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Opening of NHL season draws American fans to London

Fans in the NHL's season-opening series in London were a very long way from home.

"I've come all the way from Orange County for this," Kings fan Tony Gerlech said Sunday. "It's an added bonus to be here. I love London, but I'm definitely here for the hockey."

The Kings and the Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks opened the NHL season with a home-and-home series at the O2 Arena, which looked a lot like any other NHL arena.

"Apart from the accent of the guys serving behind the bar and the river outside it feels similar to any NHL stadium," Ducks fan Shaun Helguson said. "They've done a great job."

And a little thing like the Atlantic Ocean didn't stop many from making the trip to the British capital.

"It is definitely a great excuse to get over here. I've been looking for a reason for years but never had one," said Mark Shawalah, a Ducks fan from Anaheim. "I'd never have come over here if it wasn't for the Ducks. I try not to miss any games."

The games in London were the first two regular-season NHL contests in Europe. Both games were sold out, with fans in the crowd wearing a wide variety of hockey shirts.

The Ducks won Sunday's game 4-1, but the Kings took the opener, also 4-1. The teams alternated being the "home" team, even though they wore the same uniform each night because they only packed one set each.

The fans didn't seem to mind that one bit, or the fact that they had so far to go to see their favorite players.

"I don't think the standard of hockey is any different after them traveling. They have to do a lot of traveling back home, too," Los Angeles-resident Joseph Dunbar said. "Hockey gets some bad press at home so it's great to see an amazing atmosphere like this thousands of miles away from home."

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