After having a day to digest the Kings’ lackluster shutout loss to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night, Los Angeles Kings head coach Terry Murray was much more even-keeled in his assessment of his team’s play from the night before. More importantly, he was much more apologetic for his comments directed at the dissatisfied fans at Staples Center who booed the Kings off the ice after the 2nd period (To be fair to the fans, the Kings had just been outshot 30-6 through 40 minutes of play). After the game, Murray held one of the shortest press conferences of the year and ended the discussion with this bomb:
“You know what the most disappointing, frustrating thing was? At the end of the second period, we were booed off the ice by our fans. That is the most embarrassing thing I have ever been through. That’s the worst I’ve ever been through, in all the years I’ve been coaching. I’ve been behind the bench almost 3,000 hockey games in the NHL, and booed off the ice by your own fans at the end of the second period, here after this road trip, going 4-0 in hard places, very disappointing.”
It doesn’t matter which industry we’re talking about, criticizing the paying customer isn’t part of the “Best Practices” guidebook. Whether it’s okay for a fan to boo their own team or not is a completely different subject, but it’s beside the point. From the moment Murray uttered those words directed at the fans, the countdown started towards an apology.
As Murray cooled down and had some time to think about his comments, he told reporters today that he shouldn’t have thrown the fans under the bus. Here’s the predictable backtracking from the Kings’ head man:
“I overreacted probably, in saying … you don’t want to drag them into the reason why, but I did. There’s nothing I can do about it now. It’s never the right thing to throw stuff at your fans. I know that. It was a night to forget.
“These fans, I’ve said that many times, we’ve got great fans. I know that. They mean a lot to this hockey club. They’ve got a lot of energy and a lot of emotion to our games and have helped us through a lot of difficult times. The atmosphere in our building right from the middle of the year last year right through the playoffs has been incredible because of the fans.”
This entire incident has followed the normal trajectory of emotion. After having an incredibly successful 4-0 road trip against Western Conference playoff contenders, they came home and laid a gigantic egg against the 13th place team in the West. By the time the game was over, there wasn’t a single happy person associated with the Kings within the confines of Staples Center—coaches, fans, and players alike. Emotions were running high for fans after the 2nd period and they were running equally as high for the coach after the game.
For their part, different players reacted differently to the booing. Enforcer Kevin Westgarth said that he hears it after failed power plays and “(the fans) have to know we’re probably more ticked off than they are.” First-year (in L.A.) defenseman Willie Mitchell didn’t think it was that bad when he compared it to his time in Vancouver as he joked, “You want to see a good boo, you look there.” Then star defenseman Drew Doughty was brutally honest with his feelings after the game:
“Booing us kind of pisses me off as a player, because every night we’re out there playing our hardest, obviously for the team but, at the same time, for them. For them to boo us off the ice, or whatever the case is, like I said we’re not just playing for us, we’re playing for them. We’re going to battle for them, and for them to boo us shows a lack of respect from them, but it’s a part of the game. Fans boo their teams all the time, so it’s nothing we can be really upset at.”
At the end of the day, no player or coach wants to get booed because it probably means things aren’t going well. By the same token, fans don’t want to boo their team because, well, it probably means things aren’t going well. Fans in L.A. will be happy to see Murray tone down his disappointment with the fans—if the Kings come with a better effort against the Ducks on Saturday night, they’ll tone down their disappointment as well.