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Ice hockey at Dodger Stadium is one hot idea

Matchup between Ducks and Kings at the baseball venue Saturday night takes the sport to its outdoor roots.

January 25, 2014|Chris Erskine
  • Hockey fans stand in line to buy food at Dodger Stadium before the outdoor game between the Ducks and Kings on Saturday night.
Hockey fans stand in line to buy food at Dodger Stadium before the outdoor… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

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You've got a red carpet, you've got the USC marching band, you've got KISS lighting up the inky night while standing inside what looks to be some sort of fire-breathing insect.

Kings fans Giselle Bishop and Christina Dean celebrated it all in black and white tutus and high-top shoes.

They looked like smog.

"It was her idea," Bishop said, proud of her friend.

By the way, didn't KISS sound good? Well, they were "tracked," as they say in the recording business, their instrumentals pre-recorded.

But who cares. No one was much asking for their money back at Dodger Stadium on Saturday night, even those who, upon arrival, realized the boards completely blocked their view of the puck.

"We can't see a thing," Kings fan Ron Becker said.

That's what big screens are for, after all. Besides, this was more spectacle than a sporting event. Like a wedding where the ceremony was second to the reception.

I've seen playoff games in L.A., but nothing quite as electric as this. The fans stood even during warmups: "Go Kings Go!" and all that. Ducks fans were outnumbered but not out-beered. That's an important stat in hockey.

Mostly, it was a night of revelations.

Here's one: Hockey wears the outdoors like flannel pajamas. Comfy. Organic. Natural.

They played soccer too at Dodger Stadium not long ago, but they always play soccer outdoors. Besides, that was in August, and Dodger Dogs in summer are pretty routine.

But Dodger Dogs in January? That's a revelation right there.

"They'd be even better in October," Dodgers/Kings fan Brian Cody said.

From a fan's standpoint, August's soccer game might've been a more complete experience, for fans were closer to the action and you could always see the ball. Dodger Stadium is simply too big a venue for hockey, but once in a while ...

And once in a while came Saturday night.

Ever have those moments of stupendous disbelief, where you can't quite believe what you're seeing? Me neither, but I had once of those Saturday at Cirque du Chavez.

This is what you would get if Barry Manilow were appointed NHL commissioner. It was like one spectacle ate another spectacle. Were he still police chief, Daryl Gates would've shut the whole thing down for excessive noise. Bugsy Siegel would've bottled this night and sold it in speakeasies.

In the Land of La-La, this was one for the ages.

"We drove all the way from Phoenix," Kevin Heyninck said in the top deck. "We don't care who wins, we just love hockey."

Yep, the NHL threw the best curveball in Dodgers history with this crazy stunt. Like watching a surfing Santa, you couldn't help but smile. A fish out of ice water.

Another revelation, or maybe a confirmation: Hockey fans are really the best in all of sports.

And Saturday they faced some pretty whacked-out pricing. Reserve level seats were going for $250; top deck for $150 and field level for $50. It was like some sort of seat-pricing inversion.

The reason: those high up could see into the rink, while those down low, if really close, could not even see the puck.

How far the NHL will take all this? By the simple act of going where it all started — outdoors — hockey has been reinvented, reborn. There's already talk of moving the All-Star games outdoors, and I'd like to see the Stanley Cup finals outside as well.

The whole outdoor thing has gone viral.

Hockey outdoors seems so novel, but that's where it all started. In its crudest forms, it can be traced to Egypt 4,000 years ago, and to Aztecs in Mexico before Columbus even bought a boat.

Even L.A. hockey history holds a few surprises. L.A. Weekly noted last week that the first Southern California hockey game goes clear back to 1917.

At the time, Times columnist Warde Fowler reported: "No one was killed outright."

There's that. Hockey doesn't need trainers, it needs seamstresses, someone adept with needle and thread.

Look, I'm not so sure on a lot of things. Not so sure Matt Damon isn't really Mark Wahlberg. Not so sure Carly Simon isn't actually Mick Jagger.

But I'm pretty convinced we're only seeing the beginning of these great outdoor binges.

Because on Saturday, hockey found yet another metric, one that can't be measured, only savored.

Dodger Stadium was so rocking during this milestone event that, for a while, fans quit looking at their cellphones. For a change, they were mesmerized by where they were, not where they wanted to be.

"A game like no other," Vin Scully said during introductions.

And he really ought to know.

Twitter: @erskinetimes

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