Note: This article is meant to be mean, humorous, and offensive in nature, but also completely non-serious. If this article offends you, I do not apologize and you should stop by your local drugstore and pick up the largest tube of butthurt cream you can find as it may help you to stop being a giant whining baby.
I would like to open this piece with a song.
Anybody who's a fan of hockey knows that when you pick a favorite team, you almost inherently then develop some rather strong disdain for some of those sitting on the opposite sides. As a fan here in Anaheim, I'm certainly no different. I've been a hockey fan for as long as I can remember, and along the way, I too have developed a lengthy list of enemies. Some of them are more recently developed, while others have had decades in which to burn and grow from mild flames to raging wildfires that make my face almost as hot as my temper when they're in the building. Unfortunately, Eric made me keep this list down to five.
Before I begin, let me just say to you, Edmonton Oilers, congrats on just missing this list. I'm still angry about 2006, followed by the stealing of Dustin Penner via an outrageously stupid offer sheet (Ed. Note- Barn fight, barn fight! -EE), and then luring our supposed defensive prospect extraordinaire Justin Schultz away from us. However, seeing as you failed to win that 2006 Stanley Cup and then promptly lost Chris Pronger, the key addition to our 2007 title, to us that summer (because who the hell wants to live in your terrible city?), then proceeded to expose Penner for the bum he was, and then saved us from the miserable possession black hole that was Justin Schultz's actual hockey ability, I can't help but sit back and laugh. If they wrote a book about your immense amount of misfortune, someone on the outside would actually probably feel really bad. However this is hockey and despite the fact that your team and your story have been more sad than the first six minutes of the movie Up! not a single person has felt any sort of pity. Three first overall picks in the last five years and you're still lucky if you put your skates on the right foot the first time. I, along with so many others, will continue to mercilessly laugh at your incompetence for years to come.
Yeah, I guess that makes it six. Oh well.
5 - Dallas Stars
Pretty much anyone from the old five-team Pacific Division remembers the many days of sharing space with the Dallas Stars. And none of us liked it. For starters, games at your arena started two hours earlier due to a travel distance that was so far it was brutally ridiculous, especially for those first few post-2005 seasons where we had to see each other eight times every season.
But on top of that for years you've sported a roster that just oozes scum and vileness. The likes of Duck killers Mike Ribeiro, Loui Eriksson, Antoine Roussel, Stephane Robidas, Brenden Morrow, and Matt Niskanen. Every single one of these players was on the 2008 roster that eliminated the defending Stanley Cup champions in the quarterfinals.
Oh and then someone in your organization actually signed the paychecks you gave to the mutated piles of medical waste and sewage someone sparked life into a la Dr. Frankenstein and named Ryan Garbutt and Sean Avery.
And finally, let's talk your uniform history for a little bit. In 1997 you introduced an alternate uniform that would go on to be the basis of one of the most beautifully appropriate and slickest-looking jerseys in league history. In 1999, it would become both the primary home and away jerseys. I'll spare some punches and ignore the "Mooterus" alternate for now. But then you just had to go off and change it, all but eliminating the signature forest green and gold, replacing it with the most boring glorified beer-league jersey that looks like you bought them for $12 a piece from your local hockey shop. Seriously, the letters looked like they were heat-pressed on. Oh and the number front and center? This isn't the NBA. Though I'm sure you wished it was because the Mavericks have accomplished more in the last five years than you have in the last decade. Did you actually pay a design team to do this or did you just leave the job to the new intern and forget to check into it until the day before it had to be done? Either way you should get your money back. Finally, you put in the absolute least effort yet into a uniform with your most recent... "effort" by simply ripping the logo and bottom stripe off a Chicago Blackhawks St. Patrick's Day jersey and slapping on the bland atrocity you replaced your old gem with.
I know you wish you could emulate your new divisional pal's success on the ice but it's going to start with way more than just stealing their look. And likewise while you're at it, you might want to tell your second-best player not to emulate his counterpart in Chicago; they both drink about the same amount but if he keeps it up it's only a matter of time before party-boy extraordinaire Tyler Seguin punches a cab driver over 28 cents.
It's hard not to develop some animosity towards a team who you see in the playoffs what feels like every single freaking year. I can promise you this: nobody was happier to see Detroit off to the East than Anaheim. Their final year in the Western Conference proved to be one where yet again they would get the better of the Ducks in the playoffs, eliminating them in seven games.
But the history goes back so much further. Anaheim's first truly feel-good memory came in sweeping out the heavily favored defending champs in 2003 en route to the franchise's first appearance in both the third round and the Stanley Cup Final. This, however came after two separate instances when the Ducks were swept out of the playoffs by the Red Wings.
The next time these teams met would be in 2007 when Anaheim would get the better of Detroit again, this time in six games, despite the fact that Anaheim would even lose Chris Pronger for one of them because apparently the NHL decided it actually wanted to suspend a superstar on this one occasion.
The last two times would both go the way of the Wings, both coming in grueling seven-game wars.
Six total playoff series. The only other teams Anaheim has seen more than once in the playoffs are Dallas (three times), Flames (twice), and Wild (twice). It's like these two are star-bound forever to constantly run into each other in the playoffs. In fact, when Anaheim makes the Stanley Cup Final again, I'm fairly certain it's going to be the Winged Wheel on the other bench. This is one of those things that apparently just tickles the sick senses of humor possessed by the hockey gods.
All playoff history aside, this is a team who it's not hard to develop a sense of disdain for. Their goaltender Jimmy Howard makes the French soccer team look like Rocky Balboa in terms of staying on their feet after even the slightest contact. They employ Justin Abdelkader, who ended the career of defenseman Toni Lydman with a completely unnecessary vicious hit that resulted in a two-game suspension. And they pay Pavel Datsyuk. While Datsyuk isn't going to piss you off with a cheapshot (as he's usually a front-runner for the Lady Byng Trophy), the moment you so much as turn your eyes away from him for a split second, he'll have scored on you four times. He's truly an incredible talent but it just makes you rage internally when he sneaks his way into just a small amount of open space before making your team and goaltender look like the most recent rendition of Idiots on Ice. It pisses me off when he scores. Big time.
3 - San Jose Sharks
I had the wonderful privilege of attending the University of California Santa Barbara for my college degree. The weather was great, the atmosphere was vibrant, and there was something for absolutely everybody. I had the time of my life. However there was one thing I wasn't a huge fan of. Since this school was perched right in the middle of California's central coast, each class was an influx of students from all over the state. Want to know where the students from San Jose were? Just look around. Before every game against the Ducks that season, there were teal uniforms everywhere.
The Sharks have very little success to be proud of (unless you count President's Trophies and Conference Regular Season Championships as "success") but their fans certainly won't let you know that. Their Sharks can't lose. Their Sharks will always win. This is their season. It's going to happen. And your team just sucks and shouldn't even be on the same ice as theirs.
While I have to hand it to the Sharks fans because most of them are smart, savvy fans who know the team and the game well (and their spirit in support of their team is top-notch), I do have to say it's pretty easy to see why everyone latches on to them. For starters, they're the only ice hockey team in Northern California so they aren't split like the Southern California market, but likewise there is literally also nothing else in San Jose. In terms of pro sports their only rival is... an MLS Soccer team that has about as much success as the Sharks themselves (and also pales in comparison of success to its Los Angeles rival)? Yawn. Also, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom couldn't hold a candle to Magic Mountain. Fight me.
However, the team on the ice, while skilled and painful to play against for years, is in no way full of angels. This team once employed Raffi Torres because they believed he'd be a valuable addition to the squad. He proceeded to knock Emerson Etem out for weeks with a knee-on-knee collision. Last season they actually gave a paycheck to John Scott for reasons nobody, not even their fans, could figure out. This was particularly true after he punched Tim Jackman in the face with the butt end of his stick and got himself suspended. Lately the battles between these teams have become hot-headed and penalty-filled affairs because apparently the Sharks just have a way of getting under Anaheim's skin. It also didn't help that Anaheim lost four of their five meetings with the Sharks last season, three of them in downright embarrassing fashion.
And perhaps the most perpetually annoying thing about the Sharks is that you cannot trust them at all when you need them to get a big win. Just look back to 2014 where all Anaheim needed was for them to win one of a possible four games to avoid having to face Los Angeles in the playoffs... well... #ItWasThreeZero. Need the Kings to lose? Relying on the Sharks is like relying on Lucy to hold the football for you--you think that just maybe this time is different right up until you wind up on your back with a sore head and butt because she let you down again.
Oh, and Logan Couture looks like Butthead. There's that.
2 - Chicago Blackhawks
Speaking of fans who crawled out of the sticks, the Chicago Blackhawks could scarcely get 12,000 people into one of the largest buildings in the NHL before 2005. Their owner was a tightwad idiot who made Ebenezer Scrooge look like Bono in charitibility, they had zero talent, and to be honest very few people in the Windy City or anywhere else in the country even cared they still existed thanks to Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman. All this was great for Anaheim because trips to United Center pretty much meant a free two standings points.
Then the Blackhawks drafted two superstars by the names of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane and hired a guy named Joel Quennville as their head coach. NBC caught a wiff of that and suddenly started showing (almost) every single game of theirs on national television. Then they won a Stanley Cup. Now, suddenly out of nowhere, the Blackhawks have replaced the Red Wings as the team whose fans crawl out of the sticks every time they're in town and turn Honda Center into a hodgepodge mixture of red and black/orange.
Not only that, but the vast majority of these fans didn't even care about the team a decade ago. They only just recently latched on which makes them so typical of American sports fans: people cheer for whoever wins. While they're slightly better than a team later down this list at naming more than one player on their team (they have two memorable guys with easy to pronounce names), many of them are still only slightly more hockey-intelligent than Stephen A. Smith, and are about twice as loud.
Add in the fact that all of these "fans" have been able to enjoy the nice comfy bandwagon that has seen the team reach the Western Conference Final in four of the last six seasons in what has been one of the most successful runs in recent pro sports history makes it all the more infuriating. For nearly half a decade, the road to the Stanley Cup has moved out of Detroit and down into the Windy City, and it makes the team that plays there so deliciously detestable.
Also, LET SOMEONE ELSE HAVE A DAMN TURN AT AN OUTDOOR GAME FOR ONCE, OKAY? Want to know why fans are burning out on the outdoor games so quickly? Because it's The Chicago Blackhawks vs. Team B every single season!
So in summary: you have a team with a lengthy history of very little success finally getting two players, one of whom has a history of domestic violence and now (alleged) abuse and both of whom are fawned over incessantly by Pierre McGuire in every single one of what feels like 450 times per season they're on national television because the execs and NBC just fawn over them. Ultimately it's led to them becoming the sugar-water to the obnoxious mosquitos that is the dude-bros and success-leeches that is the bandwagon they call a fanbase. I rest my case. Next.
1 - Los Angeles Kings
Where do I begin to talk about the Los Angeles Kings?
Do I start with the players they've employed? How about their captain Dustin Brown who has developed a reputation as one of the league's most notorious and frequent embellishers (even to the point where his own broadcast team has called him out on it)? Or what about Jonathan Quick who screams at referees more than the Mexican National Soccer Team when he doesn't get every single call to go his way? Then there's coke-head Jarret Stoll who gave Cam Fowler a concussion by smashing Fowler's face into the glass from behind with his elbow (not technically with the team anymore but that's because his usefulness as a player had passed, right?). Or there's Slava Voynov and Drew Doughty, both of whom have been in serious trouble for assault in the past.
But most recently, there's Mike Richards, the massive bust who was caught with a controlled substance at the US-Canada border and arrested. The Kings promptly terminated his contract, thus wiping his massive salary burden right off the books. However, Voynov still gets a paycheck even though he's currently serving a prison sentence. Gee, I guess if the player is just dead weight you'll use any loophole to get around the rules, won't you? While they've handled their participation with the investigation well, I can't help but be disgusted by the fact that Los Angeles seems as though they will welcome back a player convicted of beating his spouse while terminating the contract of one who was a burden on the roster and got arrested for possession. Apparently, in LA, how talented and valuable the player is determines whether or not he stays on the roster despite his actions.
Or should I start with the in-arena atmosphere towards visiting fans which anybody who's ever been to a game at Staples Center can attest to? The organ player at nearly every other whistle, incites the fans into chants of "____ SUCKS!" In fact, the words "suck" and "Go Kings Go" are the only bits of hockey vocabulary most Kings "fans" even know.
Oh, and here we go. I just found a way to get started on the fans. Throughout the late 1990s and early 2000's (the "Golden Years" as I call them) the Los Angeles Kings were one of the crappiest teams in the NHL. They had a revolving door of goaltenders, a lineup of guys who couldn't figure out how to put it together, and a hilarious tendency to finish the season on an absolutely dreadful run of form that would sink them to one of the sub-basement positions in the Western Conference. They actually trusted Marc Crawford to be their head coach for more than one season.
Where were the fans at this point? You tell me. There were no Los Angeles Kings stickers on any cars anywhere. There were no jerseys in stores. No t-shirts on the streets. The only time you'd see them is when you went to a game and a few dozen of the long-suffering season seat holders would break it out of the closet to go brace themselves for another colossal letdown.
Then, much like the Blackhawks, the Kings suddenly improved again. They drafted Doughty and Anze Kopitar, and Quick emerged as a consistent, reliable, and in many cases remarkably talented goaltender. The Kings made the playoffs. Then they won a series. And finally at long last, in 2012, after an extreme streak of luck in which every single "contender" team that could have stood in their way lost in the round before they would have met, the Kings won a Stanley Cup.
And the bandwagon was hot. Fans started showing up in droves yelling about being a fan for life and how they've always been right there with the silver and black. Many of those same fans who have the tags still hanging off their jersey couldn't even tell you who their backup goaltender is, or who their captain is, or who any of their assistant coaches are. They probably couldn't even tell you which other teams Wayne Gretzky, the franchise's greatest player in history, played for. But hey, they don't care cause the Kings are the best, right? WHERE'S YOUR STANLEY CUP, STUPID DUCKS FAN!? The fact that in 2015 I'm still having to tell supposed "die-hard" Kings fans that Anaheim actually won it first is laughable, right along with those who claim that Anaheim's cup "doesn't count" for whatever reasons.
The level of hockey intelligence throughout the vast majority of the chest-beating Raiders-esque cultured bandwagon is about on par with one viewing of D2: The Mighty Ducks, but hey they pickup awfully quickly on their chant of "Hey Ducks fans... YOU SUCK!" And they scream it. Over. And over. And over. And over. And over again every single game like a broken record. The in-arena entertainment team brings in intermission entertainment like a professional chef teaching the fans how to roast a Duck, and condones their mascot Bailey dumping popcorn all over fans in opposition jerseys because hey, it's "funny."
So you have a team that's full of detestable players being spurned on by a franchise that condones and even encourages the bullying and abuse of traveling fans through its in game culture and entertainment, which has created a bandwagon of "fans" who are completely ignorant about the sport and their team because let's face it, they've only started watching because the Lakers suck. Yet they're still loud and belligerently drunk and seem to have one bad apple that starts a fight every time he comes to Honda Center like the Oakland Raiders fans of the NHL. And all of this is being managed by a staff that has shown a nearly blatant disregard for physical assault and continues to pay its superstar players who have been accused of it. It's like we live next to a frat house.
Worst. Neighbors. Ever.
Honorary Mention - Team Canada
I feel like I can't adequately punctuate this massive ball of loathing words that makes me feel like I need to go take a shower without making mention to the biggest rival of my other die-hard hockey allegiance. Being a born-and-raised California boy whenever the Olympics come about I'm all about team USA, and every Winter Olympics I'm glued to my TV to watch the Red, White and Blue take to the ice.
Of course that means my blood gets nice and hot whenever the guys on the other side have a maple leaf on their chest.
Yeah, we get it. You have one sport that you're actually good at. Lord knows it isn't soccer as your best player changed citizenship to have a chance at ever winning a Women's World Cup. So stacking your team with 25 of the best players in the world only makes sense. It's the one thing you're good at so go all out. Yet at this point you rarely lose. So all this constant parading of talent and going on and on and on about how Canada is the best just gets obnoxious. It's like watching a Montreal Canadiens pre-game ceremony only if the team were actually good. And with every gold medal or world championship you add to it, it's like watching Meryl Streep win best actress... again.
And for at least the last several years, it's been nothing but bitter disappointment for the USA at the senior level. Though admittedly most recently, with Canada sending an NHL all star team to the World Championships, you'd have to argue that it's kind of pointless to give the players title rings when you won a tournament against the rest of the world's B-teams.