The Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night take on not just a chance to bring home the Stanley Cup to a city that’s never felt its presence, but the chance to rewrite its history, and build a brand and a legacy in L.A.
The puck falls at 5 p.m. for all of us on the West Coast ready to watch the 8th-ranked Kings play the number 6 New Jersey Devils in Game One of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals.
What Kings hockey player doesn’t dream of his name forever etched on that silver chalice?
“I want a Stanley Cup. I know the guy across from me wants a Stanley Cup. That’s first and foremost,” said NHL veteran Willie Mitchell, who’s played 12 seasons with five different teams, and hasn’t yet had a chance to take home the Cup.
“It’ll be the ultimate for me,” he said.
The best-of-seven Stanley Cup Finals are about legacy and legend. And no one knows that better than the Voice of the Kings, 39-season veteran broadcaster Bob Miller.
“Finally after all these years, after 19 years, it’s good see that light at the end of the tunnel,” said Miller. “And I think this team’s going to handle real well.”
Each team writes its own history, but one of the darkest moments in Kings' saga came in 1993. It was the only other time they’ve played in the Stanley Cup Finals. They beat Montreal in Game One and were ahead with less than two minutes to go in Game Two. Then the Kings’ Marty McSorley was penalized for using a stick with too much curve in the blade. The Canadiens scored a power play goal seconds later to tie the game and then won it minutes later in overtime. The Kings lost three in a row after that. There went the Stanley Cup. The team hasn’t returned the Finals since.
“I’ve read the curse of Marty McSorley, the curse of the stick, and I think we all have to admit, there's a large degree sensationalism,” said McSorley, addressing the long-lived controversy in a news conference.
McSorely said he’s disappointed with how everything went down. According to him, the Canadiens removed the Kings’ hockey stick rack from the team’s locker room before the game and that’s how they figured it out. He says he does indeed still have that hockey stick. And admits the “curse of the stick” is a part of the Kings history. He says he doesn’t hide from it.
“With the Kings being so successful right now, I think that this is a good time to get it out, get it over with,” McSorely said. “But I really do hope we can get back to celebrating the time we are having.”
McSorley said he doesn’t believe Kings fans are holding on to that painful moment but the feelings are different among hockey fans, said Kings fan Chris Wozniak.
“Until this generation wins, it’ll always be there. Once these guys win it this season, then it’ll be done,” Wozniak said.
Wednesday marks the beginning of a chance for the Kings franchise to build a brand in L.A. around the team’s younger players. They’ve grabbed the attention of aspiring players like 10 year-old Buckley Roberts who says he likes team captain Dustin Brown and goalie Jonathan Quick.
“They play the game right and they don’t worry about other things. They just keep going,” Roberts said. In the locker room, players watch a video of themselves as kids with hockey sticks in hand. Jonathan Quick said the desire for the Cup doesn’t change, whether you’re 10 years-old watching your favorite King – or you’re 26-years-old and you are a King.
“I just hope that they are big Kings fans and that they are going to enjoy the run as much as we are,” Quick said. He was talking about the many young hockey kids who press their hands up on the plastic barrier watching the Kings practice.
“It’s the first time for us and it’s probably the first time for them to have their home team in the Stanley Cup like this, so it’s just exciting for everybody,” he said.
Let the excitement begin. Let the Kings come home Monday for Game Three of the Stanley Cup Finals to a roaring L.A. crowd ready to be part of a legacy in the making.