Just the beginning: Future holds promise for Kings
JUN 16, 2014 6:43p ET
LOS ANGELES -- "Which ring is your favorite?" was the question posed to Los Angeles Kings forwards Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar, Monday afternoon, back on the Staples Center ice for the first time since winning their second Stanley Cup.
Once again, Staples Center was sold out and filled to the brim. Following the Stanley Cup parade in downtown L.A., thousands awaited the answer of the team's captain and alternate captain. So which one was it: The ring they won in 2012 as the underdogs that shocked the world and ended years of fan agony? Or the most recent ring that came after one of the longest and toughest postseason journeys in NHL history?
The answer was neither.
"The next one," they both said, in unison.
The 2014 celebration had a much different feel than the one two years ago. Even head coach Darryl Sutter noticed it.
"I think they're more in the celebration part, but last time they were more taking it all in," he said.
"It seemed bigger," said former L.A. King and current team President of Business Operations Luc Robitaille. "When we turned that last corner it was unbelievable, it was overwhelming."
Maybe the fans knew as well just how big of a deal it is (L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti sure did) and just how much bigger it has the potential to become, as many are excited to get in on the ground floor of something that has tremendous promise.
"We've felt that way the last couple of years," Robitaille said. "We know we have one of the youngest teams in the NHL still and all of our guys that love to be Kings are very young. They're teaching everybody else what it is and what it takes to be a King and they're teaching everyone around the NHL."
There is a much bigger buzz surrounding this win than there was the last. The TV rankings show it and the growing fan support has been obvious. General manager Dean Lombardi, now surely a lock for GM of the year - has done something that few in the salary cap era have been able to accomplish. Following the 2012 Cup run, he was able to keep 17 players from the team. Many of those are still under contract and as Robitaille said, the younger ones are thriving and happy to be in a system that fosters winning and a familial atmosphere.
"We've got a great group of guys," said goaltender Jonathan Quick. "Whether we were able to win or not, it wouldn't have changed how much we enjoy going to the rink. Stuff that starts to seem tedious at some point for a lot of teams, I think, for us, it's something we enjoy to do. We have a lot of fun with it."
Salary cap be damned, the Kings plan to keep closing off Figueroa every year. This was the second, and they feel it's far from the last.
"We've said that for the last four or five years, that we're going to compete every year. We're going to try," Robitaille said. "You don't know how many cups you can win but every summer we can sit down and say, 'What else can we do to get better?' We know we can do that for the next five, six, seven, eight years and that's pretty special."