Stephens: What to expect from our Southern California hockey coverage
Stephens: What to expect from our Southern California hockey coverage

For years, I’ve been fond of saying that there need to be three of me in order to properly handle my daily existence. I’ve told my wife this and she really didn’t understand it at first. It took some time, but I think she’s come around some to what I meant by that. I think.

Husband. Father. Bill-payer (A few too many). Dish washer and grocery shopper (I don’t mind it). Occasional fix-it guy around the house. (Though no job there is really, completely 100 percent done). Somewhat regular cook (Though I’m more of the follow-the-directions type than the whip-it-up chef. Thank you, YouTube.).

Journalist. But not just that blanket cover-all. Hockey beat writer. Following what a team does, what it might do, what it should do and what it will do. Always looking to write the best story you can. Always looking to inform, illuminate, explain and perhaps even entertain — from September until, well, the next September.

Are you seeing the picture? Maybe not, and I get it if you’re giving the same skeptical glance my wife first had when I brought up the whole three-of-me deal. But that’s how I feel, even more so now after being a hockey beat writer for the last 17 years.

Which brings me to why I’m typing this letter to you. The next writer to cover the Los Angeles Kings for The Athletic is … well, me. Myself. I. Any of those should apply but if not, I’m just covering the bases here. And I will continue covering the Anaheim Ducks. As I have been, for a fair amount of time now.

WHAT? BLASPHEMY!

(Peeks out nervously from behind the curtain).

Again, I get it.

Let’s take a breath here. For some, this may sit with you about as well as a day-old burrito. I’m talking to my regular readers, my periodic readers and, hopefully, my new readers. I get there has been some concern over a new writer filling telling the stories of a Kings team that might be on the precipice of something big after bringing its fan base back to playoff hockey. And I’ll be trying my darnedest to earn your eyeballs.

Now this doesn’t mean I’ll be abandoning my post following the Ducks. They’re back to being interesting again and there will be storylines aplenty, win or lose. But it will be fun to have a closer, examining eye on the Kings as well. For years, I’ve been watching from afar and keeping tabs as much as I can. Previously, I did help in Stanley Cup coverage with the Kings and can attest to covering live that series-finishing five-minute power play against New Jersey in 2012 and Alec Martinez’s jump-for-joy rebound score to bury the Rangers in 2014. I don’t think I’m the only one who would love to see another Kings-Ducks playoff series fire up the die-hards and even capture the casual Southland fan as it once did for a couple weeks.

Just think of me as your Friendly Neighborhood Southern California Hockey Writer. The one that will be putting some miles on his six-year-old Acura. The one who’ll try to mix in some podcast listening even though he’s prone to sing along to Earth, Wind & Fire, the Police, Nirvana, the Black Keys and even that Kanye fellow while heading north and south on the 405 and – as little as possible – the 5. (My music tastes are wide-ranging across genres but not out there and could use some more modern stuff.)

Mostly, I hope you’ll see someone who  wants to tell the best stories out of Los Angeles, Anaheim and even other points around this vast region. The kind of stories you won’t see everywhere and certainly not to the depth that we at The Athletic are known for. In short, the goal is to write a lot and do it well.

One person. Two teams. For some, it doesn’t add up and maybe it never will. Now, why do you think I told that little story at the beginning?

Hear me out. Until the day does come where I’ll be able to multiply, I won’t be physically in El Segundo or Irvine every single day. But I promise to be at both practice facilities a lot. And that also means continuing to be a regular Honda Center and now Stap … er, Crypto.com Arena. Feel free to use our Real Time function, where I consistently contribute the items that don’t necessarily require a full standalone piece. I’ll be monitoring what’s being done in both places and in Ontario and San Diego as well. If an interesting story is to be told from either, I’m not averse to making a lengthy car ride.

The plan is to tell the best stories and do the best reporting that can be done. Analyzing. Columnizing. (Damn, that is a word!) And that will include some traveling. The best stories can often be the ones you find out on the road. For instance, there soon could be some to chase down in San Jose.

It’s a lofty goal, but I’m game. A challenge I embrace like the one handed to me a long time ago, where I merely hoped to last six months before one of the greatest sports editors of our time, Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times, eventually paid attention and came to his senses. The next season, I was watching Scott Niedermayer and his majestic salt-and-pepper beard hoist the Cup and writing the championship story you dream of doing. Somehow, I’ll now be entering my 18th.

I know I’m filling some big shoes. I’ll readily admit that I don’t have the institutional knowledge on the Kings that others possess. It means more homework but that’s what I’ve set out to do from our draft coverage in Montreal to the “State of the Kings” series that you can use as a primer for the upcoming rookie camp and main training camp.

Since coming here and even in the places I scribed at before, I’ve deeply appreciated all those who have read my stuff faithfully or even just once. I know this is a big change and perhaps even an upsetting one. But I plan to be just as involved covering the Kings as I have the Ducks. As I’m there more often and gaining some of that institutional knowledge, I’ll eventually do regular mailbags and the occasional fan survey. I’ve got other big ideas in mind and I’m out to execute them.

I’ll leave you with this. Give me a chance. As Mr. Dwyre once did.

(Photo: Gary A. Vasquez / USA Today)



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