Kings vs. Thrashers: Armenian Heritage Night was… Something Else

I don’t mean to offend you, but some of you are not going to get this post.

A hockey game is a hockey game. There are always people who are ready to remind you that a game is a game, the outcome is not going to have a major impact on the world, that is, unless it is the Miracle on Ice, or you are the guys sitting behind me at the game tonight (I’m sure every game is like that for them). In the game, hits are thrown, shots are taken, injuries happen, and glory is bestowed on one team until the next time it is someone else’s. It’s a hard perspective to keep when we “live and die” by our teams.

A hockey game may not mean much, but the events surrounding that game might. For me, tonight was one of those nights. In fact, it was one of those nights that is hard to put into words.

Tonight, the L.A. Kings held Armenian Heritage Night. This isn’t the only heritage night they held this season, they had nights for Russia and other nationalities (sorry, I can’t remember them off the top of my head). At first, it sounded like a joke, or a cheap promotion. The post-game entertainment was Armenian hip-hop artist R-Mean (seriously), and there would be Armenian beer at the after party. All of this because it was Atlanta Thrashers rookie Zac Bogosian’s first game in L.A., and he is the first Armenian to play in the NHL. It sounds like a cheap gimmick, and it could have been a cheap gimmick.

It wasn’t. In fact, it is going to be hard to top this night on the rest of the tour. Let me show you what I mean.

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That is Zac Bogosian on the left. He doesn’t look like your typical Armenian. For one, he’s tall. Armenian men are not that tall (I am 5’10”, which makes me a giant by comparison).

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Zac had a great post on the Blueland Blog (which I would not have found if not for Kukla’s) about his Armenian family and heritage. Here is an excerpt:

It’s pretty special for the Kings to have Armenian Heritage Night while I’m playing there. My grandparents are Armenian and that part of my background is really important to me, because even though I’m not from there it’s always good to go back to your roots and understand where you came from. Plus it’s special to my family so it’s special to me. I’m pretty proud to be Armenian, and there are a lot of them out in LA, so my grandfather is really excited about it. I think there’s something like 2 million of them in the LA area, which is crazy since there are only about three million people that actually live in Armenia. As far as I know I’m the first Armenian player to play in the NHL, so there’s going to be a lot of them there rooting for me. That’s going to be pretty cool.

I don’t know if I really look Armenian. Most of them are 5’9″ with dark hair and dark skin- kind of Persian looking I guess. I might look more Armenian with a buzz cut, but I’m too tall. They’re known for being strong though. There are a couple Armenian guys in the UFC that fit the stereotype better than I do- Kenny Florian is 5-10 and fights at 155 lbs. Karo Parisyan is 5-10 and 170.

I look a little more Armenian than Zac. Just a little. OK, a lot, but not nearly as Armenian as some of the people at the game tonight.

Yeah, about that. The Kings did not mess around with this. At first, I thought I would be the only guy in the place who cared. I couldn’t have been more wrong. There were Armenians everywhere. They would take one look at my Armenian National Team jersey and nod and smile at me in that approving way. There were Armenians everywhere. Even the Armenian consul was there, see?

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Here are a few more (click on the pics to make them bigger).
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How about these guys?
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Or this guy, who was part of the Armenian National Team (the one on the left, of course):

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Yes, members of the Armenian National Team were at the game, and the after party. Talk about doing this thing right.

Fine, you didn’t come for this, I understand, but this is something that was not only important about the night, but also important to me. So here is what I am going to do. Pictures of the game and after party are posted after the jump. You get to choose, but know this. There is a big time picture at the end. You want to see this.
OK, on to the ACTION!!!

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There were a ton of visiting mascots at the game. How do you think these guys fly with those suits? MONTAGE!!!

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I guess it was Bailey’s birthday, so he had his friends over. I know, lame.
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Anywho, the Thrashers won in the shootout, 7-6. Bogosian had three assists, which I think should have earned him a star (it certainly wasn’t going to be challenged by the goalies). Overall, it was a really exciting game. The guys behind me blamed the coach and GM for every mistake, real or perceived. There is nothing like an avid fan that can’t tell a real penalty from a good play thanks to their fan-tinted glasses. The Kings got down way early, and battled back, tying it with only five seconds left. If you were to pick the game of the night to watch, would it have been the Kings and Thrashers. I doubt it.

A few shootout pictures:
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This one went in. This one won the game for the Thrash.

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OK, now what I want to get to, the after party.

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I’m sure this will not come as a shock to many of you, but I am not much of a party person. Sure, I have a blog, and a podcast, and I work in musical theater, and I…. OK, we can stop right there. I hate being at a party by myself. It only enhances how awkward I feel. I’m sure you know what I mean. Here, even though I didn’t know people, I didn’t feel that way. Sure, at first, but these were hockey fans, and most of them Armenian hockey fans. What was there to feel weird about?

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Some of the Kings players showed up, but I couldn’t tell you who. And some really fast guy with a camera in the wrong place.

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Hey, look, it’s Armenian hip-hop artist R-Mean.
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Here are some Armenians. My people.
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Yes, these are hockey players. Look at the right hand on the guy on the left. See the soft cast?

So fine, here is the picture you have all been waiting for. Me and Marty McSorley.
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Seriously. That’s him. I’m the one on the right, if you didn’t know. The strange look on my face is due to my inability to count flashes.

The whole reason I wanted to get in there with him was not to just have a star-f%#@er moment. I really wanted to tell someone with the Kings, anyone really, that I truly appreciated the night. That I thought it would be a joke, but it wasn’t even close. That they handled it with dignity, and showed an understanding of the culture.

And Marty shook my hand and told me they were happy to do it, and I don’t really know if he knew what I was talking about, or if he understood that it was important to me, and the other people there at the game and the party. It really doesn’t matter. I will take what he said as truth. Why not? After all he has done and said in his career, why would he lie? Hell, for all I know, it was his idea.

The thing about nights like this is, they really aren’t that interesting in general, at least, not until they are about you. The more common of these nights can look to the general public like a once a year ritual, trotted out to look like something special, when they really are not. It’s hard to get past that, until it’s your own heritage that is on display, that is being honored, even if it’s by people who may not really understand. For one night, it wasn’t about me, but about myself and about people I identify with, and a background most people don’t know anything about. A background I’m proud to have.

I walked out of that club on top of the world. I had talked with members of the Armenian National Hockey Team, players most people wouldn’t bother caring about. I had some Armenian beer (which wasn’t that good, but who cares), listened to Armenian music, partied like it was my party. And it was. I was on top of the world, and I still am. The L.A. Kings did an amazing job with this game. I truly appreciate it.

I wear a jersey every day through the regular season. I don’t often puff out my chest in an Avs jersey. I don’t play for the teams whose jerseys I wear, so I haven’t really earned the right. Tonight, I puffed out my chest. Tonight, I wore this jersey with pride.

Tonight, this jersey fit like a glove.

Comments

  1. YzermanZetterberg says:

    Great post! I’m not Armenian, but am very happy that you had such a great time and are able to feel such strong pride in your heritage. It’s one of the many things that still makes this country great.

  2. YZ – Thanks. It was so great, I wish everyone at the game understood what it meant to me, and hopefully the other Armenians there.

  3. Ha, it seems there were more Armenians at the game than in Yerevan! People sometimes think I am from there, I’m not, and when I was in Yerevan, my Armenian friends joked I was a “light skinned Armenian”, ala Michael Jackson I guess, haha.
    Interesting part of the world, just wish the leadership could move into the 21st century and put the past behind them for their own sake.

  4. What's the frequency, Kenneth? says:

    Luke Robitaille is probably the brilliant man who came up with the idea for this. He’s gone from fan favorite to true ambassador for the Kings.

  5. Steve – I’m a “light skinned Armenian” as well. The people who saw me at the party probably thought I was a poser.

    WTF, Kenneth – I was so close to meeting Luc, and I would have been happy to tell him how I felt about the night. I missed meeting him by seconds.

  6. the kings pictured at the after party are in order

    kyle calder, derek armstrong, john zeiler, wayne simmonds and i believe kyle quincey.

  7. This is great stuff. I’m glad you got to be there for it, and thanks for sharing the experience.

  8. Great meeting you! I hope you had a fantastic time; I TOTALLY forgot there was an Armenian party going afterwards, I think I was too distraught after the game. Hopefully the audio turned out well too!

  9. I really enjoyed what you had to say. It’s one thing to be a Kings fan and attend any game when your team is working for a playoff spot. but to be able to attend the first Armenian heritage night as an Armenian American and Kings fan made this Armenian girl smile like she’d just won the lotto. This event was a once in a life time for many of us. And to be able to see the first Armo kid get to play in the NHL was simply amazing. Keep up the good work.

  10. When I began reading this post, I started to get a little bit annoyed (this is before I read the whole thing) because I’m always trying to make it a point around people who say “But you don’t LOOK Amrenian,” and ask them, well…what does an Armenian look like and is an Armenian supposed to look a certain way? I think that Armenians are beautiful people in their own unique way, no we do not look like Persians or middle-easterners, as some people compare us to. I myself am a 5’9 light haired, skinned, and eyed Armenian and the Armenians I know are pretty tall…over six feet tall, so I get a bit annoyed when people start to generalize or put a title on looks. Then I decided to read the rest of the article and I agree and have to say that it was very well said, I felt very proud to be there at that game and the after party…it was truly a cool experience, especially to be surrounded by so many proud Armenians!

  11. PS – GO KINGS GO!

  12. I just wanted to say that I love this site

  13. Mark Gralian says:

    Curious as to your history.
    The only Gralian I know are family. I am 100% american but a iterested in where are ties cross (if any).

    thank you,
    Mark Gralian
    Sacramento ca

  14. Stephen Jambazian says:

    I’m taking my kids and cousins to the Kings and Buffalo game and just noticed the Armenian Heritage night again… Should be a good one !! Go Kings

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