Fans of both the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks had been eagerly anticipating this matchup - and no one in the right minds could blame them. After eliminating the Dallas Stars in six games in the first round, the Ducks knew they would face a state rival in the next round regardless. Whether it would be the Kings or San Jose Sharks wasn't known at the time. But after Los Angeles fought back from their 0-3 deficit to eliminate their rivals from Northern California, the very first playoff all-Southern California playoff matchup was set. It would be the Kings and the Ducks taking their already-heated rivalry to another level. But five games in, it is apparent to even the most casual of fans that this feud has, in some ways, gotten out of hand.
Despite a late rally in Game 5 on Monday night, the Los Angeles Kings fell short in Anaheim falling behind for the first time in their series with the Ducks. Among other aspects, what hurt the Kings on this night was allowing three goals in the first half of the second period. While the Kings' play was questionable, the same - and then some - could be said for the reaction of a few Ducks fans on Twitter.
While it was made as a hashtag before Game 5, some Ducks fans took it upon themselves to trend #DIEKingsDIE. While I made the classic Sideshow Bob joke, claiming that the post was in German (#THEKingsTHE), it worried me that there were fans out there who despised the Los Angeles Kings so much that they wanted them to die. For all I know, they don't, but the message itself sends a disturbing message. With that said, though, those cheering for the Ducks in this series weren't the only ones guilty of supplying tasteless material.
During the first intermission of Game 4 at Staples Center, the Los Angeles Kings held a sideshow that was supposed to get the home crowd fired up, but left many both shocked and disgusted.
For said intermission show, the team thought it would be a good idea to decapitate an actual, albeit dead, duck. Chef Ludo came out with a raw duck, then proceeded to use a blow torch to singe the poor animal's feathers off before chopping its head off and tossing it into the crowd. After trussing what was left off the duck, Bailey (the Kings mascot) brought out a cooked duck which Chef Ludo then chopped it up with its juices flying everywhere.
Since I was not in attendance for Game 4, the above was described to by a few disgusted fans who stopped watching the fiasco after only so much tolerance.
Whether this stunt was meant to be as gruesome as it was, it is difficult to imagine why anyone would expect anything less from such a vile display of cruelty. For some, they could find a silver lining knowing that the ducks were already dead. Personally, there is no silver lining involved with this - at least not as far as I'm concerned.
In the risk of sounding like a wet blanket, inflicting harm on animals (regardless if they're dead or alive) crosses the line. I may love the Los Angeles Kings but I also love animals, thus, this exhibition left me sick to my stomach. I have certainly never taken exception to cartoon images of a lion pummeling a shark when the Kings play San Jose or a picture of Wile E. Coyote holding up a "Help!" sign whenever they play Phoenix. Even the traditional image from Nintendo's Duck Hunt where dead ducks are held up by Bailey (as opposed to a dog in the actual NES game) has become a staple among fans in the Kings-Ducks rivalry. But what happened during Game 4 should have no place in hockey. Heck, I can go out on a limb and assume that goaltender Jonathan Quick never had to witness such an unfortunate spectacle during his collegiate career whenever his UMass Minutemen played host to the Boston University Terriers, Boston College Eagles or Northeastern Huskies.
For all the fans at Staples Center for Game 4, I know quite a number of them who were sickened with what happened during the intermission. In fact, I'm sure many within the Kings organization who felt the same way. Conversely, there are plenty of Ducks fans who would never wish ill on an opposing team or player. That is important to point out as this is not meant to put a black mark on the entire fanbase of the Anaheim Ducks for #DIEKingsDIE or on the entire Los Angeles Kings organization for singeing and beheading an actual duck before the game. Unfortunately, it takes only a few bad apples to spoil the whole bunch.
While I am disappointed by the actions of both sides - and unfortunately, there are more examples - it doesn't take away from what a great on-ice rivalry the Kings and Ducks already have. For the majority of fans involved, whichever team wins this series will be understandably thrilled with their own team's success but respectful of the effort put forth by the opposing team.
As for the fans who post #DIEKingsDIE or enjoy watching animal cruelty, I sincerely wish that whichever team does win this series, the opposing fans who resort to such demeaning levels can learn to live with with such a defeat. After all, if this what being a hockey fan means to some, then perhaps there are more pressing issues in life than the tradition of following a sports team.