It’s back. The Stanley Cup, that gigantic silver chalice of the religion of the National Hockey League, will spend another year in a beach town that never sees ice on winter streets and rarely has kids with sticks going off to play at a rink. Hockey may not be the game most identified with L.A. (basketball and baseball come more to mind) but that could change if the Los Angeles Kings keep winning at this rate. For the second time in three seasons, the Kings have clinched the National Hockey League championship, this time in a dazzling come-from-behind postseason performance. If there were an Oscar for sports drama, they would have won that too. On Friday evening, they beat the New York Rangers four games to one at Staples Center to reclaim the coveted trophy.
It took the team 45 years to win the cup the first time, in 2012. The second championship came along much sooner to a team that has become known for serviceable play during the regular season and then turbo-charging during the postseason to come back from seemingly hopeless deficits. As Kings coach Darryl Sutter said this week: “We got thrown under the bus by everybody on Earth seven weeks ago.”
That’s over. Now the only thing the players will be struggling to get out from under is that enormous goblet they all get to hoist on their shoulders and take to each of their homes for a day. Then the cup hits the road for various appearances. How much do you love that people all over the city get to take “selfies” with the Stanley Cup? The whole city never got to try on the Lakers’ NBA championship rings.
FOR THE RECORD
An earlier version of this post reported that the Kings won their second NHL title in two years. The Kings won their second championship in three seasons.
The last time the Stanley Cup arrived, the town was mired in the drama of the Dodgers changing hands from the embattled, disliked Frank McCourt to the ambitious Guggenheim group, which paid an extravagant $2.15 billion for the team. This time, the town is embroiled in the drama of the Clippers, which seem likely to change hands from the embattled, widely despised Donald Sterling to the brash Steve Ballmer, who is offering an extravagant $2 billion for the team.
With the Kings, the drama is all on the ice. That’s refreshing. At Madison Square Garden, they wrestled with a stubborn go-and-stop puck that halted achingly, astonishingly short of the New York Rangers’ goal line, ultimately dashing their hopes of turning Game 4 into a 4-0 sweep of the championship series. Interestingly, they also swept the first three games of the 2012 finals before losing two games, then winning Game 6. This time, fans only had to wait for Game 5.
It’s always exhilarating to have the hometown team win a championship. But there’s something especially sweet about a title win by the team that’s not the coolest one in town, or the one with the most attention-grabbing players or the most conflict-ridden front offices. And there’s something even more triumphant when that team proves it can do it again.