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Stanley Cup FINALS : Is King Fever Less Than Citywide? : Ethnic: Many blacks, Latinos don't appear to share the same fervor for the current playoffs.

June 05, 1993|LONNIE WHITE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

King fever may have hit Southern California, but that doesn't necessarily make the Kings and hockey the hottest thing going in all of Los Angeles.

A good argument could be made that most King fans come from areas outside the diverse ethnic core of the inner-city.

"The Latino community basically feels isolated when it comes to hockey," said Rudy Correa, who has followed the Kings since the arrival of Wayne Gretzky in 1988. "Hockey is played mostly by Anglos, and there is not much mixture from other cultures."

Compared to the other sports still in season, the Kings trail the NBA playoffs, the Dodgers and the Angels in the list of interest priorities for most minorities around the city.

"Most of my friends don't even care about the Kings," said Correa, a 24-year old Latino, who lives near Dodger Stadium. "They don't think the sport is for them, so they're just not that interested."

This theory is backed by the coverage given to the Kings by the two largest minority newspapers in Los Angeles, Spanish-based La Opinion and black-owned Los Angeles Sentinel.

Both newspapers have virtually ignored the Kings throughout the season and have not had many complaints from readers.

"We just started covering them once they reached the finals," said Fernando Paramo, La Opinion sports editor. "There is just very little interest in the Kings in our community. Our readers want to see coverage on soccer, boxing, baseball, football and the NBA. Not hockey."

After not covering the Kings during the season, La Opinion had a small Associated Press story buried deep inside its sports section after the Kings' Game 1 victory at Montreal on Tuesday night.

"Because hockey is not played in our area and because there aren't any Latin players that we know of in the NHL, our fans are not really able to identify with the sport," Paramo said. "So, we don't cover hockey almost for same reason The Times does not thoroughly cover soccer, even though it has the capabilities to do so."

According to Paramo, La Opinion will not have a reporter covering the Kings' first Stanley Cup home game tonight. The Times will have eight.

There are Spanish broadcasts of Dodger, Raider and Laker games, but none of the Kings. However, next season, King games will be telecast in Spanish on Prime Ticket's new Spanish-language service, which is scheduled to make its debut in October.

In black communities around Los Angeles, the interest appears to be limited, but sometimes it is more difficult to gauge.

Black teen-agers who don't know the difference between Barry Melrose and Melrose Place can be found walking around the city dressed in King clothing. But that apparently is because they are attracted to the Kings' silver and black colors and not necessarily the team.

Ron Dungee, sports editor for the Sentinel, says that it doesn't matter that he does not have enough reporters to cover the Kings.

"We put a lot of emphasis on high school sports," Dungee said. "But even if we had the staff to do it, I doubt if we would put a whole lot of space on hockey. That's because most black people I know just do not follow the sport."

Alvin Maxie, who has lived within walking distance of the Forum in Inglewood since 1967, says that the Kings have never tried to reach out to people in the area.

"If you look in the stands during a Kings game, I bet you might find 50 black people there," Maxie said. "My whole thing is that it just looks like a white sport, anyway.

"I've been to Dodger games, Laker games, Raider games and even Clipper games, but I've never been to a Kings game."

This season's success by the Kings might turn out to be a way for the Kings to gain more fans in the inner-city.

"We've been getting all kinds of people buying Kings items," said Mike Gronross, who works at the Kings' Slap Shot merchandise store near the Forum. "We've increased our sales tenfold since the playoffs started. Not only are we getting whites buying stuff, but also blacks and Hispanics.

"In Los Angeles, fans are pretty fickle. As long as they keep winning, people will be interested."

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