By Jose M. Romero / @RomeroJoseM
For FOX Deportes
Back when the Los Angeles Kings switched the color scheme of their uniforms from purple and gold to silver and black, the team became cool.
Never one to buy into a team just because of a fad – even though this one was started by N.W.A, Eazy-E and the D.O.C. (look ‘em up, West Coast hip hop at its finest) – I figured that if I was going to sport the black Kings hat given to me as a gift, I better know some of the players.
Besides The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, there was Luc Robitaille, Marty McSorley, mulleted Ron Duguay (who often didn’t wear a helmet during a shift), Dave Taylor and the goalie, Kelly Hrudey. And off the top of my head, that’s all I remember. But at least I had a clue.
Well, more than two decades later, the Kings have won their first Stanley Cup. And while I got into hockey some time ago, at least to some extent, the truth is that a lot of Latinos don’t care about it. And maybe a few of those non-fans just wanted to party when L.A. celebrated the Kings’ championship Monday night, not able to name a single player on the team.
Who can blame them? Everybody loves a winner.
OK, so now, does the NHL take advantage of the Kings’ victory and try to push the game on the Latino audience, using a team in a major Latino-populated market as the driving force?
That would be nice, but not likely. It would take an aggressive campaign on behalf of the league to reach out to prospective Latino bases in L.A., San Jose, Phoenix, Florida, Dallas, New York, New Jersey and Chicago. Hockey terms in Spanish? Putting Spanish team names on jerseys? The San Jose Tiburones and Diablos de New Jersey would be nice, but somehow, I can’t see “Los Rangers” or “Los Blackhawks” working.
Besides, that’s just a nominal effort. Kind of like what the NBA does, Latino “appreciation nights,” etc. Ene-hache-ele = NHL.
It’s hard for Latinos to relate to playoff beards, ice, zambonis and a sport totally dominated by white males. We can dig the jerseys and the team colors, but for the most part, that’s it.
There aren’t more than a handful of players of Latino descent in the league, another factor working against attracting that fan base. And Latino kids don’t really grow up playing hockey. Generally speaking, we do soccer, baseball, basketball, maybe football.
The Kings do have a Latino player, suburban Detroit native Alec Martinez, who scored a goal during the Stanley Cup finals. Martinez, a defenseman, is 24 years old and keeps improving as a player. He could be a nice tie-in to the Los Angeles efforts to attract Latino fans, at least. If the Kings even want to.
That’s the thing. Teams have to make a concerted effort and commit to doing something, but somehow not make it seem contrived. It’s a tough sell, especially in places where there are ownership issues, like Phoenix. And the Kings, well, they can ride the wave of a league championship for at least an entire season.
It shouldn’t be a problem for them to draw big crowds to the Staples Center next season, no matter what the ethnic makeup of the crowd is.
I always wondered what my uncles and cousins in L.A. liked about hockey and the Kings. They’re the reason I started watching, but serious fans like them must be few and far between in Latino Southern California.
Congrats to the Reyes de Los Angeles on winning La Copa Stanley. And that’s about it. The parade is going to be off the hook.