Observing Los Angeles

For many LA fans, the Kings play tonight for Tanner *

Update: Kings win 2-1, lead the series 3-0

tannerheads.jpgSports fans who don't go to hockey games would likely be surprised at how many Kings jerseys will be worn in Staples Center at this evening's NHL playoff game — jerseys of different colors from five decades of the team's history. Men, women, children — I'd bet more than half the crowd will be flying the colors, far more than that in the upstairs seats. Tucked in among the jerseys, there will also be small cardboard likenesses of a smiling Kings fan. Tannerheads, the fans call them.

Tanner Raboin was a 19-year-old Kings loyalist who died a year ago in
after pubiicly battling Chronic Granulomatous Disease, or CGD. Tonight's game would have been his first seeing his team play a home game in the Western Conference Finals of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Tanner's parents and uncles are also big fans. A story this morning on the Toronto Standard website lays out the Tanner story. Sample:

In the fall of 2010, [Tanner's father] Steven, like so many Kings fans did every preseason, prepared for Los Angeles’ annual Frozen Fury exhibition in Las Vegas. Unfortunately due to illness, Tanner was not able to make the annual trip with his father and uncles. So, Steven promised that he would figure out a way to bring the game to his son. From there, three cut-outs were made of Tanner’s head, one for Steven, and one for each uncle, Scott and Tim. Some glue was added, followed by a Popsicle stick and, lo and behold, the Tannerhead was born. Steven and his brothers dedicated their voyage to Tanner by taking hundreds of photos of them with the Tannerheads throughout the entire trip. Steven’s idea spread like wildfire. Hundreds of friends and fans generously posed in honor of Tanner....

This past September 30, I landed in Los Angeles and immediately drove to Las Vegas for the 2011 version of Frozen Fury. On the drive, there was a Tannerhead every 12 miles from LAX to Sin City. Whether they were applied to freeway signs, rest stops or phone booths, no Kings fan was inclined to kick off the new season without their inspiration. In Vegas, many fans plastered Tannerheads all over MGM Arena and all across the strip while a few fans painted Tanner’s name and number, 91, on the back of their Kings shirts to show their unwavering dedication. Who says whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas?

Two days before Tanner’s passing, the Los Angeles Kings partnered up with the “Be the Match” foundation as part of their Fan Appreciation Day at Staples Center during a game against their cross-town rivals from Anaheim. “Be the Match” is a bone marrow registry, which the Raboins became involved in when their son was in need a marrow transplant.

“Because of our dedication as Kings fans and season ticket holders,” Steven said, “we have met hundreds of wonderful people, who came to his (Tanner’s) aid when the Kings partnered with ‘Be the Match’ with the intent to find a match for Tanner. The night of the partnership, BTM registered 307 people."

This morning on the official Kings fans site, the site's creator Michael Zamperelli posted a game day thread headed simply Lest we forget our brother, Tanner. The comments are flowing in.

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