Monday, March 30, 2009

Found in Translation

I published this over at CycleLikeTheSedins first, because it wasn't Kings related. But here is what I've been doing with my downtime on my spring "vacation."

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Last week I headed to Japan for a stay of 5 weeks. I had known this trip was coming for a long while... and knowing full well that if my beloved Los Angeles Kings were still contending for that 8th playoff seed... I wouldn't be able to experience it at all. Luckily it seems like the Kings are going to make my stay in Japan a pleasant one... since I don't have to worry about calling my Season Ticket Rep from overseas to secure playoff tickets. It looks like this will be the 7th consecutive year that I will be unable to see playoff hockey in person... so I decided to do the next best thing. Crash Game 6 of the Asia League Hockey Finals!

Why just simply get off at the Higashi-Fushimi station off the Seibu-Shinjuku line to get to the rink. Duh!

The DyDo Drinco Ice Arena was right across the street from the station and if that wasn't easy enough, there were giant banners of the hometown Seibu Prince Rabbits as you walked towards the entrance.

No way! I forgot Tanaka was on the Prince Rabbits!

Here we go Kamino... here we go!

I hadn't even made it into the stadium yet and I already wanted to buy some merch. I mean, is this the coolest staff jacket you've ever seen or what?


My co-worker (who happens to be a huge Pittsburgh Penguins fan) and I made our way to the ticket booth and were able to secure walk up tickets to Game 6 for 30 bucks (3000 yen). When I went to Game 6 against the Colorado Avalanche in 2002 (the last time the Kings had a home playoff game) the tickets I got off eBay went for $180 a piece.

Ticket in hand, and 2 overly cynical hard-core hockey fans actually starting to get excited about making it to this game, we headed to the front entrance. I mean, if this league was good enough for Esa Tikkanen to play in one season and then coach the next... it had to be good enough for me... right? Well... we walked in and this is what we saw...


And then I knew it was going to be awesome.


Sure the place only held about 1600, but it was packed... standing room only. The atmosphere was incredibly festive... with the fans of the home Seibu Prince Rabbits and the opposing Nippon Paper Cranes filling the building. It actually reminded me of a Kings game at Staples Center in the sense that everyone in the arena was passionate about the game... but if you stepped back outside, no one knew what the heck hockey was.


Now, I've been witness to some horrible, horrible team slogans in my lifetime as a hockey fan. (Just look at this years PRIDE = PASSION = POWER campaign for the Kings) But for theSeibu Prince Rabbits... they keep it simple. "Smile." Yup, that's right. The #1 ranked team in the Asia League Ice Hockey has a slogan of "Smile."

Somewhere, deep in the canyons of Los Angeles, Brian Wilson is... well... smiling.

We decided to wander around and explore the arena... and that's when I caught the Japanese Brian Burke staring down at his re-built playoff team.

A cross-armed GM translates in any language.

We were both hoping for a better home team merch table as this was the only booth set up.


So this is what it's like to not have Sidney Crosby on the front of every hockey magazine.

But on the other side of the arena, there was a bit of a surprise.

I flew halfway around the world and all I found was this stupid replica Vancouver jersey.

Also for sale were the McFarlane NHL figurines.


And then this caught my eye underneath the table.

I had no idea Play It Again Sports had an international presence.

The atmosphere may be different, but one thing remains the same when experiencing American and Japanese sports... cheerleaders!


Every time there was a stop in play, the Prince Rabbit cheerleaders would step out to the boards and cheer their little Japanese hearts out. And yes... they would smile.


As for the quality of the hockey... well, it was on par to the handful of sub-ECHL league games that I've been to. (Yup, I've seen a CHL Austin Ice Bats game before. Actually 2 of them.) Although the finesse may not have been there, there was a playoff intensity between all the players.

Former Boston Bruin and Colorado Avalanche (18 NHL Games!) Joel Prpic is the big non-native star for the Price Rabbits and the crowd goes wild for him. The Nippon Paper Cranes also have a star Gaijin playing for them... but he may have the most un-marketable name in sports history.


But for me... the most impressive player of the night came from the opposing Paper Cranes. One of their defensemen was rocking white skates...

Just like Kurt Russell in "The Best of Times."

There must have been some magic in those old white skates of his, as this defenseman scored a goal near the end of the 1st period. But then one of the strangest things I've ever seen at a hockey game happened. The referee left the ice and went to the back of the penalty box... to review the goal.

The Tokyo equivalent of the Toronto War Room.

The goal stood... and the period ended with the Prince Rabbits up 3-2. And then the players all exited the ice from the same door.

How cool would the Stanley Cup Playoffs be if the teams shared an exit door?
No, after you Mr. Lemiuex. No, after you Mr. Draper.

In between periods, the experience was very similar to NHL games. Fans shared smokes outside...


there was a long line for the bathroom...


and they ate delicious bean pastry treats...


Since my co-worker and I were actually supposed to be working and not sneaking away for a few hours to see Game 6 of the Asia League Ice Hockey finals... we decided to stay for the first few minutes of the 2nd period before taking off. The Zamboni (Japan is still rocking the 1 Zamboni system) left the ice and then Prince Rabbit fans assembled to begin cheering.



Could you imagine NHL fans being this passionate AND polite about their favorite team...


Suddenly, a giagantic banner was lifted over these fans and some intense cheering began.




And then once the craziness was over... the Japanese fans neatly and quickly folded the banner. That's just the Japanese way.


With that, my co-worker and I made our way back to the train station and sadly... back to work. Ice Hockey in Japan is still in its infancy, but from what I saw, there is a passion that could easy catch on. The Japanese are extremely dedicated to their teams... a trait they share with their American NHL fan counterparts. Later that night, we found out that the Price Rabbits had won 4-3 and forced a Game 7. They would go on to lose to the Nippon Paper Cranes the next night and later that day, my co-worker found an article that informed us that the Seibu Prince Rabbits would be folding next season. From my limited experience, Seibu was one of the more popular teams in the Asia League... so the collapse of more teams in the Asia League Ice Hockey may not be far behind.

In the meantime, while the sport still struggles to gain popularity in Japan, what is a hockey fan to do? Well... it's simple. Smile!


Special, special, special thanks to Simon over at the amazing JHockey. Without his help, I would have never been able to figure out how to go to this great game. Also, check out his recap of the final Prince Rabbits game.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Checking In...

It's not like I want to ignore blogging right now! But I've just been so darn busy working overseas... and quite honestly... the Los Angeles Kings haven't given me all that much to be writing about. Inconsistent over these important games, it's a reminder that the Kings still have a long way to go to be the dominant young team a lot of experts are predicting they will be. Half Season Ticket Holder Buddy and I have been hardly talking over IM about the Kings... so that can't be good.

In the meantime, check out a sneek peak of what I did last week with a few hours off:



That's right. There is hockey in Japan. Playoff hockey even.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Greatest Line of All

Ivanans-Armstrong-Westgarth

This is the greatest line the Los Angeles Kings will ever field. Also, in tonights Super-Important Game Kings fans get their season long wish as Kyle Calder is out tonight... just a few days after Half Season Ticket Holder Buddy mentioned how especially worthless Calder has seemed the last few games. Taking Calder's spot on that 2nd line is none other than Peter Harrold. Peter Harrold is the Kordell Stewart of the Kings... powerplay defenseman... 4th line right winger. I've always liked Peter Harrold. I think he has decent offensive instincts and I've been totally fine with the way he's been playing this year. Sure, sometimes he makes a dumb pass or gets run over with his head down, but I'd still rather have him out there than Calder.

Hey, awesome Fox Sports West! Thanks for actually broadcasting this game tonight. Oh wait what? It's an illegal internet stream I have to watch tonight? Okay, what ever you say!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Fine! I'm Leaving!

So I go out of town for 5 days and the Kings win 3 home games. So you know what? Fine... on Monday the 16th, I'm leaving town for 5 weeks so that the Kings will win their remaining games and make it into the playoffs... maybe even as a 7th seed! This is the kind of personal sacrifice I make for the Los Angeles Kings!


What... you are going out of town? NOOOOOOOOO!

I knew when I renewed my Half Season Ticket Package in September that I would be out of town for these 5 weeks at the end of the season. I guess I had just planned on the Kings being totally out of the running for a playoff spot and instead battling to draft John Tavares with the #1 overall draft pick. Don't get me wrong... I'm VERY glad they are battling for a playoff spot.


Sweet! Dad is going out of town! Party!!!

So what does these mean to the fan of The Royal Half blog? Well... don't you worry fan, I'll still be providing my same patent-pending snarky and hysterical analysis of the Los Angeles Kings Hockey Team and Surrounding Properties... just from the other side of the world. I will be watching the games via Slingbox or illegal internet streaming... so the screen-cap humor that you've come to love may not be as frequent. Also, hopefully the people that Half Season Ticket Holder Buddy takes to the game in my place will contribute like Brian did for the Wild game. But I will continue to post regularly as we watch the Kings compete for their first playoff berth in over 7 years... the same amount of time I've been a Half Season Ticket Holder. Sigh.


Matt Greene deals with the shock of me going out of town the only way he knows how.
Self inflicted wounds.


I will also continue to post over at Cycle Like the Sedins. And be sure to keep checking out things over there as James continues to make that site grow. Now, all we need for this whole thing to work is for the Kings to continue their winning ways and for Justin Williams to come back and lead this team to the promised land, tendons or not. After all, the Kings are now 3-0 in the Justin Williams Era.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Tossing Cookies

Since I was unable to go to last Saturday's Los Angeles Kings victory over the Minnesota Wild, Half Season Ticket Holder Buddy brought our good friend and lifelong New Jersey Devils fan (and ardent supporter of the Charlotte Checkers), Brian, to the game. And since Brian is one of the funniest writers I know (plus he actually gets paid for it) I invited him to do the "First Ever Royal Half Guest Blog!" Take it away, Brian!


I want to warn all of you looking for an in-depth analysis of the game from the perspective of someone sitting in the Staples Center, then you’re looking for the wrong guy. To paraphrase Sally Field – I like hockey, I really, really like hockey, but I’m not as knowledgeable about the sport, or the Kings, as Mr. Kontos, Half Season Ticket Holder Buddy, or Barry Melrose. Any analysis of the game coming from me will sound like amateur hour.


This was a prototype 3rd jersey logo for the Ducks.

But luckily, yesterday, there was more than just hockey going on: There were Girl Scout Cookies for sale in the hallways!!! They’re the only cookies in the world that I would dump my fiancĂ©e for. Yes, people, I would marry a cookie if it were legal in California!!! Cookie lovers have rights, too!


With this cookie, I thee wed.

As I sat with Half Season Ticket Holder Buddy, I realized that that the ebb and flow of yesterday’s game was much like a Girl Scout Cookie selection. While I may not be an authority on hockey, I am an expert on Girl Scout Cookies (aka: Satan’s Biscuits).

So, I’ve created a system to rate the game based on Satan’s Biscuits:



A Box Of Do Si Dos = The “Honorable Mention” award. Based on the concept, this cookie should be amazing, but it leaves you a bit disappointed.



A Box of Thin Mints = The bronze. It’s a really good cookie, but unless you eat an entire sleeve of them, they’re unsatisfying.



A Box of Samoas = The Silver. This one had a shot at going for the gold, but it’s covered in coconut, and that’s just weird. But I can overlook this slight flaw to enjoy it.



A Box of Tagalongs = “The Cookie of the Gods. I shall say no more.

So let’s break it down period by period.

1st Period:

After Thursday night’s explosive third period and overtime, the Kings could’ve come out flat, but instead seemed charged and ready to go. While the Kings should’ve taken a one-goal lead into the dressing room, they let the Wild score a tying goal in the final minutes of the period, swinging the momentum back a bit towards Lemaire and Co. The period may have ended in disappointing fashion, but overall, it was a decent start.
That’s why the first period deserves a box of: THIN MINTS

2nd Period:

Shut down the Wild offense: Check
Get a lead: Check
Extend lead further: Check
Cute, busty girls on skates cleaning the ice: Check
Only negative: No fight.
Sounds like an almost perfect period to me.
That’s why the second period deserves a box of: SAMOAS

3rd Period:

By allowing a 3rd goal to the Wild early in the period, the Kings shifted, and began playing not to lose. I hate that. As a NY Giants fan, I’ve seen this backfire all too many times, and it drives me NUTS. Sure the Kings clamped down on D after that goal, but it wasn’t really the same game they had playing in the first two periods. It was a little too close for comfort at the end.
That’s why the third period gets a box of: DO-SI-DOS

Overall:

A win is a win. The game had potential for a four-point swing in the wrong direction, and luckily, the pendulum swung in the Kings’ way. The playoff picture may not be clear yet, but they’re still in the hunt, and that’s all you can ask for. They swept the Wild for the season, and that’s got to feel good.
That’s why this game earned a box of: TAGALONGS

Oh, and one final thing, Rangers Suck.



Thanks so much Brian! I have a feeling Brian might be able to do more guest posts here in the future! And a few weeks ago, Brian played a fierce game of Kingo and sent in his playing card: