By Jon D. Gaede
LOS ANGELES - Southern California, where surf culture was born, can now say they are the kings of the ice. After 45 years of waiting, the Stanley Cup belongs to Los Angeles. No more ‘endless summers‘ of wondering which players to trade away for real ones. No more explaining that LA just isn’t a hockey town. No more longing for the days of Wayne Gretsky, ‘The Great One” who raised all expectations and put the Kings deep into the finals in the 90’s. You don’t have to package or sell hockey to the 250,000 who lined the streets of downtown Loa Angeles to celebrate their cup!
They join their rivals, the Ducks of Orange County (won Cup in 2006) as the second team from Southern California to take NHL’s Stanley Cup in six years. The parade down Figueroa seemed to be as large as Laker parades of the past and certainly just as loud. Official Kings gear flew off the shelves and kiosks as fans couldn’t wait to adorn themselves with the colors of a winner, their Kings! No less than eight double decker busses carried players, family members and staff through the streets of Los Angeles and back to the Staples Center for a more intimate celebration with 18,000 of their closest fans.
Once inside Staples Center, AEG President Tim Leiweke put the celebration in perspective as he credited new coach Darryl Sutter for transforming an underachieving squad into the aggressive one that disposed of favored Vancouver in short order. Sutter’s squad reflected his understated mannerr, short on praise and delayed gratification. He has a special way to extract more and more out of his players. And that’s what they gave him. Behind the mask of keeper Jonathan Quick, the kings ran the table on Vancouver and St. Louis. They were well on the way to sweeping New Jersey until they fought back to 3-2. The Kings lost their first road playoff game at New Jersey, then returned home to win the Cup on home ice. The Kings Jonathan Quick bested opposing keeper Martin Broadeur with one incredible save after another was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP. Coach Sutter, AEG’s Tim Leiweke, Captain Dustin Brown and Quick, each expressed the desire to ‘do it again’. The Staples Center crowd roared each time. The mixture of tough veterans and dynamic youth may likely be in LA’s favor.
For the summer, the Cup will make it’s traditional journey. Each player will share personal time with it. Very unique to hockey, Lord Stanley’s Cup will be shared on airplanes, boats, trains and in the small towns of Canada and the U.S. By tradition, the Kings may engrave 45 names onto the Cup, where they will remain for 45 years. A very special tradition indeed.
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