If you ask the average hockey fan on the street who the Ducks' number one rival is, I'd be willing to bet 90% will say the Kings. I belong in the other 10%. The main reason for that, in my opinion, is the lack of any significant competition between the two teams. It's an often repeated fact that the Ducks and Kings have only made the playoffs in the same year once, last season. That can mostly be attributed to the fact that both teams have been mediocre for most of those seasons, and other teams in the division, namely the Sharks and Stars, haven't made a ton of room for multiple other teams to squeeze in.
Between the lack of meaningful games and playing in a vast "non-traditional" hockey market with so many other entertainment options the "rivalry" is left sterile and bland. Most indicative of that was the internet campaign to "Name the Rivalry" back in 2008. Although the "Freeway Faceoff" seems to have caught on, it feels forced. The Home and Home mini-series to end last season, with both teams fighting for playoff spots, and home ice still up for grabs was a watershed for the rivalry. There was true emotion in those games on the ice and in the stands at both arenas. Teemu Selanne got in a fight for Pete's sake, but two games does not a rivalry make. Going back any further than that, I am having a very tough time thinking of any iconic moments between the two teams. Bobby Ryan had an incredible hat trick at Staples in 2009 and Teemu's 1,000th point came against the Kings in 2006, but those two events would have stood out equally if they were against the Florida Panthers. Seriously, if you have any others let me know in the comments because I'm drawing a blank.
The Kings' team, as it's constituted now, makes it even harder for me to conjure up a rivalry, because as a hockey fan I objectively like the way that they play and many of their players. Anze Kopitar is simply fantastic, there's no other way to put it. I'll always remember his first NHL goal where he absolutely smoked Chris Pronger and went backhand shelf on Jiggy (in his prime). Watching that highlight, I could care less that it was against the Ducks. It was AWESOME!
I don't understand why Dustin Brown is the captain, but I appreciate the way he plays the game. Justin Williams can make some spectacular plays, and having interviewed him twice I can say he's a really cool guy. Before they signed with the Kings I was begging Bob Murray to pick up Willie Mitchell and/or Rob Scuderi (not at that price tag though). Drew Doughty is a generational player and I just can't bring myself to say bad stuff about these guys. The Kings don't currently have a player that I can't stand, like a Jordin Tootoo, a Sean Avery, a Claude Lemieux or what the rest of the league thinks of Corey Perry. There is Jack Johnson, I guess, but Kings Fans don't even like him, so what's the point?
Having said all that, proximity is a factor in building this rivalry. No matter how bland the play on the ice, geography keeps the hopes for a rivalry between these two teams alive among the fans. Jen put it better than I have ever heard or read before when she said the Kings may not be the Ducks' rivals but they are our arch-nemeses. For me, at least that comes from living amongst Kings Fans. As a hockey fan and amateur writer (I cover Kings games on a semi-regular basis for Hockeytalk.biz) I can be objective about the players on the ice, but as a Ducks fan, the mere sight of a Kings bumper sticker makes me legitimately angry. Don't even get me started on the Addams Family Song, and the Cartman videos and the organist leading the crowd in the sing song goalie chant after one measly goal. It all pisses me off. I'm not proud of it, but it's true.
The reason for this is Kings fans' unjustified sense of superiority. Their argument seems to be based on three facts: 1) They were here first; 2) The Ducks were created by Disney and 3) The greatest player in the history of the game once played for their team. There may also be some kind of City vs. Suburb bias, but the Greater LA area is such a sprawl that I don't really buy it, there are plenty of Kings fans in the Inland Empire and Orange County. I fully admit that all of those things are true and beyond that, without Gretzky and the Kings the Ducks would not exist and I wouldn't be a hockey fan. It's the resulting air of self-righteousness that I have a problem with. I'm as much of a hockey snob as anyone (probably more), but to be looked down upon by a guy that still wears an Avery jersey makes my blood boil.
The easiest way to shut that down is the old "We won the Cup" argument. There is no retort.
At a Ducks/Kings game in Anaheim last year, I heard some guys walking through the concourse chanting "STAN-LEY CUP! STAN-LEY CUP!" While I don't condone that ‘cause it's just tacky, it's worth mentioning because a female Kings fan yelled back "That was four years ago!" As ridiculous and hilarious as her attempted reply was, she did have somewhat of a point. Just repeating a single fact to win an argument gets old and boring. I prefer to frame it a little differently.
Over the past 17 seasons, otherwise known as the entire history of the (Mighty) Ducks franchise, the Kings have won exactly one playoff series, versus Detroit in 2001. There are all kinds of ways to have fun with that stat as a Ducks fan. My personal favorite is that the Ducks have been to more Stanley Cup Finals than the Kings have won playoff series over that span. The straight up tally of 11 series wins to one is a close second. Of course, I'm the first to admit that the Kings are on the uphill climb and the Ducks ... not so much. We've got to enjoy the bragging rights while we can, because if and when the tables turn there will be no mercy.
With all the angst, jealousy and smugness from both sides of the crowd at a Ducks/Kings game, if the teams could only be competitive for a few years in a row this could be the next Penguins/Flyers. It just isn't there yet.