Kings win the Stanley. Freaking. Cup.

I was 12 or 13, the first time I went to a hockey game. It was the old purple and gold Kings, at the Forum, against (I think) the Flyers. It would have been around 1983 or 1984, and a though I can't recall much about the game, a few things are clear in my memory:

  • The Forum was not even half full, but the people who were there were as loud and passionate as the Dodger fans I saw regularly at sold out Dodger games*.
  • The Kings were not a good team.
  • There were a couple of fights near center ice that were awesome.
  • The Kings lost the game.

It took me about half of the first period to understand what was going on, but once I figured it out, I was hooked. Los Angeles isn't a hockey town (despite what the press and celebrities are saying right now), and it never will be. Los Angeles is a Lakers town, and (when they win) a Dodgers town.

I loved (and love) ice hockey — especially Kings ice hockey — because it took effort to understand the game, because it wasn't something that many people cared about or even knew about. In the 80s, it was easy to be a Lakers fan; that team was unstoppable and as dominant as any team has ever been… so being a weird nerd and budding contrarian, I rejected basketball entirely and embraced ice hockey and the Kings, because it wasn't easy to be a Kings fan.**

In 1987, I got hired on Star Trek, and I could afford season tickets to the Kings. Later that year, Wayne Gretzky came to town, and suddenly people cared about ice hockey in Los Angeles. For the next six years, I attended nearly every home game and quite a few heartbreaking first round playoff games. I started playing the game myself, and eventually became a fairly decent goalie.

In 1993, I watched the team I'd grown up loving more than anything make it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, fighting every step of the way to get there, defeating some of the best teams of that era before an illegally-curved stick put Lord Stanley's Cup out of reach for what would feel like eternity.

Until last night.

Last night, my friends came over and we put on jerseys from three eras of Kings history, hoping against hope that we would finally see our team hoist the Cup.

three eras of kings history
That's our friend Burns! and our friend Stephanie. I've known Stephanie since we were 17. We went to games together all through the 80s and early 90s. She introduced me to Anne 16 years ago. Burns! and Anne worked together when they were in their early 20s, and Burns! grew up with Scalzi. It's weird how small the world is.

The mood in our house wasn't as celebratory as it was for Game 5. We've been close before, and we've been heartbroken. We've been Kings fans long enough to know that, sometimes, the team just falls apart… 

But not this team. Not now. Not this year.

After having a terrible power play all year, this team scored three times on a 5 minute major and never looked back. We were screaming and cheering so much, we scattered my cats and Anne had to put our dogs outside.

Hoverwil
Hoverwil

Hoverwil

I've been doing the Hover Wil quite a bit this playoff season.

 

When the third period started, we put the champagne in the fridge, and hoped we didn't jynx anything.

Then New Jersey pulled one of the greatest goalies to ever play the game, and the Kings scored an empty-netter to go up 5-1. Then, Matt Greene scored from the blue line to make it 6-1 with 2 minutes left in the game.

And we all realized that a lifetime of waiting for our beloved Los Angeles Kings to win the Stanley Cup was going to end. This was really happening. A team that wasn't even supposed to make it past the first round of the playoffs, a team that was horrible in December and January, a team that I was afraid would never realize its potential…

…did this:

image from i.imgur.com
And there was much rejoicing.

 

Kingschampagne
After nearly 30 years watching the Kings have a few ups and a lot of downs, this feels really, really good. I'm proud of these guys, and I hope the ones who are free agents next season will find a way to stick around, so maybe they can do it again.

Unlike the teams of the early 90s, when Kings ownership and management seemed intent on sacrificing the future for a slim chance to win one Stanley Cup, this is a Kings team that has the potential to repeat. This isn't the end of something… this is the beginning.

Oh, and for the die hard, life long Kings fans out there… how awesome was it to finally see this:

Bob Miller Hoists the Stanley Cup
Kick ass, Bob Miller. I can't wait to hear your call of the game.

*Dodger baseball is basically religion in my dad's family. I can't remember a time in my life when we didn't go to games, or listen to games, or watch games, or listen to old people in dad's family talk about games.

** [Hipster Kitty]

74 thoughts on “Kings win the Stanley. Freaking. Cup.”

  1. Hi Wil,
    It was great seeing a die-hard fan such as yourself so excited about the Kings taking the Stanley Cup. My ‘hover’ moment was seeing the Red Sox beat the Yankees in the World Series, something I thought I’d never witness in my lifetime.
    After seeing the pictures on your post I just had to do something in the GIMP (poorly). If you feel that this infringes or should be taken down let me know and I will remove it immediately.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/dmwatson/7181564291/

  2. That video was fairly funny until the Final Countdown happened. on kazoo. Now I’m in tears with the shoulder-shakes, laughing.
    As a Pens fan who finally got to see her team win after a long time of not-winning, I can appreciate this post (and was happy that the Kings won).

  3. As a general sports fan (minor in hockey, major in football), I gotta throw out a congrats. It really felt good to see the Kings win. Everything just kinda clicked right there during the playoffs and that’s when it feels the best. Here’s hoping you get another magic run like that. And be sure to try to get to the parade I hear they’re having if you can.

  4. Congratulations! Gotta love seeing the Kings finally drink from Lord Stanley’s Cup. Enjoy your time, though, since my Pens will be back next season…
    (I still remember when the Pens first won in 1991. I was in 7th grade and my classmates and I were going around singing “We Are the Champions” all the time)

  5. Congrats to a fellow longtime Kings fan and goalie as well (street game, and I sucked). Thought I saw you on the Forum concourse a few times, or maybe it was that bully kid from “The Wonder Years.”
    Cynical from watching years of Kings hockey, I never expected to see this day. The Chicago Cubs winning the World Series probably had better odds than the Kings winning the Stanley Cup. Nor did I expect to see them win in a dominating style akin to putting EA Sports’ NHL games on easy mode. Can’t blame you for the geek stampede and the kazoo.
    By the way, sweet Vachon jersey. Was going to get my ’70s-era solid purple one lettered for that bloke.
    I also have this NJ Devils jersey I bought years ago that I was going to get Brodeur’s name on, but never got around to it. Now I might opt for Bernier, for his efforts.

  6. Congrats to you and your Kings. It’s great to see your team that you grew up never thinking would win finally do something. I got that two years ago with my Blackhawks. It was incredible. Sure the Hawks won in the past which makes it different but it was more than a lifetime ago for me.
    Anyway, congrats. The Kings deserve it. Keep happy dancing, my man.

  7. I was going crazy during the game. Wil, I am just a tad older than you and I remember watching the Kings on ONTV. That is when I got hooked. I am so happy and as luck would have it I am off on Thursday and will get to attend a loooong awaited parade.

  8. I’m from Winnipeg, so I had a “remember it for a lifetime” hockey moment before the season even started. Okay, it was more than a moment… the entire city was in celebrate the Jets mode from the time the move was announced in May until they were eliminated in April. But… since my team was out, I’d been pulling for the Kings because they eliminated the Canucks, and because your enthusiasm for them was infectious, and because it’s always nice to see a city that’s never won a cup taking it home.

  9. I went to my first Kings game at age 6 in 1980 and have been a Kings fan ever since. My big brother and I had season seats in the early 2000s and sat through season after season of agonizing losses but we remained staunch, long-suffering, hardcore fans. I was lucky enough to go to a handful of playoff games this season, including the devastating Game Four of the finals. I was resigned to the fact that I would not make it to Game Six, tickets were too expensive. And then, at the very last minute, a ticket materialized. Christmas miracle. I was sitting on the roof, but I was in the building. And then the real miracle happened: they motherfucking won! We were jumping up and down on our chairs, hugging total strangers, screaming and crying tears of joy. My voice still hasn’t come back and my ears are still ringing.
    Wil: I love that you are a Kings fan. I loved your Tweets all through the playoffs. And I love this video of you when they won. No one but a longtime Kings fan really knows how much this win means. How much it means to see Bob Miller hoist the Stanley Cup. I have chills even now just thinking about it. Thanks for this post. I was thinking of all the lifelong fans (including my big brother) who couldn’t be in the building when they won. I loved being able to see that you were celebrating right along with us at home. STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS! How about that?!?

  10. Congrats, Wil! I’m so glad you can enjoy this. As a Cleveland native, well, I feel your recent pain. Maybe, one day, that mistake on the lake will get a sports championship. Of any kind. Maybe. ‘Til then, I’ll just keep watching the opening of Major League and remembering a simpler time long gone…when my dad took me to the stadium he worked in as a boy and taught me both stickball and sportball and I wandered downtown and the flats with only my siblings for company. Different world, that. Different world.
    PS: I do understand and have played hockey, but I don’t follow the NHL much. That said, I do have an old Crusaders pennant. Oh, Cleveland, you can’t even keep your hockey team. Sigh…

  11. Being a hockey fan myself in a decidedly non-hockey town (became a ‘Canes fan when I moved to RDU in 2000 and retained that fandom when I moved back to Atlanta), I can fully appreciate your enthusiasm. I felt the same when the ‘Canes finally hoisted the Cup.
    And the fact the Kings beat the Devils to do it makes me even happier for you.

  12. First: your hockey initiation is similar to mine. Went to a game at 16 and by the end of the night I was hooked. This was back in Ye Olden Days (late 60s) and my team was the Pittsburgh Penguins, who looked to be in the same situation as your old Kings [crappy]. (Of course they’ve won a few Cups since then….) There was no ESPN back then and no airing of games but I could listen on the radio….and did. And went to a few games, and became a sports writer for a while as a career because of it.
    I got home from Job #2 Monday night in time to watch the last 3 minutes of the Kings/Devils game on TV, and was thrilled for all the fans because that experience of winning a championship is priceless. With the cheering and the towel waving I was taken back to the 1991 Minnesota Twins, where I was at the pivotal Game 6 and lived through a deafening roar and the stadium of waving white towels (ours were Homer Hankies). Congratulations and make sure you get to visit the Cup whenever it gets shown in the Los Angeles area. You likely will be able to get your picture taken with it.

  13. I’m picturing a bright orange box with hoverwil on the front.
    Wheatons: The Breakfast of Long-suffering Champions.
    That’s got to feel great. Make sure you tweet what you do with the cup when you get your hands on it.

  14. As a Canucks fan since 1976, I totally get the many years of a few ups and mostly downs. About 33 years of downs, and 3 ups: 1982; 1994; and, 2011. Two of those were Game 7 losses in the Stanley Cup Finals, so those were losses as tough as losses get.
    But I know, when the Canucks do finally win, I’ll react very much like you did this year, Wil. And I’ll hope Jim Robson is there to lift the cup like Bob Miller did. And I hope ex-Canucks like Trevor Linden get to hoist it like “Lucky” Luc did. And, like you, I hope to share it with my family and friends who know how much it will mean to me.
    Congratulations. It was a fun ride, riding this one with you.

  15. I love hockey and though I specifically love Flyers hockey, I’m happy for the Kings & their fans. And not just b/c some of my favorite former Flyers are associated with the Kings. I guess b/c I just narrowly saved myself from becoming a member of that faction of sports fans who are frak’n assholes, I try to “not be a dick” to fans of opposing teams. Too bad I didn’t get to watch any of the Stanley Cup finals! I can’t afford cable TV & the local networks don’t give a crap about the weak signal sent out to those of us who rely on antenae. I think for next hockey season, I should just get a Twitter accnt & follow Wil!

  16. Being from the Netherlands, I really didn’t know what ice hockey was untill I was about 13 or 14 years old. I remember discovering it through a playstation game and it was awesome! (maybe it’s the fact that hockey players don’t whine when they hit the ground like our soccer players…)
    I have been following the NHL ever since. Never really connected to one single team though, untill i saw these Stanley Cup Finals! I really cheered for the Kings and I’m happy they won. Next season, I’m definitely following the Kings more closely.
    Love and peace from Europe!

  17. I can totally relate with you…. up until your team won…
    I’ve been supporter of my local soccer team (NAC Breda) for all my life. I went to the old stadium for the first time when i was 6 years old, in 1982 but didn’t like it then. Then 2 years later i went to another match and that atmosphere, the thick emotion that you could almost taste, the passion that filled the stadium. It overwhelmed me. It wasn’t until a month or two later i actually started liking the game as wel.
    Over the years we’ve been 5th, 4th,last and religated to a lower league, became champions of that league and promoted to the bigtimes again, 8th, 4th and even made 3rd place one seizon. But never have i had the pleasure of seeing my team hold up the champion’s cu… eehm.. plate… and i can only imagine the feeling that must give. I’m jelous but not so much that i’m not happy for you. Congratulations man! Enjoy!

  18. So I’m a little late finding this post, but I wanted to comment anyhow.
    As a long suffering Sabres fan, I can feel your pain and I envy you your joy as the kings won. They’re really the ONLY warm weather Hockey team I don’t have a beef with, because they’ve had history, they’ve been around and they’ve fought and bled so much more than teams like Phoenix or Florida or the (Thankfully moved) Thrashers.
    Enjoy yourself and cling to this, no matter how good a team may be, you can never be sure when you’ll get another one.
    Also, as an aside, I am not the slightest bit surprised that you’re a Goalie. Everyone knows Goalies ain’t right in the head. :-)

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