Behind Enemy Lines: Infiltrating the Staples Center in LA

New York Rangers win against Stanley Cup rivals LA Kings, last Thursday.  Courtesy of BlueshirtsUnited.
It was the rematch that fans had been waiting for seven months for: the New York Rangers and the Los Angeles Kings. FullTilt’s own, Kaet Perna went behind enemy lines as Riff the Ranger for an on location report.

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The NY Rangers are no strangers to loss, their entire journey for the last four years in the playoffs that led them to the Eastern Conference Finals was filled with loss whether it be the games they played or the players they traded.
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The Stanley Cup loss was a hard one for fans.  It has been twenty long years since NY’s last Cup.  For LA, it had only been two short years, But since the offseason moves and early season struggles, the Rangers’ have become an incredibly fierce team.
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So, when the Rangers had to face the Kings again, fans began to fret.  Having won the last 12 of 13 games, the Rangers were unstoppable but how would they do against the Kings?
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Fans wrung their hands nervously but I decided to take a little trip to Los Angeles to support the Blueshirt Boys in an effort to overthrow the Feudal Overlords.  After a six hour direct flight and a little trip to Santa Monica Beach, I found myself surrounded by Kings fans at the Staples Center.
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Let’s get this out of the way: Kings fans are great people.  There are a few nasty ones for sure, but you’d never feel as safe wearing a homemade Rangers mascot uniform then you would with the Kings fans.
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I took a few photos at the Stubhub fan center and was off to the ice for warmups.  Rangers fans were abound and a hundred or so of us were there to support the boys in blue.  Some were on vacation, some had been to the game where Rangers dominated the NHL leadering Anaheim Ducks and some of them were Dancing Larry.

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Dancing Larry, the biggest fan of them all, with his All American Ford commercial and shield jersey had been in town, too.
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Warmups were over and some of us found our way to the beer vendors and our nosebleed seats that incited sweaty palms and extreme vertigo.  Rangers fans were sandwiched between Kings fans, it was all love until the game started.
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“GO KINGS GO!  GO KINGS GO! GO KINGS GO!” the fans would chant.  Then the champs scored.  Oh no, not again, all Ranger fans thought.
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“Let’s go Rangers!” we started chanting.  One annoying Kings girl at the other end of the section booed and yelled, “oh you think you’re cute…”  Then halfway through the first period, Rangers scored.  We all cheered, it wasn’t so loud as when the Kings scored.
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“Who’s cute now?!  Who’s cute now?!” I stood up and yelled.  She was silent the rest of the night.
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The rest of the night went on that way, and as the Rangers continued to score and the chants continued on, it was clear that the Kings were not going to win this one.  “Go Kings Go.  Go Kings Go.  Go Kings Go.
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Kings fans are good hockey people.  They are excited, devoted and will defend their title as champions.  But going to a Kings game isn’t nearly as daunting as say going to an Islanders or Flyers game where tension is so high that you might get beat up. Although, most Kings fans wouldn’t agree if you were speaking about the Sharks or Ducks.

“Once a Shark, always a Shark,” said one Kings fan in regards to defensemen Dan Boyle.

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By the third period, it was still clear that LA was not going to win.  In traditional fashion of the opposing team losing, secret eighth grade science teacher and all around agitator, Dom Moore sustained several cheap shots and was involved in a tiny scrum.
But when the Kings scored in the third to bring the score to 4-3, tension ran high and Rangers fans feared the worst.  Don’t tie it up, don’t tie it up, we said.  We counted down the seconds to the end of the period and the end of the game.  The game horn sounded, the New York Rangers won, and we were satisfied.
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These were not the same boys that played seven months earlier.  They were focused, they were energized and they were fierce.  It was evident from the warmups that the Rangers did not plan to lose.
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Now being third in the division and within grasping distance in points to the Penguins, the Rangers are unstoppable having defeated two strong Western Conference teams.  Will they do it again with the Sharks?  Are we headed to another Stanley Cup Final?  I think so.

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