This weekend the LA Kings say goodbye to an incredible 19-year tradition.
While the first game in Las Vegas took place in 1991, a 5-2 defeat of the NY Rangers, it wasn't until 1997 that the event known as Frozen Fury became an annual event. Today it has grown into a celebration of the Kings, their fans and the passion that binds them all together.
Las Vegas is only an hour flight from Los Angeles, but Frozen Fury weekends felt like a completely different world. A world where anyone wearing a black and silver jersey was a familiar friend, a world where your NHL heroes might share your elevator, your pool float or your blackjack table.
Frozen Fury weekends featured simple preseason games but it feels like we're saying goodbye less to an exhibition and more to an era. It's with heavy hearts that we present:
5 THINGS WE'LL MISS ABOUT FROZEN FURY
5. The Dominance
Since the initial Frozen Fury, the Kings have a 12-4-3 record in Sin City. The Colorado Avalanche, their most frequent opponent, have a respectable 7-7-2 record, but the Arizona Coyotes, San Jose Sharks and New York Rangers all failed to win in their sole Sin City appearances. These weren't typical exhibition games filled with players you've never heard of either, names like Luc Robitaille, Rob Blake and Anze Kopitar frequently found their way onto Frozen Fury score sheets.
The Kings domination in Las Vegas stretched far beyond their performance on the ice. Being a sports fan can be a frustrating experience. Teams have up and down seasons, players decline. Every fan base has horror stories of games, seasons and careers gone wrong. However, during Frozen Fury weekends, none of that mattered. Everywhere you looked there was a reminder of which team was No. 1.
4. The Pageantry
There's nothing like the atmosphere of a home game but Frozen Fury wasn't a road game… it was more like a home-away-from-home game. Las Vegas is nothing if not ostentatious, and there was something truly thrilling about seeing your favorite team splashed all over America's Playground.
The fact that both the Kings and the MGM Grand represent themselves with the image of a Lion allowed for a perfect greeting when you arrived and set the tone for a weekend completely devoted to the Kings. STAPLES Center does statues, too, but it's somewhat lacking in the floral department.
3. The Games
We can't think of Frozen Fury without mentioning the actual games.
The MGM Grand Arena opened in 1993 and has been renovated twice since then (in 1997 and again in 2000). The seats don't wrap all the way around the ice and the scoreboards were nowhere near as advanced as the one at STAPLES Center, but there wasn't a bad seat in the house.
A lack of luxury suites means that even fans in the "nosebleeds" are closer to the action than at most NHL rinks. Despite being preseason tilts, the games always provided an opportunity for Kings fans to enjoy NHL action. Thirteen of the 19 games have been decided by a single goal, with 5 of them going to overtime or to a shootout, and the Kings have racked up two shutouts over the years (1999 vs Arizona and 2015 vs Colorado). Even things like rink maintenance offered fans an opportunity to cheer their favorite players.
2. The Fans
LA Kings fans are the best. I've been to Las Vegas plenty of times but only during Frozen Fury have I had complete strangers high give me, hop on my back, buy me drinks, buy me food, offer me jobs, give up their cab for me… and all because I'm a Kings fan.
There's something about seeing thousands of people wearing Kings gear for an entire weekend in a city that isn't Los Angeles that's just good for the soul.
Sure we see Kings fans all the time at STAPLES Center and around the greater Los Angeles area, but there's a different energy when you take over someone else's building and someone else's city. Kings fans did it with passion, with love and with style.
1. The Gauntlet
The Gauntlet was always more than the sum of its parts. It's almost impossible to properly describe it. You had to experience it.
The fact that so many fans of opposing teams can gather outside a sporting event jam packed into a narrow hallway after a full day in the lazy river is a testament to Kings fans and the spirit they brought with them to Frozen Fury for the last 19 years.
There may not be a Gauntlet this year as the games are being played in the T-Mobile Arena and not the MGM Grand. If that's the case then we've already said goodbye to one of the best parts of Frozen Fury. This weekend won't be the last time the LA Kings play hockey in Las Vegas, but it may be the last time Las Vegas feels like a safe haven for Kings fans.