LOS ANGELES – An estimated 300,000 fans filled the city's sidewalks and streets yesterday to celebrate their Stanley Cup champions for the second time in just three years. It was time for the Stanley Cup to glimmer and glow under the southern California summer sun once again.
The Kings' improbable postseason run defied the odds and pushed the players to a degree the NHL has never seen. Their 26-game run to the Stanley Cup is the longest stretch of games ever played by a champion. Moreover, they faced elimination seven times, and prevailed. Even when they were down by two goals, or down in a series by three games, the Kings endured. As the crowd roared from the streets in celebration of their team, it seemed that they too shared the burden and exhilaration from that arduous journey.
Atop the red double-decker buses, the players and their families saw gratitude and ambition in the eyes of the fans, who now envision a lasting dynasty with this team. On the flatbed truck, the pillars of the Kings, Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, and Jonathan Quick repeatedly hoisted the Cup, presenting it to the throngs as though it was hard-fought and won just for the fans.
Yes, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti surprised everyone in the packed Staples Center, and the viewers on TV with undignified (but well-received) language, but the quiet moments during the rally were the most meaningful.
One of those moments occurred during Brown’s address to the fans. In his soft-spoken tone, he spoke of how the fans’ voices were so important to the team. During another moment, Sutter walked back to the stands to watch the video with his son, Chris, who stood over the half-boards to embrace his father. Throughout the rally, mastermind and general manager Dean Lombardi paced in the background, occasionally speaking privately to his players, and squeezing their shoulders with approval and encouragement. Justin Williams’ retrieval of his Conn Smythe trophy at the end of the rally (after nearly forgetting it) was one that many won’t forget.
Those, and many other heartfelt instances of love, pride, and joy will resonate not with just the players, but also with the many faithful Kings fans around the world. And for those players and fans, the fun has only just begun. Last night, the Cup was taken to the Jimmy Kimmel Show. Tonight, Dodgers Stadium will honor the Kings and the Cup, and tomorrow, a South Bay parade will be held for the players. Rest assured that there will be many opportunities to enjoy the Cup for the next several weeks.
But after weeks of Cup appearances and players’ personal days with the Cup, the NHL season will begin again, with the Los Angeles Kings as the defending Stanley Cup champions, and their fans supporting them every step of the way.