GLENDALE — In a most unlikely and quite unexpected turn, Los Angeles, and by extension Glendale, has become a hockey town.
With the Los Angeles Kings making a Cinderella run as the No. 8 seed in the NHL Western Conference all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, these are heady times for patient devotees of the team, which at the same time has seen its fan base swell with each dramatic playoff win that now has the Kings within one win of the championship.
"No one expected the Kings to go this far, especially in the beginning of the season," said Hoover High student Patris Kirakosian, 15, who attended Wednesday's 3-1 loss against the New Jersey Devils in Game Four at Staples Center with a pair of season tickets his family has held for the last seven years. "It's been excellent these playoffs. [The games] are very fun, it's entertaining and it's a great feeling when you step into the arena."
Of course, not every fan in Glendale was lucky enough to have a ticket for Wednesday's potential clincher, much to the benefit of eateries lining Brand Blvd/ and throughout the surrounding area.
Spectators packed the outdoor patio, bar and dining room under the glow of king-sized flat screens at BJ's Brewhouse on Brand, where manager Chris Fulkerson estimates business has seen a 10% uptick during Kings playoff games. It was standing room only at the Tavern on Brand just up the street and Leo's All-Star Sports Bar in La Crescenta was already packed with anxious fans more than an hour before the puck dropped.
Tavern on Brand Manager Emil Babadjanians said the crowds have become increasingly bigger with each game as the Kings have rolled through the playoffs.
He said the bar was used to drawing similar numbers for Los Angeles Lakers playoff games or Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-view broadcasts, but has never seen such an outpouring of support for the Kings.
"It's a rarity," said Babadjanians, who had to bring in two extra bartenders to handle the workload Wednesday. "The Kings haven't made it to the [this far] in a while. Fans would still come in, but not this many.
"It's turned into a Kings bar."
Daniel Ananyev, 31, of Glendale was in attendance at the Tavern on Brand Wednesday rooting on the team that he said he has followed since 1993, the last time the Kings were in the finals.
"I love it," Ananyev said of the Kings' run. "You wait years and years for this and just hope they make it far enough for you to be proud.
"This is way beyond expectations."
The mania suddenly surrounding the Kings has drawn in the casual observers, as well as the die-hard fans.
Although a hockey enthusiast in general, Finland native Manu Kurhela admitted to not being a big-time Kings fan. But he couldn't resist joining the fray at the Tavern on Wednesday.
"If they win tonight, the house is going to blow up," Kurhela said. "It's going to be crazy and I want to be here to see it."
Kurhela and the rest of the city will have to wait at least one more game to erupt, as the series now moves back to New Jersey for Game Five on Saturday.
But even when the action on the ice swings to the opposite coast, the hottest ticket in town is still as close as the nearest big screen.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times