After the first weekend of the season, the Kings have a 1-1 home record. Home? Not only were both games more than 5,000 miles away from Staples Center, but the Kings were decidedly not the fan favorite in either game. In Stockholm, the Kings faced the New York Rangers, with Swedish goalie Henrik Lundqvist and Norwegian defenseman [corrected: forward] Mats Zuccarello. In Berlin, the Kings faced the Buffalo Sabres, with Germany’s Christian Ehrhoff and Jochen Hecht (scratched), Austria’s Thomas Vanek and Slovakia’s Andrej Sekera.
The Kings’ only European player, Anze Kopitar, is from Slovenia and played three years in Sweden, and the Kings certainly did have some support in both cities but for the most part they were given only polite applause in Stockholm and were actually booed in Berlin. “Home games.’’ In the locker room after the game, several players were quietly grumbling about the situation, but coach Terry Murray took a “what can you do?’’ attitude.
MURRAY: “Well, that’s what happens. They’ve got more Europeans than we do. They have a German player, Ehrhoff. They’ve got Sekera. They’re all pretty local kids. So there’s a big following. Jochen Hecht was a big player for them over the years. It’s a team that has been followed (in Germany) and that’s the way it goes. We’ll have to try to recruit some more European players and do this over again.’’
Players and some staff, though, seemed more irritated at the game presentation. The Kings drew home-game status in both games largely because their parent company, AEG, operates the Stockholm arena and owns and operates the Berlin arena. The game presentation, though, seemed heavily tilted toward the “visiting teams,’’ particularly in Stockholm. Perhaps that was because the game-presentation directors for the two games came, respectively, from the Rangers and Sabres? When they took the ice before the game, and during highlight/promo packages, the Kings seemed like the visiting team, and after the Stockholm game, team executives spoke to the league about their displeasure. The situation improved a bit in Berlin, but players certainly didn’t feel at home, captain Dustin Brown said.
BROWN: “These were two home games for us, and we’re playing not only on the road, but in a road atmosphere in both arenas. … I’m sure if we had three or four Germans on our team, we would be all right. It’s not even really the atmosphere. It’s travel and the setup. It’s like being on the road. So we’re going to play 43 away games this year, really.’’
Of course, it couldn’t possibly be that the NHL deck was stacked against the two West Coast teams, right? Such as the Rangers, whose time-change adjustment was three hours less than that of the Kings and Ducks, getting two “road’’ games in front of supportive crowds in Stockholm, without any between-games travel?