a lot of clips from throughout his career and told many amusing stories. If you haven’t read his book yet, I still highly recommend reading Bob Miller’s Tales from the Los Angeles Kings. Even if you’re not a Kings fan, if you love hockey this book is well worth reading! Bob’s segment also went over (by a half hour), but fans clearly didn’t mind extra time with their beloved broadcaster. They clearly appreciated the time he spent on his presentation and could have listened to him a lot longer. One of the most exciting parts of this talk was that Bob mentioned the number of games he and Jim will be doing for FSN this year (65 out of the 82 games) and that all of these games will be aired in HD. I’d tried to get information on the FSN HD schedule for the Kings games this year, but hadn’t found a clear answer. I’m sure all Kings fans who have HDTV will be thrilled that FSN has increased their HD games from 10 to 65 this year – especially since they got rid of the horrible rinkside view before the end of last season. There were many times last year when the HD game of the night on Center Ice was the Kings game and those of us in southern California couldn’t get it, since it was blocked out in our area. Though I definitely prefer listening to Bob & Jim over other announcers, I would have given them up for the HD feed if I’d had the choice and this year fans of the Kings will get the best of both worlds.
Any new event presents a lot of unforeseen challenges to the host. I think the Kings staff did a wonderful job with their first Hockey Fest and hope it’s a tradition that continues for southern California hockey fans. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what they include next year.