Thursday, June 14, 2012
Kings players, fans bask in glory
By Arash Markazi ESPNLosAngeles.com
LOS ANGELES -- Jonathan Quick had made that drive down Figueroa Street to Staples Center countless times before over the past five years.
During those drives, all the high rises, cars and passersby all blended together as Quick focused on the game at hand.
On Thursday, however, everything stood still. At least, Quick wished it would have for as long as possible.
As he stood atop a flatbed truck, sandwiched between six double-decker busses, Quick transitioned between hoisting the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy above his head along the one-mile parade route from Fifth Street to Chick Hearn Court. Both sides of the streets were filled with thousands of Los Angeles Kings fans chanting "M-V-P" at Quick and "Go, Kings, Go!" at the players. Later, it was still a surreal sight for Quick as he stood in the bowels of Staples Center after the parade had wrapped up.
"You see the fans during the games and it gets loud during the games but it was just as loud out there," Quick said. "That has to be some kind of record. It was amazing to see what it meant to them and what it means to the city."
The Stanley Cup returned to Staples Center on Thursday as the focal point of the rally celebrating the Kings' championship.
This wasn't a moment Quick or any player on the Kings said they dreamed of when they came to Los Angeles. Simply winning the franchise's first Stanley Cup seemed like a lofty enough goal; changing the sports culture of an entire city seemed altogether unrealistic.
About as unrealistic as a No. 8 seed steamrolling through the playoffs with a 16-4 record, beating the top three seeds in the West and winning a record 10 straight road games in the process.
"This was unbelievable," Quick said. "It was special, not only for us to be able to win a Stanley Cup but to do it in a city that's never done it before and see the joy they're having with it and how excited they are is amazing. You hear them chanting and the looks on their faces when you're looking at them off the bus is unbelievable. It's something I'll never ever forget."
After winning the Stanley Cup on Monday night, the legendary trophy made its way to the North End Bar & Grill in Hermosa Beach, a favorite watering hole for many players; to Kings captain Dustin Brown's backyard, where his kids drank chocolate milk out of it in their Spiderman pajamas; to "The Tonight Show" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live;" to Dodger Stadium where Dodgers and Angels players got to take pictures with it; and to the Roosevelt Hotel where David Beckham and Chuck Lidell got to spend some quality time with Lord Stanley's Cup.
About 72 hours later, the Stanley Cup finally returned to Staples Center and was placed at center ice along with the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl, awarded to the Western Conference champions, and the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Kings held a standing-room-only rally at the arena following the parade.
Luc Robitaille, who is now the president of business operations for the Kings and has his number retired after playing for the team for 14 years, pulled out a piece of paper as he addressed the team and the crowd and read an e-mail he had received from the first Kings player to have his number retired.
"Dear Luc," it read. "I cannot thank the Kings enough for making me a part of this dream run. This is a closing chapter in my life for me and Carol. Now I can go to my grave with my head up. Your friend, Marcel Dionne."
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The scene still seemed like a dream to Kings coach Daryl Sutter, who left his 3,000-acre farm in Viking, Alberta, less than six months ago to take on the job of coaching the Kings after the team fired Terry Murray. Before he goes back this weekend to planting oats and barley to feed the livestock, Sutter took one last look at his players before they went their separate ways for the summer.
"The most unbelievable feeling I've had in the last few days was when we had that 5-1 lead with three or four minutes left the other night," Sutter said. "Just to see the look on their faces is something I'll remember for the rest of my life."
The normally reserved Sutter was grinning from ear to ear, pumping his fist like an umpire calling a player out at home plate as he received a standing ovation from the crowd. The image of their normally curmudgeon coach letting loose permeated through each player as they stood up and addressed the crowd.
Kings forward Dustin Penner tried some Spanish as he addressed the crowd ("Gracias, buenos tardes Kings aficionados"), Matt Greene teased Drew Doughty for his 20-second speech ("Let's give it up for Drew, what a speech. Awesome.") and Quick made many television producers scramble by dropping a couple of expletives while telling the crowd, "How 'bout this [expletive] team right here. Look at these [expletive] guys."
The Kings had so much fun Thursday that the focus for many players following the parade quickly shifted toward having another one next year and becoming the first team in 15 years to repeat as Stanley Cup champions.
"It's too much fun not to win it again," Kings forward Anze Kopitar said. "So let's go get it."