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’


“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.

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”