I wish I could tell you the first hockey game I attended. I’ve often listened jealously to people recount romantic tales of their first time at Dodger Stadium or some similar arena. Sights, sounds and smells remembered with an alarming attention to every vivid detail. In contrast, my earliest memories of The Great Western Forum were of begging my Dad for a quarter so I could play the video games in the dimly lit concrete concourse. I couldn’t tell you what year it was, who the Kings were playing, who scored or even if it was a win or a loss.

The only thing I can say for sure is that it must have been some time before 1989. I have this souvenir cup from The Great Western Forum and the Lazers didn’t exist beyond 1989.

lazers cup

We moved to Los Angeles from Canada in 1981. I was three years old. Within a year my parents were divorced. While they had joint custody, I spent the vast majority of my time living with my Mom. Hockey games weren’t just an opportunity for entertainment, they were an opportunity to spend valuable time with my Dad.

We shared Season Tickets with one of his oldest friends. They had grown up together in Ottawa, rooting for the Montreal Canadiens. When they found themselves living in Southern California, decades later, with cheap hockey tickets and no reliable way to keep up with the Habs, they decided to become Kings fans. I’ll never forget the seats.

Section 12, Row 9, Seats 1 & 2.

I may not remember the first time we sat in those seats but I remember so many nights spent next to my Dad watching the Kings. I remember the parking lot battles trying to leave after the games, emptying out onto Prairie and then cutting down 99th to avoid a few congested blocks of Century Blvd before reaching the 405. I remember the troughs in the restrooms. I remember the printed newsletter that Mr. Section 12 would print out and leave on every seat before every game. In a completely unbelievable twist of fate, Mr. Section 12 turned out to be “The Mayor”, John Hoven, who I would befriend years later completely unaware of our shared history. I remember when my Dad asked me if I wanted Robitaille or Gretzky on the back of my first jersey and I remember being very pleased with myself for surprising him by saying Robitaille because I always loved that the crowd sounded like they were booing him when saying “Luc”. I remember how foolish I felt when I finally realized that the “Great Western Forum” was an ad for a bank and not a statement that our Forum was indeed “Great” and located in the “West”.

When the Kings moved from The Great Western Forum to STAPLES Center it was jarring but many of our routines survived. I was still responsible for smuggling my Dad’s drink into the building in my pockets. I always sat on the left, my Dad always on the right. After 20 plus years of these routines I can’t sit to the right of someone at a hockey game without it feeling completely alien. We met new fans in our new section. We learned about their families, their triumphs, their struggles and their passions.

Over the years the Kings rose and fell, players came and went, owners went to prison, the colors changed, the building changed but we kept going. The death of my Great Grandmother during the Stanley Cup Final in 1993 is the only thing I can remember keeping us from a game. I attended Wayne Gretzky’s 802nd Goal game sick as a dog. It’s cliche to say that 16,005 people will say they were at that game but I still have the ticket stub to prove it.


It wasn’t just going to the games together either. We developed a playfully competitive game called “DIDJA HERE THE NEWS???” where one of us learns some information about the Kings and instantly calls the other (in the hopes they’re unaware) and excitedly blurts out “DIDJA HEAR THE NEWS???” and then forces the other one to narrow it down by process of elimination. We both joined the message board Lets Go Kings, followed Rich Hammond’s blog and would listen to Kings Talk start to finish no matter how many times “Paul” would call and drive us crazy.

When I started playing hockey in my late teens nothing made me happier then when my Dad would come and watch me. When I had a little money I eventually bought him a jersey to repay him for all the jerseys he had bought me over the years. I bought him a Montreal Canadiens jersey customized with his favorite player from when he was growing up. He still wears it practically everywhere to this day. I think it drives my sisters crazy but it makes me happy to no end.


When I started podcasting about the Kings at the beginning of the 2007-2008 season with Matt Murray, there was no bigger supporter than my Dad.

The 2011-2012 Season would change all of that. By December of 2011, Terry Murray had been fired as Head Coach of the LA Kings and been replaced by the semi-retired Darryl Sutter. The Kings offense was awful, the team was threatening to miss the playoffs and I was completely depressed. Not only were the Kings failing miserably to live up to lofty expectations of Stanley Cup contention but at the end of the season my father, step-mother and two little sisters (at the time 15 and 8 years old) were moving to South Carolina.

While that 2011-2012 Season was unfolding my Dad would say that it was typical of the Kings. He would say it helped make his decision to leave their life and their friends behind that much easier. I hated hearing it every single time though I’m sure I never said anything about it. As the season went on and the move date loomed closer and the Kings season faltered further the more depressed I became. I stopped doing the podcast and spent most of my free time driving up from Long Beach to L.A. to spend time with my sisters before they moved.

Then, ever so slowly, the Kings started turning the ship around. Dwight King and Jordan Nolan were recalled, Jack Johnson was traded for Jeff Carter and suddenly the team looked completely different on the ice. We joked that the only reason they were giving us any hope was that it would hurt more when they inevitably failed to make the playoffs or were swept in the first round. I missed the podcast but wanted something different from what it had become when we stopped doing it.

That’s when I reached out to The Royal Half and The Mayor.

I had spoken to TRH a few times over the phone for the podcast but beyond that we were strangers. The only things I knew about him was that he was funny as hell and he loved the Kings as much as I did. The Mayor and I had met and developed a friendship built mostly on yelling at each other during training camps and competing to see who could produce the most obscure bit of Kings trivia off the top of their head. He remains the champ but this is the only time or place that you’ll ever catch me admitting it.

As “All The Kings Men” was growing and developing and the Kings were laying the foundation of their playoff run, my family was making their final moving plans. They would fly and I would drive their two dogs across county to their new home and then fly home. A final departure day was chosen.

June 13th, 2012.

That it might interfere with the Stanley Cup Final didn’t even register. The Kings made the playoffs as an 8th seed. They had struggled all season long. They would lose in the first round to the President Trophy winning Canucks and that would be that and my Dad would move to South Carolina.

Of course they didn’t lose to Vancouver. They upset them in 5 games. My Dad and I were there for Game 4. A loss. Of course. They’d lose to the Blues and we wouldn’t even see them win a playoff game. Typical Kings. Only winning if it hurts more to lose later.

Then they swept the Blues. The first sweep in Kings history. We were there for Game 4. I’ve never heard anything as loud as STAPLES Center when Dustin Brown scored the empty net goal to secure the victory. While we both agreed it would be a terrific way to end our 20+ year run of going to games everybody was now seriously considering the possibility that the Kings could contend for the Stanley Cup. Suddenly the June 13th date become troubling.

Then the Kings beat the Coyotes in 5 games. Then the Kings were in the Stanely Cup Final.

The months I would have spent moping and dreading my family moving were spent obsessing over the amazing playoff run the Kings were on. Phone calls that would have been spent discussing moving plans were spent arguing over who was more deserving of Conn Smythe consideration. No matter what happened in the Final the Kings had given my Dad and I an incredible finish to our Southern California story.

We went to Game 3 vs the Devils. The Kings won 4-0. A more perfect game I couldn’t have imagined at that point in my life.

Then they lost Game 4. Then they lost Game 5.

Game 6 was June 11th.

Game 7 was scheduled for June 13th. 2012.

If it went 7 my Dad would be on a plane headed to South Carolina. I would be trapped at work. The run of miracles seemed over. It seemed inevitable that the Kings would find a way to spoil the story book ending.

Then Game 6 happened. I spent most of the third period in a delirious state constantly glancing at the clock wanting desperately for it to move faster to secure the victory but also never wanting the evening to end. I realized in the final ten seconds that my face was about to do something truly horrible and ugly but I had no where to hide when the final buzzer sounded and the Kings were finally Stanley Cup champions. So I wept. I cried gigantic ugly ridiculous man tears standing next to my Dad. We had been to hundreds of games over more than two decades, two countries and multiple buildings. I had grown up sitting to his left watching these games. Learning who he was by how he rooted. Learning what he valued by how he taught me the game. Learning what he admired by the players he loved. Learning how much I was like him when we agreed and learning to be my own man when we didn’t. In that absurd moment all I wanted to do was let him know how much I appreciated everything he had ever done for me.

Every hockey game he took me to, every jersey he bought me, every school concert he attended, every birthday cake he made sure was shaped like the Ghostbusters logo. Everything.

I don’t remember if I said anything close to any of that but somehow I doubt it. We were engrossed in the handshake line, the Cup presentation and the bedlam that was unfolding on the ice. We sat in the stands for what must have been an hour. After we finally left we sat at a bar across the street. There wasn’t much to say.

It was a perfect ending.


I still don’t really understand how the whole playoff run happened and part of me truly believes that somehow the Universe arbitrarily decided that my Dad and I deserved to experience that playoff run. Over the next few days I had friends, relatives and co-workers tell me that they had watched the game simply because they knew how much it meant to us. People I barely knew approached me and congratulated me on the win as if I was part of the team.

Two weeks later I was back home from South Carolina, a grown ass man with no idea how to be a hockey fan without his Dad.

That brings me to the second part of this rambling catharsis.

So many in the hockey community have become such a huge part of my life over the past few years.

The Mayor has always been supportive, encouraging and inspirational.

Matt Murray helped me find my podcasting voice and is a never ending font of enthusiasm and creativity.

Jim Fox, Daryl Evans, Rich Hammond and Jon Rosen have been eternally generous with their time, patience and insight.

PumperNicholl, Jack A. Wilson, JerseyBrian, HSTHB, King Tufficult, Indiana Matt, Flubber McGee, Duke of LA, Ironsight Designs…. and all the WAGS, siblings, parents, dogs and friends that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting… you guys are the stuff of legend.

That brings me to The Royal Half.

The Royal Half has welcomed me into his home and his hobby and his life. He has been both supportive and generous but also has challenged me to work harder (sometimes), do more, be more and want more.  I’m fond of telling TRH that “in many ways, you and I are very different people.” Part of my fondness stems from a belief that it truly annoys him but part of it is because I love that we see the world so differently but both love to laugh at and about it. When TRHDad passed away this year it was heartbreaking but also a lesson in how to deal with tragedy and a reminder to count and enjoy your blessings while you can.

I have so many things to be thankful for and I have so many wonderful people in my life, but the only thing constant in life is change. Someday, hopefully in the distant future, I’ll hear an incredible piece of news about the Kings and my Dad won’t be there to play “DIDJA HEAR THE NEWS???” When that day comes I fear I won’t handle it well. I hope I can handle it HALF as well as TRH appeared to.

Until then I’m thankful for every phone call, every argument, every joke and every moment I have with my Dad, my Mom, my sisters, my friends and everybody else that I love and that loves me.

I’m thankful for any of you that follow me on twitter, listen to the podcast or even if you have no idea who I am but you took the time to read this entire thing.

I’m thankful for the Kings for giving us something to share as a community. For providing us with heroes, villains, epic rivalries and endless competition.

For strengthening the bond between a father and a son and for helping to forge new friendships.

Thank you LA Kings. Thank you LA Kings fans. Thank you TRH.

Thank you Dad.




The only thing Jesse Cohen loves more than the LA Kings is talking to strangers about the LA Kings. You can follow Jesse Cohen on Twitter @KingsMenPodcast.