Move over, Lakers and Dodgers. Step aside, Trojans and Bruins. For now, hockey is King for LA fans.
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Los Angeles got its first chance to celebrate a Stanley Cup on Monday night as people decked in black, purple and ear-to-ear grins partied outside Staples Center and across the city following the Kings’ 6-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils in Game 6 to clinch the series.
”It’s a hockey town now!” said Kings fan Kate Byrne Haltom, who has long been a hockey fan but didn’t have much company in Southern California.
Lifelong Kings fan Andrew Gonzales, 21, was a bundle of tears and screams in the streets as he reveled with friends on Figueroa Street outside Staples on a night he thought might never come.
”It’s been 14 years I’ve been a fan, I started when I was 6, I’ve been to over 200 games,” said Gonzales. ”It’s the happiest day of my life. I could die. Yeeaaah!”
Despite hockey’s bruising reputation, the celebrations stayed mostly peaceful, with virtually none of the violence and vandalism that has followed some Lakers’ titles.
”Nothing got lit on fire, no cars got damaged, no vandalism that we know of, a couple of minor arrests, but really nothing you wouldn’t expect,” police Cmdr. Andrew Smith told reporters a few hours after the end of the game. ”I think you could say the LAPD are big fans of the Kings fans.”
In the only reported incident of significance in the hours after the game, a small group of fans on the south end of downtown threw bottles and tried to rock a city bus, and police fired less-than-lethal rounds to make the group disperse, LAPD spokeswoman Wendy Reyes. No one was injured.
City fire officials said they were able to scale back their high-alert status within a few hours after the game because firefighters and paramedics had little to do downtown.
”We are not aware of any high-profile incidents or concerns,” fire spokesman Brian Humphrey said.
Celebrants were watched closely by scores of police on horseback, bikes, motorcycles and scooters, many in riot gear.
Police said they placed several undercover officers among the fans and a citywide tactical alert was called during the game as the Kings had a big lead early.
There were just six arrests, the most serious for an aggravated assault in a fight between fans, Reyes said.
The team announced it would throw a downtown victory parade Thursday morning, ending with a party inside Staples Center.
The team made it interesting for the fans, thwarting their plans for a party to celebrate a sweep last week by losing Game 4, then dropping Game 5 in New Jersey.
But their fears and doubts were quickly put down Monday night as the Kings scored three quick goals on their way to the lopsided win.
”Being a Kings fan we always know that disappointment is right around the corner,” said Nando Duran, who watched the game with his wife, Amber, in South Pasadena. ”It feels good to be alive and be able to see them win the Cup. We’re ready to pop the champagne.”