Victory Is Sweet, Especially After 45 Years

Whether you follow the NHL or not, if you live in L.A. you probably have noticed quite a few people around town sporting L.A. Kings attire.  This is particularly true in the South Bay, which is where the Kings have their training center, in El Segundo to be exact.  Most of the players live in and around Manhattan Beach. 

Bringing major league ice hockey to California must have seemed like a stroke of particular boldness back in 1967; it had been only nine years earlier that major league baseball had arrived in the persons of the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants.   And the Lakers had come a year after that.  One might have thought that L.A. could never be a city of sports fans in the same way as Boston or New York.  A half century later, the Lakers and the Dodgers are civic institutions, as fully identified with this city as beaches, traffic, smog, and Dragnet. And so are the Kings, and that isn't only because they just won the Cup.  The Kings have garnered an intensely loyal and devoted following for decades.  Kings fans play in their own amateur hockey leagues.  Kings fans tend to have life sized posters of The Great One on their office walls.   One season ticket holder of 31 years standing,  has become well known at Staples Center for his customized jersey emblazoned with the slogan CUP B4 I DIE.    That may be the clearest illustration of what a huge deal it is for this city. 

He hasn't confided to us whether he will continue wearing the jersey next season.

Over the past four decades, the fans have stuck by their team through thick and thin.  They've seen the Kings acquire top notch talent, apparently doing all the right things to win and reach the playoffs, only to have everything go awry.  For a long time, Bostonians must have felt the same way about the Red Sox, making their 2004 World Series win one of the biggest things to happen in Boston since the Battle of  Bunker Hill, and a classic underdog story to boot.  

Did we mention that this is a huge deal?  It's brought out swarms of potential new fans who, until last Monday, were indifferent to hockey.  But we're sure the long-suffering veterans of L.A. Kings fandom won't mind a few jumpers onto their bandwagon, because they're still savoring the taste of that victory six days ago. 

Expo Line station platform, filling up with the fans

We decided to enhance the hell-freezes-over strangeness by taking the train downtown to cover the victory parade.   You read that right--we went downtown to cheer our National (Ice) Hockey League team's winning of the league championship, and we took a train to get there.  What's the name of this blog, again? Oh, right.  Wandering in L.A., the world capital of car culture and ice-free winters. 
The parade route, along Figueroa from north of Wilshire down to the Staples Center was lined by a patient crowd.  Nobody minded that the motorcade got rolling about a half-hour late.

Waiting Till Kings Come

A few evangelical missionaries didn't miss the opportunity to seek converts.  We asked one of the numerous police officers on hand if there was anything they could do, since their signs were blocking the view, and they said no, citing the First Amendment.  The sign holders eventually moved on anyway, taking the problem with them.

Missionary Zeal

Meanwhile, a blimp floated serenely overhead.  Presumably it was the Goodyear Blimp, but it was impossible to be sure. 

Riding majestically over U.S. Bank Tower

The crowd continue to gather, as seen in this unusual shot created by holding the camera overhead and aiming it a little too high.

Finally, the passage of a couple of "unmarked" police cars--as if dark blue Ford Crown Vics could possibly be anything else--heralded the start of the procession.  

We already did this, but are unable to resist the urge to share another shot of the Cup being held overhead.

That Cup is the oldest and oddest trophy in professional sports.  It hardly resembles a cup at all, what with the numerous bands with which the base has been extended in order to accommodate all the names that have been added to it.  This isn't like an Olympic gold medal which the winner gets to take home and keep forever.  This is the one Stanley Cup that has been passed around from winning team to winning team over the years.  (Well actually, there are two others, one of which is on permanent display at the NHL Hall of Fame.)  Moreover, each member of every winning team is entitled to take the Cup home for a few days.

As you might expect, just about everybody along the parade route held up phones or cameras to capture that memorable day.   But so did the Kings, as if this were as memorable an event for them.

Getting pictures of the crowd

That last statement may seem to be inanely obvious.  But remember, this is the first time ever for this team.  Nothing can duplicate the experience.

But nobody in this town will mind if they pull it off again next year.


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