There are no rivalries quite like intrastate rivalries. Moreover, when you think intrastate rivalry, most people think of college sports. And why not? There is Duke vs. North Carolina, USC vs. UCLA, Auburn vs. Alabama. However, on the professional level, there are no rivalries quite like the ones between teams from Northern and Southern California.
When people think of Northern California vs. Southern California, they think of the San Francisco Giants vs. Los Angeles Dodgers or Golden State Warriors vs. Los Angeles Clippers. Yet, I am not going to talk about any of those rivalries. If there is one rivalry that has reached its peak intensity, it is the San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings.
For the last several years these teams have jostled in the same division for playoff seeding and on occasion have even knocked each other out of Stanley Cup contention. As of late, the Sharks have struggled with the Kings, losing their last two games against them by a margin of 5 to 1. That was until they took the ice against each other for the last time this regular season.
I have always been under the impression that professional sports rivalries are somewhat dead. With all the money that is involved and the lack of loyalty that most athletes have today, I’ve had every reason to believe that this was just another game. However, from the first faceoff I was reminded how much these teams dislike each other.
Jordan Nolan opened up the scoring for the Kings early in the first period and déjà vu started to set in for Sharks fans around the nation. To make matters worse, the Sharks had already been struggling against some of the weaker teams in the NHL for the last few weeks. The second period was a complete role reversal. The Sharks went up when Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture both scored goals. That would be the last of all the scoring and the Sharks ended up winning by one.
However, the true test of a rivalry is how they play when the game means almost nothing. The Sharks had already clinched the playoffs and the Kings are in a very solid spot themselves with just a few games left. In reality, there wasn’t much at stake for the game but you wouldn’t know that if you were watching.
The noise of the SAP center made for the perfect backdrop to this heavy-weight slugfest. As the “beat LA” chants got louder, the play only got more intense. This is what a rivalry hockey game or a rivalry in general is supposed to feel like. Rivalries are not just big games when something is on the line. Rivalries are big games for no other reason than both teams are playing each other. They are about holding each other in contempt for no other reason than that they are from different teams.
Sure, blind ignorance, pride and hatred may start world wars but they can also make sporting events spectacular. Rivalries are so amazing because nothing interesting in sports has ever happened between two teams that love each other. It really doesn’t matter if you are a Sharks fan, a Kings fan or just a regular old hockey fan. You should be excited by the prospective idea that two rivals may meet in the playoffs for the third time in four years. If this sort of matchup doesn’t scream “rivalry of the year” at you then maybe you should take your silly ideas elsewhere.
God, I hate LA.