So, you've heard about the Kings and the Stanley Cup Final, but the only use for ice you have is to keep your drink cold?
Well, have no fear. We're here to help.
First off, welcome aboard the bandwagon. Plenty of seats available. Don't worry about all of us in the front. We've been here a while and we're used to late comers. I'll try to keep everything simple.
The rink is 200 feet long by 85 feet wide. It is split in half by the center red line, and then has a pair of blue lines on either side that designate each offensive zone. The goal line extends the entire width of the ice. The trapezoid behind the net is the only place behind the goal line a goalie may play the puck. If a goalie plays the puck behind the goal line outside the trapezoid, it's a penalty.
There are two referees, who call the penalties, and two linesmen, who patrol for minor infractions, and assist the referees on some penalty calls.
A game consists of three, 20-minute periods. There is no halftime. It's not quarters. Three periods. If a game is tied after three periods, they play 20-minute periods of sudden-death overtime -- first goal wins, no matter how many periods it takes.
Offside is called by a linesman when an offensive player precedes the puck across the attacking blue line. The linesman has the option of "delaying" the call if the defensive team has control of the puck, or no offensive player is attacking, to keep the flow of the game moving.
Icing is called when a player shoots the puck from the defensive side of the center red line, and goes untouched past the goal line. The linesman can "wave off" the icing if he believes a defender could have reasonably played it, or if the goalie goes to play it. The ensuing face-off occurs in the offending team's zone, and they are not allowed to change players.
Penalties are called for various infractions, and will send the offending player to the penalty box for two, four or five minutes, depending on the severity. Stick fouls, including high sticking and slashing, are penalized for four minutes if they cause significant injury (blood, usually). Hits from behind, or those targeting the head, will usually be penalized with five minutes (a major penalty, which allows a team to remain on the power play the entire length of the penalty) and an ejection.
Each team roster consists of 18 skaters and two goalies. Of the 18, there are usually 12 fowards split into four "lines" and six defensemen split into three "pairs." They will shuffle on and off the ice as play continues and may freely substitute as often as need be.
On TV, you'll be watching the games on the NBC family of networks, and listening to Mike "Doc" Emrick as the play-by-play man. Yes, he'll be excitable. He's always that way. Games 1-2 are on the main network, with 3 and 4 in LA on NBC Sports Network on cable (it's the former Versus). The final three games (if necessary) will be on the network. All games start at 5 p.m.
Questions you may have
What's with the beards? Hockey players (and their fans) are a superstitious lot. And the beard has become a traditional superstition that players adhere to. You don't change with something that works.
How superstitous? Players from the Kings and Devils refused to touch the conference championship trophies because that's not what they're playing for. In fact, some Kings fans chirped the Devils for taking a picture with it. Oh, and again, it's not just the players. Fans and staff are just as into their routines. One of the Kings' Ice Girls has eaten a Subway meatball sub from the same shop before every game of the playoffs. The store wasn't open before the Kings last home game, and they lost.
Who are Kings fans booing? That would be the Devils' Ilya Kovalchuk. He was the top free agent on the market two summers ago, and had been flirting with the Kings. But he wanted more money than the Kings were willing to spend, and signed with New Jersey. It was something of a circus around the league, and dragged on for weeks longer than it should have. (Kings fans may also chant "Dreewwwww" for Doughty.)
Who else is on the Devils? Well, they have one of the league's all-time best goaltenders in Martin Brodeur. He's won three Stanley Cups, and just turned 40. But he's been solid between the pipes, and still capable of making the big save. Zach Parise is the Devils' second best offensive threat (and will be the top free agent this summer -- pundits already have the Kings interested in him). Patrik Elias, rookie Adam Henrique and Travis Zajac will also be looked to for scoring.
A six seed vs. an eight seed? Don't pay attention to the seeding, so much. The Kings were expected to be much better than they performed in the regular season, and were one win from winning their division (and being a third seed). The Devils had the ninth-best record in the league, earned more than 100 points, and had the weakest division champion in the first round.
Celebrity Kings fans? Well, expect to see long-time fans Alyssa Milano, Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn (their son played for a while), Wil Wheaton ("Star Trek: The Next Generation"), Colin Hanks (and maybe his dad, Tom) and John Ondrasnik (the singer from Five for Fighting) to be at the games. Probable Hockeyrazzi members will be Will Ferrell, Kevin Connelly ("Entourage") and Matthew Perry. Depending on scheduling, you'll probably see David Beckham and Landon Donovan there, and maybe Kobe Bryant. Writer/director Kevin Smith is a huge Devils fan, and will likely be there, schedule allowing. Oh, Cuba Gooding Jr. will probably be there, too, but many Kings fans haven't forgiven him for jumping on the Ducks' bandwagon during the Stanley Cup run (and even celebrating afterward).
Really? Yeah. There's no love between the two SoCal hockey teams. And many Kings fans were burned that the Ducks won a Cup before their team. They all agreed it was good for the game in the area, but man, it hurt.
Where to get more info
There are a sea of blogs and people to follow on Twitter if you're looking to become a pro.
For general coverage, you can hit up ESPN or Yahoo's NHL coverage. Yahoo's Puck Daddy typically brings a bit of snark to the proceedings (its series preview shows Ned Flanders as a Devil vs. the Burger King).
Kings' centric coverage can be found direct from the team's on staff reporter, Rich Hammond, on his LA Kings Insider blog. He's a former beat reporter who the Kings hired to bolster their coverage. The LA Times has a Hall of Famer in Helene Elliott and will have two to three reporters on the beat. Actual news coverage will also come from a pair of credentialed reporters -- Gann Matsuda and his Frozen Royalty blog and John Hoven at Mayor's Manor.
Then there are a slew of fan run blogs, most of which inject humor and a sense of what it's like to be a long-suffering Kings fan. Some of my favorites include:
- Life in Hockeywood (which aggregates online videos after each game)
- Battle of California (language wise, NSFW, but funny, touching on the Kings, Ducks and Sharks)
- The Royal Half (snark, snark and sarcasm from a half-season seat holder)
- McSorley's Stick (a reference to the last time the Kings were in the Final, mostly opinion pieces here)
- Jewels From the Crown (More opinions and lots of statistical analysis)
- All the Kings Men Podcast (fan hosted podcasts featuring interviews and post-game analysis)
TWITTER: Most of the people who bring you the above blogs and coverage can be found on Twitter pretty easily. But for entertainment sake, you're not going to go wrong by following two people.
First is the Kings' official Twitter feed (@LAKings). You'll get official news and the like, but also some blatent homerism. They famously chirped first-round opponent Vancouver after one game, causing a stir in Canada.
Second is the Kings' mascot Bailey (@BaileyLAKings). The loveable lion was named after former scout Ace Bailey, who was one of two Kings scouts to die during the Sept. 11 attacks. He's the defender of all the players and fans, and pretty funny while doing it.
Yeah, good luck with that. You're going to have high re-sale prices from the usual places, as the Kings did not offer any tickets to the general public for the Stanley Cup Final, leaving tickets available to Season Ticket Holders and Staples Center suite holders. For the previous round, general public tickets were offered in a lottery.
The team is hosting official watch parties in the LA Live complex across from Staples Center. The whole game entertainment crew will be there Wednesday and Saturday for the away games, and the conference championship trophy will be there for pictures.