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With just a month left before the playoffs, the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks are on the top of the hockey world… or close to it anyway. They lead their division and both local hockey clubs are among the favorites to skate off with the Stanley Cup this year.

If so, it would be the fourth time in a decade that a team from sunny Southern California has won hockey’s biggest prize.

Meanwhile, youth hockey leagues are flourishing here and Los Angeles Times sports columnist Helene Elliott says the region has become “the hockey capital of the world.”

Elliott says you can trace the beginnings of the Golden Era in Southern California hockey back to the player known as the Great One, Wayne Gretzky:

“Wayne Gretzky, when he came to the Kings in 1988, it wasn’t just that he made people interested in hockey, he made them and their kids and now their kid’s kids interested in playing hockey. You see scouts from Canada’s Junior Leagues and all major colleges come in to Southern California to recruit kids because there’s such great athletes here.”

Elliott, by the way, is predicting that one of our local teams, will be hoisting the cup when all is said and done this year: