Kings, fans celebrate second Cup in three seasons
LOS ANGELES -- Jonathan Quick looked like he hadn't slept since Friday night. Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty and Trevor Lewis still had their beards. Coach Darryl Sutter's face was slightly drained, and he could only joke when asked about how much the Los Angeles Kings love playing together.
"They don't love it that much because they could have been playing tonight," Sutter responded.
Monday would have been Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Kings and New York Rangers, but instead the city celebrated the Kings' second Cup title in three seasons with a parade and rally after the longest run in playoff history -- 26 games -- ended in Game 5 with the longest game in Kings history, a 3-2 win on Alec Martinez's goal with 5:17 left in double overtime.
"It was an emotional, exhausting ride," Conn Smythe Trophy winner Justin Williams said. "For us to come out on top after you poured everything that you had into it, and it was good enough, words can't describe it."
More than 300,000 fans lined the streets surrounding Staples Center on a bright, mild day downtown, two years to the day of the parade to celebrate the 2012 Cup. This time there was a sense that something truly big is growing here. The Kings have the foundation for a modern-day dynasty, with most of their team intact for the future, and their faces and blue-collar ethic are now forever engrained in the local sports landscape.
"We're starting to become a hockey town," captain Dustin Brown said to the crowd before The Briggs' song "This Is L.A." blared throughout L.A. Live and confetti came raining down.
Luc Robitaille, president of business operations and the public face of the team, said he feels the Kings have further strengthened their bond with the city.
"The parade was very special last time, and I think today was even more special," Robitaille said. "It seemed bigger. When we turned that last corner, it was unbelievable. It was overwhelming. It's pretty special and it's pretty special for those players. A lot of guys come from back East, and they don't know how big they are in this town because L.A. is such a big city. You get into a thing like that and you see that many people, it's pretty amazing."
At the rally inside Staples Center following the parade, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said, "We have the best sunshine in the world, but we own the ice too."
The biggest cheers were for Sutter and general manager Dean Lombardi, who began laying the groundwork for the Cup runs when he arrived in Los Angeles in 2006.
The Kings took the path of most resistance each Cup-winning season. They barely made the playoffs in 2012, qualifying as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, and became the first team in NHL history to win three Game 7s, all on the road, to get to the 2014 Final. Los Angeles also became the fourth team in NHL history to erase a 3-0 series deficit and win, in the Western Conference First Round Series against the San Jose Sharks this spring.
Lombardi tried not to get emotional during his speech.
"This franchise has now evolved to a different level," he said. "I feel like the luckiest man in the world."
Lombardi has a few roster decisions to make this summer. Left wing Marian Gaborik, who finished the final year of a contract that paid him $7.5 million this season, can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, as can defensemen Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene. Gaborik had 22 points, including a League-leading 14 goals, in the playoffs. Left wing Dwight King can become a restricted free agent.
But the bulk of the team will return.
"We're happy with what we've done, but do we feel we have a lot more, and the potential to be a great team for years to come?" Williams said. "Yeah."
Sutter told his players that the path they took in 2012 -- taking a 3-0 lead in every series -- probably won't happen again. He allowed that this season's difficult road was special, but said winning is what he expected when Lombardi called him late in 2011 to offer him the coaching job.
"The team was in 12th place," Sutter said. "I was in the middle of winter, feeding 800 head of cattle, and my family was living four hours away, and I was being paid to do that. You don't say no because somebody offered you a job. I'm not in that position. I was in a position of whether I wanted to win or not, and whether I thought we could. It's not that hard to figure out."
In 2012, the Kings had five days between winning the Cup and the parade. There were two days this time, so players had not done as much touring with the Cup. Lewis tweeted a photo of the Cup at the beach, and more celebratory adventures should follow in the South Bay community where a lot of Kings live. They will take the Cup to Dodger Stadium on Tuesday for a pregame ceremony before the Los Angeles Dodgers host the Colorado Rockies.
By then, the Kings might be coming out of their celebratory haze.
"Party a bit. Relax a little bit," Quick said of his past two days. "You get to eat some greasy food. You're not worried about your diet for a few days, which is fun. It's good. It's a good experience."
Greene said he will probably take the Cup back home to Michigan again this summer. Figuratively speaking, though, the Cup might not be leaving Southern California anytime soon.
"You see this baby, right here?" Sutter said as he tapped the trophy. "She's been gone for a couple of years, and we're happy she's home."
Author: Curtis Zupke | NHL.com Correspondent