by Lisa McRitchie on 12/15/11 at 04:00 PM ET
I try to take a trip to at least one other NHL arena every year, and eventually I get around to writing up my experience. I wanted to write about my experience at LA Live and the Staples Center this summer, but the Colin Fraser issues put a damper on things and I didn’t think that it would matter how much I said I enjoyed my game, there was just too many other issues at the time. So, hopefully enough time has passed that I can once again talk about the Kings or a Kings related story.
I travelled to Los Angeles in February of 2010 in a road trip that included a stop in Phoenix and a trip to Anaheim. Fortunately, I had been to Los Angeles before, so this trip was far less stressful for a couple of small town Alberta girls than it could have been.
The downtown section of Los Angeles seems endless, and with many different sections that are quite different from one another. The Los Angeles Live section in built in an area of downtown that the city appears to be attempting to revitalize. I wasn’t sure that my GPS was taking me to the right section of town until we could see the bright lights and various buildings of the entertainment complex.
With restaurants, hotels, convention centre, a cinema and so much more, LA Live can be an entertainment hot spot, a destination and a place to go out for an evening not just an event, much like the Jobing.com entertainment complex in Glendale Arizona. Seeing the two back to back was an opportunity to see some of the possibilities for what could be done in Edmonton. Both complexes are well laid out, bright and most importantly entertaining.
There was plenty of parking, and fans arrived early February 11th. Fortunately, so did we because this was Wayne Simmonds bobblehead night. With our bonus souvenirs from the trip we took to finding our seats. I found Staples Centre to look a little different from others arena’s I’ve been to. It was brighter and yet at the same time darker. For lack of a better term, I referred to it as metallic looking as fans were only starting to fill the building.
Sitting beside me was a bright smiling young man of 7 named Kyle. Kyle was at the game with his uncle and despite this being a school night, the two had driven in from Orange County giving Kyle the opportunity to see his favourite player up close; Anže Kopitar. Kyle wore his Kopitar jersey that night, which gave me what tiny lead in I needed to strike up a conversation with my neighbour. For this game, I chose to wear my Ryan Smyth Oilers jersey and Kyle recognizing the back of the jersey was slightly confused by the Oilers logo on the front. So, Kyle’s uncle and I started telling Kyle some of the history behind the Oilers and the Kings. I mentioned that Smyth was a favourite of mine, and that it was a treat to see him play up close once again. Of course at the age of 7, Kyle was unimpressed to say the least that favourite players could be moved. Laughing, I told Kyle I was his age when Wayne Gretzky was traded from the Oilers; that sadly it happens.
As the game began, I saw an arena full of happy, smiling, knowledgable hockey fans sitting down to watch their favourite team. Many drive in from various areas of the greater Los Angeles area despite the often congested freeways and many miles. These were my kind of people.
The concourses of Staples Centre were easy to navigate, but any arena seems easy to get around in once you’ve been to a sold out game or concert at Rexall Place or the Saddledome. The food selections were typical arena fare, and I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the fact that fans were served beer in bottles without having to wait for it to be poured into a plastic cup the way it is back home.
It was great to see not only Smyth, but also Jaret Stoll and another favourite of mine, Matt Greene. As the game progressed the Oilers took a 2-0 lead and my new friend Kyle became less and less cheerful. By the time Dustin Penner scored the second goal, Kyle wouldn’t even look at me. Thankfully for the young man, and depressingly for me, the Kings came back and a scoring goal by Smyth ensured an overtime period.
This game would be quite interesting, with ten shootout shooters for each team. It was Lubomir Visnovsky, former King and future Duck who would score the game winning goal. The fans stood the entire shootout, every Kings goal scored caused the arena to resonate with the roar of the crowd.
Bailey, the Kings’ Lion mascot is engaging and entertaining. During intermission, Bailey rode the ice on an ATV as he waived to the crowd as he shot t-shirts. I can imagine that Bailey is a popular fellow in the Kings’ goodwill efforts in the community. A great way to engage children and create new hockey fans at a young age is through the use of a mascot and the Kings seem to be doing a fine job with Bailey.
As we turned to leave, I posed for a photo with my new friend Kyle and said goodbye assuring him that he had a long life full of hockey disappointments to look forward to. He laughed until I mentioned that there was also always the possibility that Kopitar suddenly get traded to the Ducks. Perhaps that was a little too far.
At this time, the Los Angeles Kings were definitely starting to build up their youth and talent pool and fans still had an entertaining team in the meantime. The Kings would make the playoffs that season in sixth place, but lost to the Vancouver Canucks.
The Kings’ fans had something to cheer about that season, and they only made the fan experience of a game at Staples Center that much better. With all of the options and venues in LA Live a game day experience in Los Angeles can be as much or as little as you want, making it an excellent experience for both locals and visitors to the city alike.
It was interesting that we were in LA for a rare Hollywood sign de-facing. I’m still not entirely sure what this was supposed to mean, but it was interesting to see it with my own eyes.
I have been cheering for the Kings for the past few years in the playoffs and it is for no reason other than to cheer for my own team that I hope that I can put a stop to this tradition. Should the opportunity arise however, I will gladly return to LA for another game whether or not the Oilers are also in town.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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