5) Chicago Blackhawks
I'll be frank here: the only reason Chicago is on this list is because I had to make it five deep. If I could, I would replace this team with the University of North Dakota (go Gophers) in a heartbeat. I don't hate the Hawks, but I am very, very sick of them. After having lived in Minneapolis for the better part of the last five years, I've seen an insane amount of Blackhawks apparel around the Twin Cities. It's understandable, though; there are a ton of people who relocate to the area from eastern Wisconsin, and since Milwaukee doesn't have a team, the Hawks are who they claim as theirs due to the proximity.
I've never been a fan of seeing repeat conference or league champions in any sport, since the storyline of the same teams playing for the title so often is a stale one to me (sidenote: as hypocritical as it may sound, if the Ducks won back-to-back Cups this year and next to shut up a certain "2 titles in 3 years" contingent, I wouldn't mind). True, Chicago hasn't won consecutive Western Conference titles yet, but their success is still so consistent that I'd just love to see some underdog wipe them out in the first round of the playoffs. I'd be lying if I said their seven-game battle they took over the Ducks had nothing to do with my feelings towards them as well, even though that Game 7 was very much in part decided by Anaheim's own ineptitude in such a situation.
I used to really like Chelsea Dagger as a goal celebration, but like every other song, if you hear it too much, it gets obnoxious real fast.
4) San Jose Sharks
Imagine, if you will, a trio of siblings. An older sister and younger, more attractive brother who constantly argue day in and day out with the occasional physical altercation thrown in. Occasionally, the red-headed step-brother, desperate for attention from the other two, will try to insert himself into one of these disputes. These are the moments where the sister and brother mutually agree to hit the pause button just for a moment to tell the step-brother that he doesn't belong in the argument. He needs to leave them alone, because he is being annoying again. The step-brother sulks away once more. He'll try to get through to the siblings again soon, but he has that nagging feeling in the pit of his stomach that says there is really no telling when they will finally respect him. If he keeps trying, it could happen eventually, or it might not, but if the red-headed step-brother is being totally honest with himself, he knows it won't be any time in the near future.
The San Jose Sharks are the red-headed step-brother of the California hockey teams.
3) Detroit Red Wings
Being a hockey fan growing up in the Denver metro area in the late 90s brought with it a sort of requirement: a healthy dislike for the Detroit Red Wings. This was the era that the Wings and Colorado Avalanche were constantly at each others' throats as the most elite teams in the Western Conference. I've gone on record to say that if their success doesn't negatively impact the Ducks in any way, I will support my home team as my second favorite squad. By that association, I've been an anti-Detroit guy for just about the entirety of my hockey fandom. It definitely doesn't hurt their standing on this list when you consider the fact that whenever they didn't meet up with the Avs in the playoffs, it feels like they somehow almost always drew the Ducks. Detroit unfortunately holds the last laugh in the postseason rivalry due to the first of three consecutive blown 3-2 series leads from the Ducks, but if that memory still leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth, allow me to offer you a sufficiently refreshing palate cleanser:
One more? If you insist...
Detroit's playoff streak currently has a longer lifespan than I do. I'm waiting on pins and needles for the day when I can finally see the Red Wings on the outside looking in while their pouty fans will likely keep reminding everyone else about their X straight appearances that nobody else will ever touch like anyone outside of Michigan actually cares.
2) New Jersey Devils
I was ten years old when the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim made their first Stanley Cup Final appearance. After watching them flounder around at the bottom of the Western Conference for years, a dominating Cinderella run through two powerhouses and another upstart hopeful had me, and I'm sure all of you as well, incredibly anxious about their final series against the winners of the East. After a seesaw series, the Devils took the decisive winner-take-all game, and since I used to be a pretty emotional kid, I bawled over that loss. The thing that easily bothered me the most besides actually losing the Stanley Cup was from the award ceremony following the final horn. The Conn Smythe Trophy was awarded to our boy Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who carried the team through the Western half of the playoff bracket with a ludicrous performance. However, despite the excitement knowing that their team just won the most important trophy in all of hockey, Continental Airlines Arena rained down boos so passionate you would have thought the man they were directed towards just clubbed a baby seal. Devil fans were irate over the fact that Martin Brodeur got "snubbed" for the Playoff MVP because they believe their goalie outplayed Giguere in the Final, and apparently it still stings for some of them to this day (kick rocks, Mike). I suppose I can understand their feelings when considering their argument, but it seems like a lot of them fail to realize that the Conn Smythe goes to the most valuable player of the entire playoffs, not just the final series. Also, if the Devil faithful really felt so aggravated that their team took home the Stanley Cup and not the Conn Smythe, I feel comfortable speaking for all Duck fans and JS Giguere that we'll gladly trade you trophies if you want that one so badly.
That series took place twelve years ago now, and the Ducks ended up winning a Stanley Cup anyway. Nevertheless, that 2003 Final broke my fragile young psyche to the point where I'll think about it and get a strong dose of sodium from how salty I still am.
1) Los Angeles Kings
The first (and only) time I have ever been to a game at the Honda Center was on October 25, 2006. It was the first season as the rebranded Ducks and they were facing off against the Edmonton Oilers that night. The last time these two teams met, the Oilers skated away with the Western Conference crown after dominating the Mighty Ducks in five games, and the desire for revenge created an electric atmosphere in the building. This was my first time visiting California, and I still didn't really understand the hatred that Anaheim and LA fans had for each other until that game. Sometime that night, I saw a couple of people in Kings jerseys in a section near mine. They weren't cheering for the Oilers, but they sure got up and made some noise whenever a Duck took a hit, or Roloson turned aside a shot. These people literally spent money for tickets to a game hosted by a team that they hate just for the chance to make fun of them. Anaheim ended up winning 6-2 anyway, so there wasn't much for them to get excited about, but screw those guys.
Also, this team has been known to employ great guys such as Jarret Stoll and Slava Voynov. Great job handling the Mike Richards situation, too. The amount of "free Voynov" comments I've seen from King fans is absurd. It's not a stretch to say that Los Angeles supporters are the New England Patriot fans of the NHL. I understand all Kings fans aren't like that, and there's a fair share of respectable ones in the bunch, but I don't know how you local fans can put up with them. I really don't.