My first exposure to hockey, like many people of my generation, was watching the famous “Miracle on Ice” 1980 Winter Olympic semi-final game. I remember sitting on my grandmother’s living room floor in the San Fernando Valley, fixated to the television by what I saw, but had no idea why or what was going on. My father accompanied me as he was assembling a piece of furniture and was trying to teach me the rules while we watched together. But as a young kid, I was more interested in the team’s nationalistic uniforms and each goaltender’s mask than understanding the game.
Of course, that moment was a hallmark not only for American Ice Hockey, but for the country as a whole. It’s cultural impact and everlasting imprint on this country has been well-documented and much heralded ever since that remarkable February day in Lake Placid, New York. The unforgettable images of our exhausted goalie Jim Craig skating around the rink victorious, draped in an American flag are permanently etched in the memory of countless people, like myself.
Prior to that remarkable event, I had no idea about the sport. Having already moved from my birthplace of Brooklyn to Los Angeles in the late 1970′s, hockey was very rarely offered as a recreational outlet for young kids, especially in a city where sunshine was aplenty and sports were played outdoors. And with the recent arrival of someone named “Magic” to the city, all my interest, time and activity turned to basketball.
During that time, my father used to bring me home old issues of Sports Illustrated that his friends didn’t want anymore. On the cover of one of them was a funny looking, mop-haired teenager brandishing his stick and a goofy smile with the phrase “Sportsman of the Year” next to him.
And as I opened up the magazine and read very slowly about the phenomenon they dubbed “The Great One”, I became fascinated with the writer’s description and his telling of all the amazing things that this wimpy-looking punk had accomplished that year. After finishing the article, I was convinced that Wayne Gretzky was a superhero and only made public appearances to play hockey games and that Canada was some sort of fictional wonderland, like C.S. Lewis’s Narnia. Yeah, you can say I was very imaginative back then…or just an idiotic pre-teen – either connotation would be apropos.
But in the following years, I became obsessed with the Showtime Lakers and their own version of a superhero, Magic Johnson. As Magic & Co. blazed through the 80′s winning championships, another team in that other sport, in that far away mythical land, was making a name for themselves in the real world with the same flash and fashion.
It was then in 1987 that I became seriously interested in learning more about the frozen sport I was never able to play growing up, (and still haven’t, btw). Then, in 1988, that old thought to be superhero landed in Los Angeles and, much like my obsession with Magic’s Lakers teams, I started my fandom love-affair with Gretzky and his Kings. And like a 100-foot northern ice wave, crashing into the shores of Malibu, seeping its way through valleys and into Downtown, hockey and The Great One were ready for their Hollywood coming-out party. And like the city as a whole, I was no different – I was officially reeled-in
By the early 90′s, basketball was going through another transformation. The world-changing news that Magic had contracted the HIV virus remains one of our generation’s most unforgettable moments. His subsequent retirement from the game marked the end of an era and was precipitated by the exiting of other legends of the game, whom were succumbing to father time.
The emergence of a new brand of basketball was underway and I just couldn’t relate to it. My original attraction to the sport was buoyed by the magnetism of Magic – his unparalleled flair, exceptional skills and uncanny abilities to incorporate all of his teammates into a winning atmosphere, the likes of which could never be duplicated by the incoming generation
When the playground, one-on-one game play of the likes of Michael Jordan became elevated and replaced the fundamentally-sound, team-oriented style of the Golden Age of basketball, I became further disenchanted with the sport. As great as Jordan was, he alone was not enough for me to sustain the same passion and love I had previously.
It was then that I came to further realize that hockey was the quintessential team-oriented sport, where players shed their egos at the door and coalesced around a team-first concept before anything else. Those type of unselfish philosophies are deeply entrenched into the design of the sport and drew me in further and further.
And before I knew it, hockey, Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings not only rekindled my child-like enthusiasm for sports, but catapulted my desire to become drenched in its intoxicating lure, easily making it my favorite sport to learn, watch and talk about.
I started blogging about hockey when Rich Hammond was working for the Daily News and offered a forum for group discussion about everything Kings-related. At first, I participated in anonymity, not sure how I felt about the whole world of internet communication.
But as the site grew and Hammond’s coverage became increasing more involving, I decided to don the handle “variable” and participate as an identifiable member of the group discussion. I’ll save the explanation as to why I chose that handle and also why I chose to write my posts in lower case for another time and/or post, (it’s really not that interesting anyway!).
When my long-time friend WAVESINAIR approached me to contribute to this site, I was flattered and gladly accepted to help him out in any way he felt was appropriate. My friendship with WAVES and how we got reconnected through Hammond’s site is really a great tale – and another story I will get to sometime in the future. That one, for sure, is far more fascinating, I promise you!
Anyway, that’s my brief (hehe) story on how I became a hockey and Kings fan.
I take great pleasure in writing about hockey and the Kings, as I do having the opportunity to work alongside WAVES and CYNIC. I thank WAVES for making this all possible and bringing us together to formulate our own winning team.
Thanks for reading and being interested in what we have to say. I look forward to many, many more discussions with all y’all and many, many more Kings victories!
All the best,