Archive for June 2012

The Greatest Day Of My Sports Life

June 15, 2012

It was a day I had waited over 30 years for.  Year after year I had hope that this year would be the year.  My head knew when they had absolutely no chance, and it also knew when they had a good chance.  No matter what my head said my heart always believed there was a chance for a dream to come true.

Finally on June 11, 2012 my dream became a reality.  With a 6-1 defeat of the New Jersey Devils in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, the Los Angeles Kings had finally reached the pinnacle of the hockey world.  They had become the Stanley Cup Champions!

The Los Angeles Kings aren’t just a team I root for, they are part of my DNA.  They are woven into the very fabric of who I am, not only as a sports fan but as a person.  They are my favorite team amongst all my favorite teams in each respective sport.

The Kings are another member of my family.  My father and uncle have been fans of the team since their inception in 1967, and they passed their passion for the Kings on to myself, my brother, and many of my cousins.

I first fell in love with the Kings when my father would take my brother and I to games at the Forum in the mid 1980’s back when guys like Marcel Dionne, Bernie Nicholls, Terry Ruskowski, Jim Fox, and Brian Engblom wore the not so attractive “Forum Blue and Gold” uniforms.

To say those teams weren’t very good was a understatement as they either didn’t make the playoffs or were bounced in the first round.  The Kings were definitely one of the worst franchises in the NHL.  While the results on the ice were lacking, the passion from the fans was not.  More so than when I went to Dodgers games or other sporting events, the loyalty from Kings fans was second to none, and I knew that I wanted to be part of it for the rest of my life.

Fast forward to the late 80’s and early 90’s.   Wayne Gretzky came to LA in a blockbuster trade, the uniforms changed to silver and black and for the arguably the first time in their history, the Kings were regarded as a respectable franchise.  Like all Kings fans I felt as though a Stanley Cup championship was inevitable.  With the greatest player in the world finally on our side instead of against us, how could a championship not be?

The 1993 season was magical.  With players like Luc Robitaille, Tomas Sandstrom, Tony Granato, Jari Kurri, Rob Blake and Kelly Hrudey playing alongside the “Great One” the Kings made a magical run all the way to the Stanley Cup Final where they faced the Montreal Canadiens.  After a 4-1 victory in Game One and a 2-1 lead with two minutes to go in Game Two, I was starting to taste the Cup.

Then the unthinkable happened.  Kings defenseman Marty McSorley was penalized for having an illegal curvature in his stick.  Montreal scored to tie the game on the ensuing power play and then won in overtime.  I felt like I had been punched in the stomach.  I felt like the Trix Rabbit when he was told that Trix were for kids.  Except this time the Hockey Gods had told me, “Silly Kings fan, the Stanley Cup is not for the sun and palm trees of Los Angeles.”

My beloved Kings eventually lost the series in five games, losing game’s 3 and 4 in overtime.  Despite the disappointment, I felt like the Kings had arrived on the scene and would be a cup contender for years to come.  Little did I know…

In between there were many more years of disappointment filled with no trips to the playoffs or first round exits on the rare occasion they got to the postseason.  It was like reliving the mid 80’s all over again.  I never stopped rooting with every ounce of my being, but like many Kings fans I would sometimes ask, “Is it ever going to happen?  Am I ever going to watch my team skate with the Stanley Cup?”

Fast forward 19 years to the 2011-2012 NHL season and I can now finally answer the word “YES!!!!”  to that question.  Not only did it happen, but it happened in one of the most unlikely yet dominant postseason runs in the history of the NHL.

The Kings went 16-4 en route to their first ever Stanley Cup championship defeating the top three seeds in the Western Conference, and in the Finals they defeated a team in New Jersey that had won three Stanley Cups since 1995 with a future hall of fame goaltender in Martin Brodeur.

Not only did they win hockey’s ultimate prize, but they did it in the truest sense of the word team.  17 different players scored at least one goal along the way.  Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick set playoff records by having a goals against average of 1.41 and a save percentage of .946.

As the final minutes were winding down, I thought about all the years of disappointment that were now erased.  No longer will I be haunted by Kings teams with really good players who underachieved.   No longer will I be bitter about McSorley’s curved stick and the disappointment of 1993.  No longer will I feel inferior to fans that have experienced the glory of watching their team skate with the greatest trophy in all of sports.

As I watched the final minutes of the game I thought about my parents taking me to games as a kid.  I called my father to share the moment with him.  I thanked him for making me a hockey fan and I told him I loved him.  I called my brother and one of my cousins just to say, “I can’t believe it finally happened.  The Kings are the champs!”

I yelled in pure joy several times as I saw the streamers come down from the rafters.  I clapped until my hands were sore as Captain Dustin Brown lifted the Stanley Cup high above his head in the most triumphant moment in franchise history.  This was the moment I had dreamed about coming to life right before my very eyes and let me tell you, it felt better than I could have ever imagined.

Watching the Kings win the Stanley Cup was the greatest day of my life as a sports fan.  Better than the numerous Laker championships I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy.  Better than the underdog Dodgers winning it all in 1988.  Better than anything in sports.

Kings radio announcer Nick Nickson said in the closing seconds of the Cup clinching game, “The long wait is over.  After 45 years the Kings can wear their crown.  The Los Angeles Kings have won the Stanley Cup!”

Thank you Kings for letting me share in the moment of your crowning achievement.  It’s a moment that will live with me for the rest of my life.

Thanks for stepping into the clubhouse

Follow me on twitter @joesclubhouse

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