Poster Boy: After 45 years, the Kings have a larger-than-life, Stanley Cup-winning goalie

Tuesday, 01.08.2013 / 1:36 PM / Features
By Doug Ward  - Special to LAKings.com
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Poster Boy: After 45 years, the Kings have a larger-than-life, Stanley Cup-winning goalie

Like a lot of kids growing up in Connecticut in the ’90s, Jonathan Quick had a poster of New York Rangers goaltender Mike Richter on his bedroom wall. While coming of age 85 miles outside New York City, Quick rooted for the Rangers while idolizing Richter and studying the Stanley Cup-winning goalie’s every move.

It wasn’t until much later, after coming to Los Angeles, that Quick learned about the goaltenders who preceded him in the Kings’ net. Sixty-two goaltenders have worn the crown, and very few of those that preceded Quick were worthy of being celebrated in poster, although more than a few were posterized by opposing shooters often enough.

“I didn’t know much about the Kings’ goaltending history when I first got here, but as you work your way through the organization, you hear about it,” said Quick.

Quick received a crash course in LA Kings Goaltending 101, and most of the lessons he learned were about goaltenders unable to make the grade. For a variety of reasons, the Kings were never able to find a goaltender on the scale of Richter, the kind that could shake a team to its foundation and lead it to hockey’s promised land.

There was a time, in the organization’s formative years, when it looked like Rogie Vachon would be the one to do it. Later, Kelly Hrudey came close. Felix Potvin took the Kings into the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2001, but over time, the idea of a Kings’ goalie posing with the Stanley Cup - poster-sized or otherwise - just got harder and harder to picture.

Then along came Mr. Quick. The soft-spoken UMass-Amherst product is gracious when asked about the endless stream of goaltenders that came before him, and humbled that he was the one able to rewrite history and deliver a Stanley Cup to Los Angeles.

“There were a lot of reasons (so many other goalies didn’t win the Cup),” Quick said. “Some guys had injuries, and there were other guys that didn’t really get a shot. Unfortunately for the organization, other than Rogie, they never really had someone that was like Marty Brodeur.”

After signing the 26-year-old Quick to a 10-year contract extension last summer, the Kings believe they now have someone exactly like that. Quick, however, isn’t so fast to jump on that bandwagon, opting instead to let time tell the tale.

“I’ve only been here for a couple years,” he said. “I have a long way to go before I am that kind of guy.”

Quick is well on his way. He arrived during the 2007-08 season and last spring felt like a long overdue coronation.

In 20 playoff games, Quick posted a 16-4 record, including three shutouts, with a microscopic 1.41 goals against average, and robust .946 save percentage. Those numbers came after a regular season in which Quick had a 35-21-13 record, 1.95 GAA, and .929 save percentage while posting 10 shutouts. It all culminated with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman handing Quick the Conn Smythe Trophy, emblematic of the MVP of the playoffs.

There were times during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, when you couldn’t help but feel that Quick and the Kings were on some long-awaited rendezvous with destiny. From Dustin Penner’s late goal in Game 1 of the opening round at Vancouver, to Anze Kopitar’s overtime goal in Game 1 of the Final, the Kings’ 16-4 run through the postseason just felt different from all the playoff disappointments that came before.

So strong was the intuition, that it reverberated through STAPLES Center, trickling all the way down to the ice, where players who are trained to keep their eye on the prize couldn’t help but feel the sensation.

“There were moments when that feeling crept in,” admitted Quick, who’s among the most focused of the focused.

“As hockey players, you are trained to look at the big picture and not get caught up in little moments,” he said. “If you start thinking about it, you have to snap yourself out of it as quickly as possible and take it day-to-day.”

Finally, on June 11, there were no more days ahead. The moment had arrived and Quick was mobbed by his teammates as STAPLES Center celebrated the Kings’ first Stanley Cup championship.

“When the horn finally went off,” Quick said, “it was a feeling of disbelief at what we had just accomplished.”

Seldom does Quick discuss hockey without using the word “we.”

Quick’s own personal road to Stanley Cup glory began with a dream while sleeping beneath those posters of Richter. It ended with him playing a pivotal role in vanquishing a lengthy Cup drought in one of the NHL’s most important markets. It’s tale not unlike that of Richter, and the similarities between himself and his hero have not gone unnoticed by Quick.

“It’s cool and all,” he said of the comparison, “but it was really about a group of guys coming together as a team.”

Unassumingly old-school, Quick hates to take any more than his share of the credit for the Kings’ triumph. His preference is to share the kudos among everyone who had anything to do with the Kings’ championship season.

Quick might be the most appropriately named player in hockey, with lightning-fast reflexes and the ability to react to anything on short notice.

“The thing Quick brings is an ability to make the big saves that not many other goalies can make because of his athletic ability,” said Kings Goaltending Coach Bill Ranford.

Not even that athletic ability could prepare him for the Kings’ parade through downtown Los Angeles. It might be the one thing that caught Quick off guard.

“We had great support,” Quick said. “It was amazing and it felt great. I was surprised by the parade because I have never been part of a celebration like that. I really didn’t know what to expect.”

He says he never imagined he would be rewarded with a deal that will keep him in goal for the Kings through the 2023 season.

“The contract gives me and my family security,” Quick said. “It means a lot to me that management and ownership were willing to offer a contract of that length. You look around and there are a lot of guys that have long-term deals that will enable us to keep our core group together.”

The contract is just one of the many benefits that come with winning the Stanley Cup. After being celebrated with his teammates at the parade in Los Angeles, Quick attended the NHL’s awards ceremony in Las Vegas, where he was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy that was won by the Rangers’ goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

“Las Vegas hit me at a bad time,” Quick said. “It was a little over a week after we won the Cup and we were all a little exhausted. My wife was there and I had some buddies there, but basically, I attended the function and headed home.”

Home is still in Connecticut, where Quick had his day with the Stanley Cup and then spent the rest of the summer in relative seclusion with his family.

“I do a good job of getting away and being with my family,” Quick said. “When you are spending time with your family, everything else goes out the window. There were a lot of events, like the Cup party, that draws a lot of attention. But based on the amount of time we had after going to the Final, it was a short summer.”

Though Quick’s summer was short, it was busy. In addition to adapting to his new role as one of the game’s elite goaltenders, Quick took steps to assure he will retain that status. On Aug. 9, he had a minor surgical procedure to repair a disc fragment and an inflammatory cyst.

Quick has fully recovered from the surgery and so now it’s back to the STAPLES Center ice, where Quick finds himself living in a parallel universe as the Kings defend their Stanley Cup title. Among the many items commemorating the team’s remarkable 2011-12 season, is a larger than life poster of Jonathan Quick, raising the Stanley Cup.

The poster, which was 45 years in the making, represents a Quick ending to a long story.