It was a night when fans banged on the glass very hard, it was a night when gloves came flying off. It was a night, as time ran off the clock, when the players skated down the ice with their arms in the air. It was a night when celebratory fans were screaming and waving towels, witnessing a historic moment for the LA hockey team, something not even Wayne Gretzky could accomplish in his eight years spent in Los Angeles. The Kings have waited 45 years for a moment to celebrate their first ever Stanley Cup. And so here it comes, a pile of joy, a sense of humanity spreading throughout LA, after the Kings beat the New Jersey Devils 6-1 in Game 6 of the finals, to become the first eighth-seeded playoff team to win the championship.
As soon as the red carpet was rolled on to the ice, the growing star on center ice, Dustin Brown, who became the second American-born captain to sustain a triumphant feat, was presented the storied trophy and kissed it. Brown, to traditionally continue the Stanley Cup presentation after a tender celebration with his teammates, handed it to 35-year-old veteran Willie Mitchell, the team’s oldest player, and then he passed it to Simon Gagne and eventually Anze Kopitar touched it. When it was all over, Jonathan Quick, an impenetrable goaltender who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the National Hockey League’s 2012 playoffs, raised his stick in celebration. His incumbent coach, Darryl Sutter, who is soft-spoken and has an aw-shucks demeanor, smiled largely. The roars, followed by the thunderous pounding on the glass, were deafening for the first Stanley Cup Finals in Staples Center history.
It has been some season for the Kings, almost gut-wrenching as they could have endured a major collapse and given the Devils a chance for one of the greatest comebacks, after LA took a 3-0 lead and failed to close it out in two potential championship-clinchers. Far more amazing is the pandemonium that sent Kings mascot, Bailey, the lion, running wildly in the stands. And historically so, this Kings team will always go down as one of the best, if not the best hockey team, a major pro sports franchise in LA, simply for raising the first ever Kings banner to the rafters at Staples Center, a hockey team that can now relate to the Los Angeles Lakers. This was finally a chance for the Kings to taste glory, a chance to claim a place in Los Angeles’ sports vault, a chance to become relevant and move out of the Lakers and Dodgers’ shadows, two storied teams that have won an abundance of championships.
Long live the Kings.
It has finally come. And it never even seemed possible. No one saw this, let alone anticipated the Kings to reach an all-time high and wear the crown of royalty in Hollywood. It’s now a well-known hockey town, one of the most popular sports in Los Angeles suddenly, when the Kings attracted public attention and when locals voluntarily turned to hockey. Say hello to hockey town for now. Normally the Lakers are putting on a show in their gym in June. Around this time each season, the Lakers are playing for an NBA championship. Not this time. In oddity, L.A. sports this time featured the Kings, and not the Lakers.
A long time ago, the Lakers were done and were on vacation somewhere on Catalina Island, while there was a sand sculpture built of the LA Kings’ logos, jerseys, numbers, and Quick. There is no denying the Kings, and rightly so, the atmosphere at Staples Center has been lively and remains vibrant after LA won its first Stanley Cup since the franchise came into existence in 1967. It was history in the making, and the Kings own a chapter in a library of NHL books. Mired in trouble, the Kings third time on ice, following back-to-back losses, was a charm as these men thrashed and clinched a historic victory. They never lost an ounce of confidence and kept their poise, and finally prevailed to finish off the series four games to two. As it happened, the Kings scored three quick goals in the first period alone.
Early on, the Devils were short-handed because of an austere penalty. Within that span, Brown, Jeff Carter and Trevor Lewis scored, and New Jersey trailed 3-0. The Kings, out of all teams, are 2012 Stanley Cup champions, fighting off all the adversity and early struggles by refusing to back down. All summer, we will talk about how they won only half of their regular-season games. All summer, we will talk about how they made the playoffs in the final week of the season to clinch the eighth seed. And wouldn’t you know, they historically won and created a nice hockey story. Given an eight-year, $56-million contract signed before the season, Drew Doughty developed into a shutdown defensive player.
Under Terry Murray the Kings suffocated and hired Sutter to recuse a near-loss season, boost the team’s confidence and recreate a group that wanted to truly win, and they certainly pulled it off. The hockey world is stunned by now, and probably should be. Even though the Devils, led by longtime goalie Martin Brodeur, scared the Kings fans with their ability to stop opponents, that never denied banged-up, toothless, worn down Kings players from an incredible ending that will last forever. No one ever thought they would steamroll through No. 1 Vancouver Canucks, No. 2 St. Louis Blues and No. 3 Phoenix Coyotes.
This was never thought to happen, not this season, maybe years from now but not now.
That’s what makes it so wonderful and historic.