I'm not a LA Kings fan. I haven't been through the brutal years of losing, or the highs of Gretzky's 93 season. I am also not a bandwagon fan. I won't pretend to have always been a Kings fan and I won't start buying up gear to wear for the next month. Do I want them to win more than I want any other NHL team to? Sure. Will I start watching their games next season? No, probably not. I've got too many other teams to follow and too little time. So, I guess I could sum it up like this: in as much as I like hockey, I like the Kings.
All that said, I'd like to think I understood the gravity of the game. Yes, I knew the Kings were the 8th seed in the West and had started every prior series 3-0, even though they were on the road for the first 2 games in each series. I knew that the Kings have been in LA for 45 years without a title and that Gretzky's time here, including his '93 run to the Finals - the last and only time in Kings history - was a momentous triumph for hockey here in LA and in the greater western US. Kings fans had waited a long time for this game.
Clearly there was going to be an explosion of emotion to greet the team. I brought my Canadian hockey fan friend simply cause I knew he would appreciate the moment and the game more than anyone else. We were probably the only two schmucks without Kings gear on. My favorite moment, though the Kings eventually scored 4 great goals, was still the pregame buildup to the starting lineup. The dark ambience, the countless glow sticks and the wondrous laser show, the solemn yet inspiring rock anthem, and of course, WAYNE GRETZKY. The place seriously erupted at the sight of the Great One. Kings fans put Laker fans to shame.
In my relative hockey ignorance, I won't spend many keystrokes talking about the game itself. Near the end of a scoreless 1st period, New Jersey failed to capitalize (or even create good opportunities) on a 5-3 power play and LA's defensive effort set the tone for the rest of the night. After two overtime 2-1 low-scoring victories in game 1 and 2, the Kings managed to drop 4 goals on the Devils. An ugly opening goal came as the result of the Kings' trademark scrappiness (and a slow referee whistle). Dustin Brown, whom I like to call Captain America, beautifully setup Kopitar for a 2 goal lead after 2 periods. Staples was in a state of euphoria, alternating between the surprisingly bland "Go Kings Go" and taunting Brodeur with chants of "Mar-ty". Jeff Carter's early 3rd period goal, the first of two power play goals, in my mind sealed the game and essentially won the Stanley Cup for the Kings.
No, I wasn't a true Kings fan, and I likely won't be one come October when the NFL and UCLA are in full swing. But for this week, Go Kings Go.