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For Kings fans, what makes sense is the sense of place

BILL PLASCHKE

What makes the Calhouns hang on to season tickets despite living in Hawaii for the last decade? They and the other fans with long-held hopes and suspended belief are thrust into national spotlight.

June 03, 2012|Bill Plaschke
  • Kings fans Andrea and Steve Calhoun hang loose in Hawaii with their autographed gear.
Kings fans Andrea and Steve Calhoun hang loose in Hawaii with their autographed… (Jessica Katinsky / For The…)

To measure one of the many odd and endearing heartbeats that pulse through our new city of Kings, fly 2,500 miles to a place where a frozen pond is a cocktail and the only skates have wheels.

Drive about 30 minutes southeast from the Honolulu Airport, through lush valleys and tropical gardens, up a winding hillside road to a modest home overlooking Maunalua Bay. Walk through a frontyard bathed in pineapple plants and plumeria trees, open the front door, and step inside to a …

Anze Kopitar souvenir blanket?

"Right there on my husband's chair, right where it belongs," says Andrea Calhoun with a laugh.

It may be Hawaii outside, but all Kelly Hrudey is breaking out inside. In a small corner of Steve and Andrea Calhoun's tropical paradise, every day is Dmitri Khristich.

They have a Kings clock on the wall, nearly a dozen Kings sticks in a corner, and a set of "Go Kings Go" figurines on a counter, little representations of the greatness of Adam Deadmarsh, Ziggy Palffy, Jason Allison, Ian Laperriere and Mattias Norstrom.

"You remember them, right?" says Andrea.

There are Kings jerseys in the closet, Kings cups and glasses in the cupboards, Luc Robitaille's bobbing head on a desk and a giant Wayne Gretkzy standing sentry in the garage.

"Workmen and delivery people come through our garage, see the Gretzky poster, and they're like, 'What is he doing here?' " says Andrea.

That answer can be found in the one Kings items that is not on display. It's locked up in the family safe. It's Kings season tickets. Not souvenir tickets or stubs of tickets, but season tickets.

For this season.

"I know, I know," says Andrea. "People sort of can't believe it."

And you think Staples Center is a haul from your house? Depending on the weather, it takes the middle-aged couple nearly eight hours to go from their Honolulu home to their seats in the Staples Center lower bowl. Yet since moving here 10 years ago, they have kept the season tickets they purchased in the fall of 1993.

They attend only five to 10 games a year, but they won't give them up. They have lost thousands of dollars a year when they couldn't sell their unused tickets, but they will never surrender.

"The Kings aren't just something we do, they're who we are," says Andrea, speaking for thousands of Kings fans who this week will bask in a national glow after spending most of the previous 45 years in the shadows.

The Stanley Cup Final games against the New Jersey Devils on Monday and Wednesday at Staples Center will place the spotlight on Kings faithful who are unique not because of a collective nickname, but because they have no nickname. There is no Kings Nation. There is no Kingsland. There's not even a King-dom.

The Kings fans have been around too long, and suffered too much, to be categorized by some trite moniker. As Andrea says, being a Kings fan is not something they do, it's something they are.

"It's like a cult, I think," says Andrea. "It's a group that has believed in the Kings even when nobody else believed in them. We share a special kind of hope that no other fan in town can really understand."

It is this hope that once drew the Calhouns to a parking lot in the pouring rain to make good on a promise of a stick from the infamous Stephane Fiset.

"We met him at a season-ticket holder function, he told us he would give us his stick if we met him by his car after the next game, and he was waiting for us in the rain," recalls Andrea. "How can you not fall in love with a team like that?"

This hope also was flowing through Andrea when she won a jersey off the back of Mikko Eloranta after a season finale. She says the sweaty sweater was "disgusting," but because of her excitement, what happened afterward was worse.

While standing on the ice, Eloranta signed the jersey with a black Sharpie pen that he returned to Andrea. She hurriedly put it in her back pocket without a cap. For the next 10 years, one of the cream leather seats in Steve's Volvo was adorned with a rather compelling ink stain.

"And Steve would keep reminding me how we got it," says Andrea. "Poor Mikko Eloranta has become part of my family's history."

Andrea, who was born in Vancouver, Canada, but grew up in Santa Monica, first attended Kings games in the spring of 1993. Like many other longtime fans, she became hooked on the Gretzky glitter, and when she started dating Steve, they decided there was no better place to hang out than at a hockey game.

"It was such a different atmosphere from anything else in town," she recalls. "It was the sound of it, the chill of it."

They kept the tickets, and kept improving the tickets, and when they were thinking about moving to Hawaii in 2002 to be closer to Steve's parents, those tickets nearly kept them here.

"I know its sounds crazy because my mother still lives here, but, seriously, it was very, very hard for us to leave our Kings," says Andrea.

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