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Fans in tune with London

Planning for trip since spring, Kings and Ducks followers explain why they wouldn't miss these unique road games.

October 01, 2007|Chuck Culpepper | Special to The Times

LONDON -- The Wright Brothers would be so proud, having spurred a world in which Kings and Ducks fans could fly eight time zones and prove again that few loves on earth trump hockey love.

"You came all the way from the States to see a hockey game?" one local said to Scott Egebjerg from Simi Valley.

In his defense, Egebjerg came to see two, making it an even 50 hockey arenas for his lifetime, 49 of them in North America. He also put in for the vacation time way back in March, exemplifying the intensive preparation that buzzed in the hockey pockets of Southern California.

A few hundred of Kings and Ducks stripes risked jet lag, lost work and maybe even angry offspring for this rare European venture that Ducks fan Christine Sathre of Oceanside called once in a lifetime. Some built trips to Paris or recovery days around it, but others did it almost like a little detour.

Rick Walden of Beverly Hills taught his sports law class last Thursday at the University of San Francisco, returned to Los Angeles Thursday night at 11, flew to London on Friday, saw the game Saturday, took his own self-constructed Kinks tour of Ray Davies' Muswell Hill neighborhood on Sunday morning, saw the game Sunday and planned to fly back to Los Angeles today, then to San Francisco on Tuesday to teach sports law for four hours.

Tired, he said.

For the love of hockey, some hugged goodbye their children. The sons of Sathre, Kelly Dailey of Aliso Viejo and Vicki Tidwell of Irvine all play hockey, but all had school.

"I have two grandmas at my house," Sathre said. "I've called about two times for about two minutes. Homework's getting done."

"I owe my son big-time," said Dailey, having denied him the truancy of the trip as he stays with her ex-husband.

On Dailey's behalf, Tidwell's husband Bill gave up his spot on the trip and stayed with their 15-year-old son, whose mother visited Abbey Road and said, "I've been back to the '60s. I'm a teenager again."

Nigel Spill, a Kings fan from Westwood, was born in London, so he brought his wife Karen and 5-year-old daughter Taylor and probably won't forget that Taylor beheld Buckingham Palace and wondered when she could have a sleepover.

With vacation time requested last spring in most cases, budgeting concerned some but not others, even with the London prices that widen eyes and drop jaws, the pound crushing the dollar at about 2-to-1 these days.

"You look at a price and say, 'That'd be right if it's dollars,' " said Kings fan Mike Timchenko of El Monte.

Walden and Spill hailed a taxi to the O2 Arena for a mere 40 pounds ($80). You come this far, you don't want to miss anything for 80 bucks, Spill said.

The un-missable-ness of the trip, whatever the school-year inconveniences, might've found its essence in something that happened to Walden on Sunday. As he and Spill returned to their seats to start the third period, word buzzed that Luc and Stacia Robitaille sat nearby.

From among the abundant nationalities of fans came one who saw Walden, mistook him for Robitaille and begged for a photo.

"I kept telling him, 'You don't want my picture,' " Walden said.

"Yes, I do! I do want your picture!" the guy said.

So Walden finally posed, his picture due to turn up in somebody's scrapbook somewhere in Europe.

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