The Los Angeles Kings and fans celebrate the team's Stanley Cup win during a parade in Los Angeles, Thursday, June 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Dustin Brown stood on a flatbed truck and raised the big silver trophy above his head once again. The air in downtown Los Angeles filled with a blizzard of silver-and-black confetti.
The Los Angeles Kings are Stanley Cup champions for the first time, and a celebration 45 years in the making certainly appeared to be worth the wait.
The Kings rode double-decker buses and flatbed trucks in a parade through the city centre, moving slowly up Figueroa Street past thousands of roaring fans. Brown and playoff MVP Jonathan Quick then raised the Cup outside Staples Center, where the Kings completed their 16-4 rampage through the post-season on Monday night by eliminating the New Jersey Devils.
"It was more than you could ever expect," forward Dustin Penner said. "It's one of those moments you want to live over and over again. It's amazing to hear all the support, and to put faces to the cheers we've heard all year."
The Kings gathered inside the arena for a packed rally, with fans waving towels and giving repeated standing ovations to every speaker. Coach Darryl Sutter even pumped up the fans with a series of joyously out-of-character fist pumps, and forward Anze Kopitar riled them up even more.
"It's too much fun not to win it again, so let's go get it," Kopitar said.
Quick, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner, then cracked up the crowd with profane praise of his teammates in a ceremony running live on local television. But even amid the pomp and profanity of a major party, the Kings' affection for each other broke through.
"Just to see the looks on their faces after they won it is something I'll remember for the rest of my life," said Sutter, the midseason replacement who revitalized the Kings' season. "It's just awesome, awesome, awesome."
The Kings will have all summer to absorb what they accomplished this spring, but the superlatives are remarkable.
Los Angeles is the first No. 8 seed to win the Stanley Cup, and only one modern NHL team did it in fewer games. The Kings took a 3-0 lead in all four of their playoff series—also an NHL first. Los Angeles never played an elimination game, only getting stretched even to Game 6 once, and only trailed for about 184 minutes in the entire post-season.
The Kings finished third in the Pacific Division, albeit only two points behind winner Phoenix, and didn't clinch a playoff berth until right before their 81st game. They were the NHL's lowest-scoring team for most of the regular season before getting it together in late February around the time Jeff Carter arrived in a trade with Columbus.
"I don't think we really had the season we expected of ourselves, and I don't think we were an eight seed," said defenceman Rob Scuderi, still sporting black stitches in his nose and upper lip after New Jersey's Steve Bernier slammed him headfirst into the boards in Game 6, resulting in a five-minute power play in which the Kings scored three goals and essentially wrapped up the Cup.
The Stanley Cup has already made an extensive tour of Los Angeles, starting at a Hermosa Beach pub just a few hours after the Kings claimed it. The Cup was in Brown's backyard Tuesday morning, where his two oldest sons drank chocolate milk out of the bowl while wearing their Spider-Man pyjamas.
After appearances on "The Tonight Show" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on Tuesday, the Cup made its way on Wednesday to Dodger Stadium, where the Dodgers and Angels posed with the Kings for a remarkable photo before every hockey player threw out a first pitch. On Wednesday night, the Cup ended up at a popular stage show in Hollywood's historic Roosevelt Hotel, where David Beckham and Chuck Liddell joined in the celebration.
"It feels great," said Kopitar, the playoffs' scoring co-leader with linemate Brown. "You want to have parades every year. It's going to be tough, but we think we have the team to do it."
The Kings are uniformly excited they've got a strong chance of defending their title next season with much the same roster. General manager Dean Lombardi, who lost his voice in the post-Cup celebrations and couldn't speak to the rally crowd, already has signed most of Los Angeles' key contributors for at least one more year, with only forwards Penner, Jarret Stoll and Colin Fraser headed for unrestricted free agency.
"I'd say it's pretty good," Penner said of his chances of returning to Los Angeles. "I want to be back. ... I'm pretty sure Dean is good at math."
Penner rebounded from a dismal regular season for a strong playoff run with linemates Mike Richards and Carter, scoring the overtime goal in the victory that clinched the Kings' second Western Conference championship. The power forward is now a two-time NHL champion after winning the Cup with Anaheim in 2007, and his experience after that title has affected how he views his impending free agency.
Penner signed a five-year, $21.25 million offer sheet with Edmonton in the ensuing off-season, and the furious Ducks didn't match it. Penner got his money, but missed his teammates while struggling through dismal seasons with the Oilers, who traded him to Los Angeles last season.
"I ended up leaving (Anaheim), and you want to be a part of that—coming into a building as the champs," Penner said. "We've got a good thing going here, and I love it."