Los Angeles Hockey: Gary Bettman
June, 15, 2012
By Dan Arritt | ESPNLosAngeles.com
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesDean Lombardi is humble when it comes to the Kings' accomplishments, but he had a major hand in helping them get there.
LOS ANGELES -- What must have seemed like the longest elevator ride of his life finally came to a halt shortly before 8 p.m. Monday night.
The Los Angeles Kings had just clinched their first Stanley Cup title in franchise history, and general manager Dean Lombardi, in his sixth season at the helm, was rushing from the press box inside Staples Center to the arena floor, hoping to reach the ice in time for the Cup presentation by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
"Hold on, Bettman. I've got to see this," Lombardi hollered at the elevator door, which was nearly pressed against his face.
A few seconds later, Lombardi and a handful of executives were speed-walking down the hallway and disappearing around a corner.
The 45-year wait was over.
The scene was in stark contrast to my first experience behind L.A.'s curtains, 4½ years ago.
It was just after Christmas 2007, when I was asked by a senior editor at another publication in town to cover practice the following morning. Eager to move up the chain after 14 years of mostly writing about high school sports, I enthusiastically accepted the assignment, even though I kept it to myself that I hadn’t been following the team in my spare time.
My first order of business was uncovering what the Kings had done lately. Much to my surprise, they had lost eight straight games, which remains their longest losing streak since dropping their final 11 in 2004.
Walking into the locker room the next day, it was as quiet as a college library during finals week.
Michael Cammalleri, nursing sore ribs at the time, didn't even bother to look up when asked about the progress of his injury.
Rob Blake, rumored to be heading to a playoff-bound team looking to shore up its defensive corps, said he would gladly waive his no-trade clause if approached.
Patrick O'Sullivan looked like the most sullen guy in L.A.
That was Season 2 of Lombardi's rebuilding plan, and he said everything was proceeding as planned.