After 45 years, the Los Angeles Kings are Stanley Cup Champions.
For Los Angeles natives, 1993 isn’t that long ago. Back then the Kings had a real chance to become the city team. Yes, you heard me: A hockey team, of all things, could have been the LA squad. It oozed star power. Star coach Barry Melrose bought into the Sunset strip and had the wickedest hockey mullet that every Echo Parkour kid wishes they had. Robitaille was slick, cool and collected on the puck. And Gretzky… well he was the great one.
This year, though, was nothing like the memories. Before 2012 began, the team was in the bottom of the basement. Tickets were cheap and Staples was filled by its its loyal-but-rabid fan base. They snuck into the playoffs in the last week of the season. I am an LA sports fan. I didn’t pay attention.
I know how the story was supposed to end. Like how it ended for so many years. The Kings, well, they have a bit of the Dodgers in them. Some bonehead play always kept them from going the distance. The Dodgers were legendary for that in Brooklyn. The old joke was, well, still is, “The Dodgers have 3 men on base,” with the obvious reply “On which base?” In the Kings’ case, it happened with McSorley’s stick in 1993. Tragedy shortly followed. In this case, as the worst team in the Stanley Cup playoffs, tragedy supplanted inevitability. Their captain had teeth that looked like Skid Row and not Murderers Row. This wasn’t worth watching. The Kings were done before it started.
My phone couldn’t stop moving. My Canadian friends had already put money on the Kings. My Chicago friends would remind me how blissfully ignorant I was to the Kings demolition of every team in their way. And as they ran off victory after victory in pursuit of the cup, Downtown changed. The Lakers, the unquestionable kings of the Staples Center, lost their spot in the bar to their long-term, hardly acknowledged roommate. And then watched their forgotten roommate steal the biggest room in the apartment and put their stuff on the doorstep because “it just wasn’t that useful anymore.” When the Kings took a 3-0 lead in the Finals, it was apparent that the impossible was really about to happen. A hockey team in Los Angeles will hoist the Stanley Cup.
Fans flooded the streets and the riots resembled a more bearded, less violent version of the Lakers 2010 championship. Since then, the Cup has toured the city better than a Fox 11 traffic copter. It Her-bro-sa’ed it up after the game. Made it to Dodger Stadium the next day where both the Dodgers AND the Angels posed with it. Did cameos on Leno and Kimmel. When the parade ended Thursday evening at the Roosevelt Hotel, even David Beckham and Chuck Liddell were on the bus, wearing the black and silver. Now it’s in Vegas as the Kings brought their grit to the Palms Hotel.
While the Kings may never be embraced in Los Angeles the way the Lakers and the Dodgers are, this could be the start. Could it change it? Can they be more than Kings for a day, more than a week, maybe for a year? It’s tough to tell. The history and the roots are here. But sports are simply another interest to Angelenos, no different than film, art, beaches, mountains and deserts. Hockey is as native to LA as surfing is to Maine but that’s ok. We got a team and a damn good one at that. Kings for a day? How about Kings of Destiny.