Yesterday, I woke up at three in the morning. I hopped on a plane and flew hundreds of miles to Los Angeles. After years of waiting, I was going to see the Cup again.
Crazy? A little bit. Worth it? Oh, yes.
The first time I saw the Stanley Cup in Los Angeles, I took away a different memory. It was 1993, and I wasn’t even old enough to drive. My mom brought me downtown more than once to see it on display, because once wasn’t enough for me (bless her heart). Tickets were out of our reach by then, but we could go see this.
The Stanley Cup can transform any room into a cathedral.
I'll never forget my first sight of it. The other awards circled it on the table, but all eyes were riveted on the ultimate prize. It stood above them all with its pure silver radiance. The light is always in love with it, have you noticed?
I snapped pictures of each trophy, but ten of the Cup. Most of the photos came out blurry from the flash, but I didn’t care. They were gorgeous. Later, I wound up writing poems about it for my English class, and pasted a few in the margins so my teacher could understand its glory. (Shhh, I know.)
All around me, fans of all ages were caught up in the same giddy excitement. It’s always like that.
Then a Montreal fan decked in his red Habs jersey walked in and shouted at the top of his lungs: "The Cup will never be won by LA!"
Everyone turned to look at this guy. He was that loud. In the strained moments that followed I remember thinking: Hey, jerk, you don’t know that. And also: How could you say that to all these people here? From across the room, I tried to pin him with my patented Look of Death. (We are talking killer teenage scowl material here. When you are that age, you think you can maim people with it.)
Undaunted, the villain shuffled past, and the normal hum of talk resumed. It was just one odd discordant note in a sea of happiness. But I never forgot that moment.
I didn’t forget it when they lost the series, and I cried my eyes out. And I’ll be damned if that memory didn’t resurface throughout the Final this year. The words kept rattling around in my head.
The Cup is never coming to LA. The Cup is never coming to LA.
Stupid Habs fan. Was he a demented prophet? Some evil, curse-filled magician? Each time I’d shake my head and tell to myself, No, this year it all can change. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
We talked often this spring about how the Kings were not your typical eighth seed, and were much stronger than they appeared. Going up against each opponent, even the mighty Canucks and Blues, I was optimistic. They were a powerful team with great goaltending. Despite all the doubters hung up on the struggles of the regular season, I thought they had a heck of a chance.
Yet there’s this thing about being a Kings fan. After so many years of suffering, I couldn’t help but brace myself at the same time. This shared an odd coexistence with my sunny outlook. Even strong teams get no guarantee luck will go their way, but that wasn’t really it. It was about history. Whenever things were going well for our team, we’d fear it would end at any moment. When I championed positivity, I was also talking to that part of myself.
Dread seemed to follow us all like a shadow. And now, after a historic run, it’s gone.
Yesterday, they bid a long goodbye to the past. Marcel Dionne can go to the grave with his head up. Shake off the demons, because the dream is here.
This time, the Stanley Cup would come with a shower of confetti and screams of joy from the crowd around me. This time, it was in the hands of our beloved team. I saw it raised high above me, and it’s never looked more beautiful.
Repeat it until it feels true. The Cup has come to LA.
Jonathan Quick’s colorful speech is now famous. What’s getting lost in the dismay and amusement, I feel, are the heartfelt sentiments he was trying to express. When crowd was chanting "MVP! MVP! MVP!" he didn’t want to revel in the individual honor. He wanted to marvel at the effort of the entire team, and also pay tribute to the fans who supported them over the years. It was a moment of pure, unfiltered emotion. We all understood.
Everyone was there to celebrate. But more than that, everyone was there to say thank you. As each speaker had a long list of thanks to express to their fans and colleagues, so the fans wanted to raise a cheer one more time for everyone who had made this possible. There was an overwhelming feeling of happiness and unity. I saw families celebrating together. I saw kids dancing. I saw friends hugging. I saw a ticket owner handing out extras to complete strangers. I had so many great chats with people I had never met before that day. It was easy to feel that sense of community, because we’re all in the same boat. We knew what it meant.
Who didn't know exactly what Jim is feeling when he choked up in the middle of the rally broadcast? We were grateful. So, so grateful.
This team pushed through adversity and never quit. They rose above frustration, criticism, and doubt. They supported one another and challenged themselves to be better for the group. But the end of the whole run, they’d set records and made history. Could they have done that without loving and supporting each other like a family? I don’t know, but for me, that sense of family made the celebration that much more meaningful.
I wish Jonathan’s other words were more famous today, but I can echo them. Thank you, everyone. Thank you, fans. Thank you, team. Thank you Bob, and Jim, and Nick, and Darryl. Thank you, Dean, and Tim, and Ron, and Luc, and everyone else who worked so hard to make this come true. We thank you with all the love we have, from the bottom of our hearts.
This bleepin' magnificent team.