Each year around this time I am used to saying goodbye to a friend until we meet again in October. Each year my friend spends the better part of eight months either making me tremendously happy or causes me heartache and aggravation.
My friend – the Los Angeles Kings – is once again waving goodbye to me following their Game 6 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks, and as usual it is very difficult to say goodbye. I mean, you invest enough time, energy and emotion to both strengthen and nurture a friendship and your friend starts to feel like one of the family. I have spent so much time over the last 30 years screaming at players in person and yelling at them through the magic of television that you would believe that I might actually own a chunk of the team.
Nope, this team simply owns a piece of my heart.
I once did a public relations internship with the Kings and ultimately did some freelance writing for them, but I still find it more rewarding to be a fan than an impartial reporter. But being a passionate fan of the Los Angeles Kings means that not only is your patience constantly being tested, but so is your sanity. Being a Kings fan either means that your hockey season is ending in the bitter disappointment of missing the post season completely, or the gut-wrenching reality of an early playoff exit. And with each passing season, as I’ve watched the players go from being older than me to now being closer in age to Trevor than me, I’ve come to accept the disappointment as well as the mocking taunts of people who not only question why I follow hockey, but that I am a fan of the Kings.
It doesn’t make it hurt any less.
Watching the handshake ceremony is almost impossible to stomach. Kings players and coaches who put in so much time, energy and emotion throughout a grueling season now become spectators, and some of them won’t be back in October.
That’s the toughest part. Over a long season you get attached to faces, numbers and skating styles, and even if you can’t stand the apparent lack of hustle or inability to get the puck on net, these are still your guys and you love ’em like family.
It’s hard to say goodbye. It reminds me of the waning days of my senior year in high school. You walked around campus constantly wondering who you would see in the future and perhaps even more depressingly, who you would never see again. On “Senior Day” we all sat around signing each other’s yearbooks and as I was signing, I got it in my head if I was writing a farewell message or a “see you again soon” note.
Makes me wonder what it would be like to sit down and sign some yearbooks with my Los Angeles Kings…
- Dear Coach Terry Murray: I hope you have a great off-season. Here’s to hoping you have some ideas about getting your team to score some goals next season. And winning some home games.
- Dear Captain Dustin Brown: Your effort is there on a nightly basis and you are much appreciated.
- Dear Trevor Lewis: Thank you for making the most of your opportunity young man.
- Dear Dustin Penner: You seemed so promising in the early going. I wish you luck in the future with your new team.
- Dear Michal Handzus: You are a warrior and you are the heart and soul of this team. I hoping that we get to see you again in October, but if we don’t I wish you nothing but the best.
- Dear Drew Doughty: I’m not sure why your game ran so hot and cold during the season, but your fire and intensity reminds us that you have a passion for the game and your teammates. Thank you.
- Dear Kyle Clifford: You’re only 20? Oh man, the future looks bright kid. Please learn how to either duck or block a punch. We want you around for a long time.
- Dear Justin Williams: Can I call you “JW?” Oh man, it is a pleasure to watch you play and an honor to see you leave it all on the ice every single night. You are the poster boy for resilience.
- Dear Anze Kopitar: Get well soon. We need you at 100% come October.
- Dear Jon Quick: I won’t lie to you – you let in some soft goals this season – but watching you under fire against San Jose and seeing one remarkable save after another made me once again appreciate that you are our goalie.
- Dear Jack Johnson: Thank you for your efforts. It is going to be difficult to see you go, but I think the team needs some front line help and you are likely to get moved. Best of luck to you in the future.
- Dear Jonathan Bernier: When we see you in October you will again have the opportunity to be the number one guy. We all know that you can do it. We all know that you are capable. Now is the time to prove that we are all correct.
Have an excellent summer fellas.
Your Friend, Don