At Least Kings Now Aren’t Butt of Jokes
It was a chilling moment, in the dawn of a new age.
It was midway through the second period of the Kings’ Saturday night mega-win at the GW (Gretzky Wayne) Forum. Responding to a note flashed on the message board, the frenzied, frothing Forum fans broke into a chant.
“Luck-y butt! Luck-y butt!”
Not Shakespeare, perhaps, but any chant is a welcome replacement for America’s most shopworn chant, the one referring to the opposing team or star player inhaling by creating a vacuum with its (or his) mouth.
The “Lucky” chant refers to the Kings’ unofficial good-luck charm, although I use the word charm advisedly.
There is a guy named Robert, who works the studio switchboard during a morning FM radio show in Los Angeles. Prior to the last three King games, home and away, well before game time, Robert has crept onto the ice, lowered his trousers and applied his backside to the ice.
The Kings won all three games, and hockey people are notoriously superstitious. During a losing streak, a Zamboni driver isn’t allowed to change his socks. Even if Robert tried to beg off future duty, the Kings wouldn’t allow it. In fact, they’re probably contacting Lloyd’s of London right now, checking on frostbite insurance rates.
I hesitate to even mention all this, because it’s disgusting. There are thousands of struggling entertainers all over this town, brilliant people who have devoted their lives to their crafts, and they can’t get the kind of exposure, so to speak, that Robert is getting.
Guys who can sing like Caruso are waiting tables, while this Robert fellow is nearing enshrinement in the courtyard of the Chinese Theatre. I won’t even give you Robert’s last name, for two reasons: One, I don’t know it. Two, he might have a mother.
I bring up this subject only because it’s one graphic example of the incredible Kings mania that is gripping our humble civic basin.
“We’re the hottest act in the league,” Ron Duguay said after Saturday’s win. “We’re the hottest act in the United States, in any sport.”
Also one of the loudest. The Kings are generating amazing decibels from their fans.
“It’s a great feeling to hear the crowd,” Luc Robitaille said. “They make the most noise of any crowd in the league, here and Chicago.”
Bernie Nicholls said the Forum fans are louder than Chicago’s.
“By far the loudest fans in any building I’ve ever played in, and I’ve played in a lot of buildings,” Nicholls said. “They’re a rowdy bunch. When you step out on the ice before the game, you get goose pimples.”
Lucky Robert probably has the same reaction.
In the recent outpouring of enthusiasm, I have sensed a uniting of the two polarized factions of King fans. A potentially ugly rift developed this season, between fans who were fans BG (Before Gretzky) and the nouveau fans who jumped on the bandwagon when the Kings pulled off the trade of the century.
Personally, the new fans never bothered me, although my hockey roots grow deep. As a kid, I was a devoted fan of the L.A. Guacamole, of the defunct FHC (Federal Hockey Conglomeration), even though the Guac, in its five seasons of existence, was winless.
Then, when the Kings moved to Los Angeles from Lompoc in 1953, I was one of those lunatics who camped out for a week in the parking lot of the old L.A. Hockatorium to get season tickets. I remember sharing the last of my roasted marshmallows with a friendly, chubby little kid who said his name was Brucie McNall.
Crazy times. We laughed, we cried. Who can forget the year when the original Kings’ owner, Ed Grimley, was so strapped for cash that he couldn’t afford to freeze the ice, so we fans all brought cubes from home?
Ah, but why wallow in nostalgia?
What’s important is what’s happening now, and that we’re all in this together. Lately I find myself staying too late at parties, hotly debating deep hockey questions, like, “Hey, what do you suppose those blue lines are for?”
We old-timers warmly welcome you Johnny-come-lately bandwagon jumpers. There’s more than enough excitement to go around. Saturday’s game, for example, was unbelievable. The players were so caught up in the game that they forgot to fight.
The King players truly are knocked out by the fan support, none more so than Wayne Gretzky.
Great, as I call him, isn’t accustomed to this level of support from his own fans.
“At Edmonton, they expect you to win, but here it’s new,” Great said late Saturday night. “I remember when I got traded, a lot of my friends said it would never work. . . . There’s no question, the fans have been inspirational. It’s like they’ve been promised something so long, and now they’re getting it, and they’re thrilled.
“I tell people we’ll never knock off the Dodgers (in popularity), or the Lakers, or the Raiders or Rams, but there’s a place for hockey in this city, and that’s all we want.”
The Kings also want that coveted Stanley Tureen, or whatever it’s called.
That promised land lies just ahead, ready to be sat upon.