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On the Game of Hockey

On the Game of Hockey


I was born in Connecticut, raised during the 1950’s to love skating and hockey at a time when there were no high school or peewee hockey teams. I grew up idolizing my winter heroes, just as I worshipped the Yankee and Red Sox players during the summer months, and I always had a place in my heart for the teams of the Original Six, and that group’s two local institutions, the Boston Bruins and the New York Rangers.

After my years in the US Army, I returned to Connecticut in 1973 to find my friends, and a wholly new contingent of hockey-crazed and soon-to-be friends, following the Philadelphia Flyers; or the Broad Street Bullies, as they battled their way through the league during hockey’s most violent era and became the first expansion team to win the Stanley Cup. Then the Whalers came to Hartford and, for me, the magic of hockey continued, and I was privileged enough to see Mr. Hockey himself, Gordie Howe, skate alongside his sons, Mark and Marty, in the NHL. Yet I still carried that love for those storied hockey teams of my youth, the Bruins and the Rangers. Thus, it was a special moment for me in 1994 when the Rangers, led by Mark Messier and his famous, “We’ll win tonight!” pre-game guarantee, defied the odds, and won the Stanley Cup, ending a 54 year Cup drought for the fabled franchise.

However, in the early '90s, I lived in Southern California and followed the Los Angeles team at a time when the Great One, Wayne Gretzky, played for the LA Kings and Southern California was a hockey-mad place. I recall the heartache the Los Angeles fans endured when the Kings had the Stanley Cup in their grasp but an illegal stick penalty to Marty McSorley led to an overtime loss and LA watched the Cup slip away in their 1993 finals matchup against the Montreal Canadiens. During the years 2005 to 2012, I lived in downtown Los Angeles and closely followed the vicissitudes of the LA Kings. I rejoiced with the entire city as the Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2012 and brought the Cup to Los Angeles. That was a great stretch of hockey to observe as a fan; to watch the Kings get better, faster, bigger, and stronger. Later that year, I retired and moved to the Northern California town of Modesto.

Now, in 2014, the great game of hockey has offered up yet another unforgettable moment as the Los Angeles Kings and the New York Rangers, battle in the Stanley Cup finals. If the Los Angeles Kings win the Cup, I will rejoice, just as I will celebrate should the New York Rangers capture sport’s greatest prize. Two of my favorite teams are playing the world’s most exciting sport in a playoff series that is the fastest, hardest, and most intense of any on the planet. Yet it is not merely a sporting event; in a deeper way, these two teams, the Rangers of my youth and the Kings of my later years, connect me to my rural New England roots; to the little boy who, in winter, learned to skate and play hockey on the small ponds near his home. For me, this has been an incredible hockey season filled with indelible images; one of the finest and most exciting I have witnessed. I will cherish the memories, and remember where and when my love of the game began.

Laudizen King
Modesto, California
June 10, 2014