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Watching the Kings with Tim Leiweke can be hazardous to your health

The team governor is passionate about his hockey team and despite the season ending Sunday, he's convinced a Stanley Cup is in their future.

April 25, 2010|T.J. Simers

Tim Leiweke slugged me.

It's probably been a long time coming, but when it happened, it was so unexpected.

I'm just sitting there like a dedicated Kings fan Sunday evening, two rows from the ice while wearing my official team sweater, name on the back along with No. 2, no lie, and Leiweke jumps out of his seat sounding almost delirious as he yells, "Kopie, Kopie."

I don't even get the chance to say, "Who's Kopie?"

Whoever he is, he apparently disappoints Leiweke, and since I'm sitting beside him, I get smacked.

Now I understand why his wife, Bernadette, has offered me her seat. "Thanks for taking one for the team," she says.

I don't recall how far back it goes, but Leiweke invited me to join him for a hockey game. Not knowing he's a mad man once the puck is dropped, I said I might go. This whole business about Philip Anschutz being a recluse is nonsense -- he's just hiding from Leiweke.

I told Leiweke I'd join him if he arranged it so David Beckham was sitting beside me.

But as you know, waiting for Beckham to do anything in this town is a huge waste of time, so I joined Leiweke for the Kings' final game of the season.

Eh, where else would you rather be besides your own couch at home, a movie, out to dinner, listening to the Grocery Store Bagger talk about his day at work or undergoing a colostomy.

Leiweke is dressed all in black like a gangster or a hockey governor who appears clueless for so many years in putting a team together. But he's got his team now, he says, and so does L.A.

Some of those on his staff are growing beards, some kind of disgusting hockey tradition, but Leiweke is clean shaven.

"You deal with bankers and walk in looking like Grizzly Adams and it's not going to work," Leiweke says, while pointing to a chair and calling it his "lucky seat."

I take it he didn't sit there the previous eight years.

When it's time to start, it's bedlam. Every fan has been given a white towel and they are waving them. I never understood why a franchise on the verge of surrender would have their fans waving white towels.

"Isn't this great," Leiweke says, loving the fans' support, while also screaming, "Hey ref, you ever going to call anything? What about that cross-check? Ref, ref, ref."

A few minutes later a fan compliments Leiweke for getting on the ref, the official calling a penalty on Vancouver, Leiweke saying, "don't print that or [NHL Commissioner Gary] Bettman will get ticked."

Obviously Leiweke is no Phil Jackson.

"I pay for these seats," Leiweke finally concludes, "so yeah, I can say what I want. Hey ref "

He has a suite for his own use, but he's bought four seats to every game in this corner of the arena. He might be the team's best season-ticket holder, as well as its most passionate fan.

Bruce McNall, a former Kings owner, walks by.

Leiweke believes in treating McNall as a guest in the name of franchise history and provides him free tickets. That must explain why Clippers VP Andy Roeser is here.

"It's big we're in the playoffs, but now we've gotten big out of the way," Leiweke says, while up on the scoreboard they are showing Wayne Gretzky in attendance. Those were the days.

"There was a time when we heard the abuse thrown our way, and we deserved it," says Leiweke, the Kings having six winning seasons in the 14 under AEG. "We gave these fans no reason to support us, but they hung with us. These are the most loyal fans in town."

The Kings score first, and it's like Leiweke has just gotten the OK from the city to subsidize a new football stadium. He's running around, tapping rolled fists with anyone who will do so.

"We're going to be even better next year," he gushes, while also keenly aware what success might mean for AEG's credibility in the marketplace.

"The Kings are what brought us here, it's important we show everyone we have the ability to make them successful."

The Kings end the first period ahead, everyone adjourning to the Chairman's Room for a sip of wine, and I mean everyone.

A good time is had by all, but Leiweke can't stop worrying about Vancouver's Sedin twins. "Good God, they are animals," he says.

The score is tied in the third period, but then one of the Sedin animals scores, and the season is over. Yet there is still a feeling of promise in the air.

"This team is going to win the Stanley Cup in the next couple of years," Leiweke says. "But it's got to go through growing pains. And they hurt."

I know. I have the bruises to prove it.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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