LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 14: Jordan Nolan #71 of the Los Angeles Kings waves to fans in the midst of confetti falling down during the Los Angeles Kings Stanley Cup Victory Parade on June 14, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

On Los Angeles being a ‘hockey town’

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“When I started the Kings, I was told there were a quarter-million ex-Canadians in L.A. Now I know why they left Canada. They hate hockey.”
     —– Jack Kent Cooke

Not only is today the 25th anniversary of Wayne Gretzky being traded from Edmonton to Los Angeles, it’s also Kings day on PHT. So let’s take a moment to talk about L.A. and its place in the hockey landscape.

When the Great One arrived in Southern California in the summer of 1988, it created a buzz in the area that the game had never managed to create before.

“I think this is a great day for hockey in L.A.,” winger Dave Taylor said, per the Los Angeles Times. “Wayne Gretzky’s going to put some people in the seats. We just got the best player in the world.”

Taylor was right. Attendance for Kings games at the Great Western Forum jumped from an average of 11,667 in 1987-88 to 14,875 in 1988-89. By 1991-92, the place was officially jammed (16,005 capacity) every night.

But even with Gretzky, the Kings were never able to achieve their ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup. After he was traded to St. Louis in 1996, attendance fell again — not quite back to the old levels, but in the neighborhood.

To be fair, the team wasn’t very good. In fact, after making it to the Cup finals in 1993, the Kings missed the playoffs in 11 of the next 15 seasons.

Fast forward to 2009-10, and with improved regular-season success came improved attendance — an average of 17,313 that year at the Staples Center.

This past season, following the Cup win, the Kings played to full capacity, averaging 18,178.

Yet when former team governor Tim Leiweke left to take the top executive job in Toronto, here’s what he had to say: “It took us getting to the finals in order to awaken that town. It’s not a hockey town.”

Kings fans who had supported the team while he was there were understandably upset.

With all that in mind, here’s our take:

Los Angeles isn’t a hockey town. Not in the sense that Toronto — or any other Canadian city for that matter — is a hockey town.

Nor is Los Angeles a hockey town like Philadelphia, Boston, Pittsburgh, Chicago, or Detroit.

And to that we say…who cares? That’s nothing against Kings fans — clearly, there are enough of those to fill the rink. Plus, all the locals who support the Ducks.

Los Angeles just has a richer tradition in other sports. The Lakers have won 10 titles since moving to L.A. in 1960. Bit hard to compete with that. Not to mention the challenge of competing with the weather.

Los Angeles is a hockey town in the sense that there are enough Kings fans to make attending games a fun experience. It wasn’t always like that, but it is now.

So, you know…enjoy what you have, Kings fans.

Whatever it is.

Flames’ Jokipakka (hip) might not play for Finns at World Cup

CALGARY, AB - APRIL 5: Jyrki Jokipakka #3 of the Calgary Flames in action against the Los Angeles Kings during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on April 5, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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Jyrki Jokipakka was one of the three Finnish d-men added to the World Cup roster last week but, according to Calgary president Brian Burke, Jokipakka isn’t a lock to play this fall.

“He had hip surgery after the season, and it’s not 100 percent that he’s going to be able to compete in this tournament,” Burke told Sportsnet’s Fan 960. “But the fact he was named recognizes his accomplishments to date, and we’re very proud of [him].”

Jokipakka, acquired in the Kris Russell-to-Dallas deadline trade, appeared in 58 games last year — 18 for the Flames, 40 for the Stars. He finished with two goals and 12 points.

Still only 24 years old, Jokipakka could be a nice piece for the Flames moving forward. He’s 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and was rated highly enough to crack the Finnish roster (granted, the country isn’t overwhelmingly deep on the blueline).

So it’s understandable why the club might be wary of letting him play in the World Cup. In addition to coming off major surgery, Jokipakka is headed into the last of a two-year, $1.8 million deal with a $900,000 average annual cap hit.

Once that expires, he’ll become a restricted free agent.

‘Yep,’ Letang will play tonight

TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Kris Letang #58 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with his teammates Sidney Crosby #87 after scoring a goal against Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Jason Behnken/Getty Images)
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PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang will play tonight. He confirmed it this morning, albeit in rather unusual circumstances.

Letang did not participate in yesterday’s Media Day at the Stanley Cup Final. He didn’t practice either. The Penguins said it was simply a “maintenance day” for their best defensemen, but when it was learned he would hold a press conference this morning, all of a sudden people started to wonder about his status for Game 1 against the Sharks.

He was asked if he was playing.

“Yep.”

So, no problems?

“Nope.”

And that was that.

No explanation was provided about yesterday, but Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said a few minutes later that he was confident that Letang would be able to log his usual amount of minutes.

“Very confident,” said Sullivan.

Penguins center Nick Bonino also confirmed that he’ll be able to go tonight. He didn’t skate Saturday or Sunday, but was on the ice this morning.

Former NHLer Bulis calls it a career

WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 23:  Center Jan Bulis #38 of the Montreal Canadiens looks on against the Washington Capitals on December 23, 2005 at the MCI Center in Washington D.C. The Capitals won 4-2.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
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Jan Bulis, who appeared in 552 games with the Capitals, Canadiens and Canucks, announced his retirement from professional hockey today, per Czech news outlet Ceske Noviny.

Bulis, 38, last played in North America with Vancouver during the 2006-07 campaign, and has since carved out a pretty lengthy career in the KHL, playing for both Mytishchi Atlant and Chelyabinsk Traktor.

Picked 43rd overall by Washington at the 1996 draft, Bulis’ best years came with the Habs. He posted a career-high 20 goals and 40 points in 2005-06 — that year, he also represented the Czechs at the Winter Olympics in Turin (capturing bronze) and at the World Hockey Championships (capturing silver).

Report: Semin will stay in KHL for 2016-17

OTTAWA, ON - OCTOBER 11:  Alexander Semin #13 of the Montreal Canadiens skates during the NHL game against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on October 11, 2015 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Ottawa Senators 3-1.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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It seems there will be no NHL comeback attempt by Alex Semin. At least not in 2016-17.

Instead, Semin has inked a one-year extension with Magnitogorsk Metallurg, according to Sport-Express writer Igor Eronko.

At 32 years old, Semin still could have a lot of years left in him as a professional hockey player, but at this point it wouldn’t be surprising if he has played in his last NHL game. Early in his career his talent was clear and demonstrated by some great showings offensively, but he was plagued by inconsistency. In recent years though, he wasn’t so much inconsistent as he was underwhelming.

After being limited to six goals and 19 points in 57 games with Carolina in 2014-15, the one-time 40-goal scorer was bought out of his five-year, $35 million contract just two seasons into it. Montreal took a chance on him for 2015-16, but he only appeared in 15 games with the Canadiens before they put him on unconditional waivers on Dec. 9.

He’s fared better in the KHL though, with five goals and 14 points in 20 regular season games followed by another seven markers and 15 points in 23 playoff contests.