Positive energy poured into downtown Los Angeles on Thursday afternoon in the form of double-decker buses carrying the Stanley Cup, the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl, the Conn Smythe Trophy and the players and staff members of the Los Angeles Kings — all parading down Figueroa Street toward Staples Center, backed by thousands upon thousands of adoring fans who continued to bask in the afterglow of the team’s first championship.
“Words can’t explain it. I think we’re still numb from the whole deal,” said Sheri Eaton of Long Beach, a 29-year season-ticket holder. “It’s just like, OK, somebody wake us up. Are we dreaming?”
A 16-4 postseason run after 44 seasons of frustration has the ability to induce delirium, apparently.
Fresh off a two-month sojourn through Vancouver, St. Louis, Phoenix and Newark, the suddenly clean-shaven Kings — even Dustin Penner had shorn off the handlebar moustache he wore to the Dodgers game the night before — were showered with affection wherever they turned, from the six-block parade route, to a packed L.A. Live and Star Plaza, to inside a roaring Staples Center, where they were greeted by the emotional applause of a standing-room only crowd that had quickly snatched up the free tickets to the rally.
“It’s amazing. The atmosphere – it’s crazy, it’s wild, you can see all the fans just screaming and yelling ‘We’ve got the Cup!” said Crystal Garcia of Corona. “We’ve got it. That’s what we wanted.”
To the victor go the spoils, and having vanquished New Jersey, Kings coach Darryl Sutter showed off his new fist pump on Thursday afternoon. Twice.
“This is an awesome, awesome accomplishment for all you people,” Sutter told the crowd, which responded with more heartfelt chants of “Dar-ryl! Dar-ryl!” than those previously offered at any other L.A. sporting event.
It was in the same building just three days prior that a career accomplishment began to unfold in front of Sutter and assistant coaches John Stevens and Jamie Kompon. Leading 5-1, and then 6-1 late in the third period, the understanding that a Stanley Cup presentation was only minutes away began to materialize, a realization that stirred celebrations on the bench as the time ticked away.
“Just to see the look on their faces is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” Sutter continued, adding one more fist pump before opening up the floor to the players.
Dustin Penner, a Manitoban, spoke in broken Spanish. Drew Doughty, showing off his youthful qualities and one of what can only be estimated as a bounty of Toronto Blue Jays hats, was chided by Matt Greene, one of several Kings wearing Dodgers caps.
“Let’s give it up for Drew! What a speech!” he said after Doughty’s brief address.
For the first time, one could hear the rallying cry of a title defense.
“It’s too much fun not to win it again,” Anze Kopitar said.
While that elicited a cheer – and considering the team is set to return its entire defense and has locked up much of its skill and youth, it should be well stocked come October – Thursday’s parade and rally was much more about the celebration of an improbable, magical run.
“There were a couple moments that stick out for me,” TV color commentator Jim Fox said when asked to recall emblematic moments of the team’s championship performance.
“The first one was Game 1 against Vancouver, the start of the playoffs, and just the intensity shown by Mike Richards,” Fox said.
“I think it’s something the Kings never had before. Dave Taylor, probably that type of player, but the groups surrounding him probably never had a player like them. They needed that. The hit by Dustin Brown on Henrik Sedin – that certainly sticks out. Now that’s early on in the playoffs, the hit by Brown. The Phoenix game – Game 5. Kopitar’s patience on breakaways. He had a short-handed goal against St. Louis. He had the game-winner in Game 1. So many players had a whole bunch to do with what went on. It’s hard to single out, but those things come to mind right now.”
No Kings broadcaster was denied the outpouring of appreciation, as lines formed for a chance to spend a moment with Fox during commercials on the Fox Sports West stage on Star Plaza. Everywhere Bob Miller, Fox, radio play by play broadcaster Nick Nickson and color commentator Daryl Evans turned, there were more smiles, more photos to be taken, more congratulations.
It wasn’t too different from the waning moments of Game 6, as Kings fans counted down toward their first Cup by celebrating with both Miller and Fox downstairs.
“It was interesting. The call that we did the last game, that we did the audio call for, we were down at the front of the control room. It’s where they found a place for us at Staples Center,” Fox said.
“So there were fans right in front of us, and with the game being won, in the last three minutes, the fans were just able to come up and say hi to Bob, and congratulate Bob, myself too, and that made it a little more special. If we would have been in our normal broadcast location, we wouldn’t have had access to do that. So it was kind of neat to share it with the fans.”
We’ll leave the final words for captain Dustin Brown, whom Miller introduced as having recorded 93 playoff hits and producing five short-handed points, among other statistics that placed his name among the most valuable skaters in the 2012 postseason.
He led Staples Center in a chorus of “We’ve got the Cup!” and saluted Miller, advocating his voice as the preferred narration of the team’s postseason success.
It was Brown’s eloquence that seemed closed the book on the greatest season in Kings history.
“I look behind me and I see a bunch of champions,” he said.