In pro wrestling terms it was a classic heel turn. The babyface (good guy) loved by millions, says something ever so casual – yet instantly turns off his longtime admirers.
This one is going to be pretty simple to follow…
And with those few little sentences, Wayne Simmonds turned from a guy who was universally loved by hockey fans in LA into public enemy number one back in December.
Having played in both cities himself, when I spoke with Ian Laperriere a few days ago, I asked him for his take on the situation…
“I know exactly what he means by that,” Lappy began. “The Kings do have their core fans. I have a lot of respect for them. But, the thing is, LA is such a big town. Philly is a lot smaller and all of the four (major) sports (venues) are pretty much in the same area. It’s different, it’s totally different. Both teams have great fans. I didn’t talk to Wayne about it and it went under the radar here in Philly, nobody really talked about it. But, I know for a fact that he didn’t mean to hurt anybody’s feelings. He just meant that in Philly – like we have tailgating every game, it doesn’t matter what sport, they’re hardcore fans. In LA it’s such a wide town, people are so spread out, it’s tough to have that identity there.”
Lappy’s right on this one. LA loves winners. When the Lakers are winning, this is their town. When the Dodgers are winning, this is their town. In 1993 when the Kings went to the Stanley Cup Finals, this was their town.
On a nightly basis, season after season though, the Kings don’t ‘own’ LA with the same fervor the Flyers do in Philly.
Here’s a good litmus test you can use to determine if you live in a good hockey town. And this applies to any NHL city. Walk into the local bar on a Saturday night and see if they have the game on (featuring your hometown team). If they don’t, you’re not off to a good start. When you request they turn it on, if they ask you what channel it’s on…case closed.
Some day in the future, the Kings will make a deep playoff run again. Many will be surprised how much of a hockey town LA can be. Until then, the team isn’t getting top billing on most nights – even with a packed house for every game.
So, back to Simmonds. What’s Lappy’s take on the season he’s having, including already netting a career-high 22 goals?
“Wayne’s been playing unbelievable. It’s nothing flashy. He does his dirty work, but he puts the puck in the net. He’s physical, he’s tough and he made a name for himself right away by fighting a couple of the big boys in the East. He did really well, so he’s made a lot of room for himself on the ice.”
Now, go back and watch the video again. He wasn’t calling out Kings fans for being inferior to Flyers fans. He simply said Philly is a great hockey town.
Guess what? It is.