Beat LA!: Upstart Kings Re-Ignite Dormant Rivalry with the Sharks
“Beat LA! Beat LA! Beat LA!”
Anyone that has attended a Bay Area sporting event where the away team is a despised squad from Southern California has heard and hopefully partaken in this cheer.
There is no love lost between Southern and Northern California and fans from each region have no problems giving a willing participant an earful on why their brand of California is so much better than the other.
The cheer stems from and is most powerfully felt between the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers. When these two teams get to together, the loathing between blue and orange is so vivid that it is like watching James Cameron’s Avatar…but drunk.
So, not only are you amazed by the tension flying around, but you also aren’t afraid to throw a drink at some loudmouthed, overly intoxicated buffoon.
While the animosity between these two teams ranks amongst the highest in the NHL, the “Beat LA!” chants during these contests always seems forced. Maybe fans are hesitant to scream it at the top of their lungs because, well, aren’t they really playing Anaheim.
The two cities are actually more than a half hour apart.
I would feel the need to correct a fan at the Staples Center if he screamed out “Beat SF!” during a Sharks game. It’s only natural.
Don’t get me wrong, I have been in the Tank several times against the rascally Ducks and the roof rocks off its hinges. Fans love this rivalry and they should because it’s pretty freaking awesome. But something feels a little empty when hearing the “Beat LA” chant against Anaheim.
In the past, Sharks fans would half-heartedly take part in this cheer against the Los Angeles Kings, but in their minds they knew “of course we were going to beat LA, they are freaking terrible!”
It is not the fan’s fault. This matchup has just been somewhat stale for years.
During San Jose’s expansion seasons ,everyone knew that the Kings would mash on the Sharks. It was a done deal.
Suddenly the tables turned in 1993-94. The Kings stumbled to slave status and the Sharks couldn’t help but annihilate LA in almost every meeting. Since then, the Kings have only finished above the Sharks in the Western conference five times.
This rivalry never really had time to boil and properly produce "bad blood".
But after the shellacking the Sharks took on Monday, it is time to re-check this rivalry's temperature because there appears to be more bubbles brewing.
To the average sports fan, the Sharks’ story this year is more familiar than Hansel and Gretel. However, the Los Angeles Kings are quietly making a ruckus of their own.
Loaded with a plethora of talent and youth, the Kings are in the midst of their best season in over a decade.
Budding stars like Jack Johnson, Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, and Alxander Frolov are just a few of the names that teams are becoming personally acquainted with when playing the Kings. This roster isn’t exactly the pee-wee hockey team that the league used to pick on for years on end.
Los Angeles hasn’t been able to honestly cheer for a hockey team donning their city’s name since the No. 99 was still un-retired and wearing their home team’s jersey. Unfortunately, outside of a few die-hard hockey fans located in the greater Los Angeles area, they probably haven’t realized that this is the best year to start following their beloved hockey team.
Don’t worry though. In LA, there is always time for a fan to start following a successful team and this scent of a winner has an odd way of bringing out those self-righteous, bandwagon fans.
Fortunately, the Kings’ successful aroma has yet to permeate the city’s everlasting smog layer, keeping those obnoxious fly-by fans away. But the smog can’t hold off this stench much longer.
What many people are beginning to realize is that Kings have been improving steadily since their miserable showing in 2006, where they only collected 68 points. Since then, their points per game (pts/g) have inched slowly skyward and this season they have exploded to an unbelievable 1.23 pts/g.
Coincidently, 2006 is when former Sharks GM Dean Lombardi took the reins of an organization that appeared to be in complete shambles.
Whether you liked Lombardi or not, it is hard not to argue that he is responsible for the majority of the Sharks’ makeup this season. Without him, we could have missed out on great players like Patrick Marleau, Evgeni Nabakov, Ryan Clowe, and to a lesser extent Joe Thornton (since Dean drafted Brad Stuart who was a huge part of that trade).
But the Sharks thought he wasn’t good enough to take them to the next level and what is he doing now? He is giving that priceless hockey knowledge to San Jose's closest and original rival.
From these side soap opera stories to the way the Kings have owned the Sharks this season, this matchup has everything a good rivalry needs. In addition, the fact that both of these team potentially could meet up in their first ever playoff battle is just the ingredient that this simmering pot needs to come to a rolling boil.
And when that day comes, I’ll be the guy in section 206 screaming “Beat LA!” from the top of lungs, hoping I won’t have throw my $10 beer at someone.
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