Los Angeles Kings One Win Away From First Stanley Cup

  • Monday, June 4, 2012 9:13 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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Tonight at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, the black-and-silver clad Kings dominated the New Jersey Devils 4-0 to put the franchise one game away from their first ever Stanley Cup with a commanding 3-0 series lead.

If the Kings hoist the Cup on Wednesday, there is no doubt 26-year-old goalie Jonathan Quick will be awarded the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP. Quick is putting together one of the greatest netminding performances in NHL history. And so many of his teammates have taken their game to another level during the Finals. Head coach Darryl Sutter took over mid-season when General Manager Dean Lombardi fired Terry Murray. Sutter has this No. 8 seed team playing with poise, confidence and a swagger that has them seem effortless and methodical in their domination of the top three Western Conference seeds in the Canucks, Blues, Coyotes and now the Devils.

If Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Dustin Brown, and former Flyers Jeff Carter and Mike Richards were not household names before this playoff run, they are Hollywood stars now. With Kobe Bryant and the Lakers out of the playoffs, the Kings are the toast of Tinseltown as they should be. The City of Angels is enamored with its hockey team and there is no doubt that if the Kings hang on for the Cup and hold that parade downtown, the entertainment capital of the world will put on a production like there has never been seen before in NHL history.

There hasn't been this excitement surrounding the Kings since 1982's Miracle on Manchester at the Fabulous Forum in Inglewood, when L.A. mounted the largest comeback in NHL playoff history after being down 5-0 to Wayne Gretzky's Edmonton Oilers. The Kings won the game 6-5 in overtime. And who can forget when Gretzky, who was in attendance tonight with his buddy Mark Messier and dropped the ceremonial puck, put Southern California on the hockey map when he was traded in 1988. Gretzky took the team to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1993 when they lost to Patrick Roy and the Montreal Canadiens.

Who could have predicted that the Kings would be one win from the Cup all these years after the late Hamilton, Ontario native Jack Kent Cooke was awarded the expansion franchise in 1966 (Cooke also owned the Washington Redskins and Los Angeles Lakers and built the Forum). I lived in the Los Angeles area for nine years and having attended many games at the Staples Center the past several years, I certainly couldn't have predicted this magical playoff run. The Kings always seemed to be missing those intangibles that separate good teams from championship teams. The Devils certainly know what that is given their glorious Stanley Cup-winning history.

I was living in Southern California when the hated cross-town rival Anaheim Ducks won the Cup in 2007. For Kings fans, when the former Disney-owned franchise based on a corny kids movie won the first Cup ever in the state of California, it was a punch in the gut. When I was in L.A., the Kings missed the playoffs from the 2002-2003 season to the 2008-2009 season (2004-2005 was a lockout year). They finally made the playoffs the next two years only to lose to the Canucks and Sharks in the first round.

The Kings of California are about to be crowned Stanley Cup champions and this former Angeleno is enjoying this magical postseason run.

Go Kings Go!

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NHL Draft: Edmonton Invades Los Angeles

  • Sunday, June 27, 2010 4:18 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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Not since Wayne Gretzky moved from Edmonton to Los Angeles has there been so many Oiler jerseys seen in Southern California. With the first pick in this year's NHL Entry Draft at Staples Center, Edmonton picked forward Taylor Hall and gave hope to fans of the worst team in the league.

"I’ve been an Oiler fan all my life and this is the first time in franchise history they’ve had a first-round pick and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to watch them pick first," said Edmonton native John Plaisier, who was drinking beers with his friends at the fan festival at L.A. Live before the draft.

The fan fest included a chance to try on the hockey gear and jersey of their favorite player, a puck shooting area, a beer garden, the opportunity to play the latest version of 2K Sports' popular NHL videogame franchise and a street hockey game for the tykes in the crowd. It was great entertainment befitting the entertainment capital of the world.

The doors to the Staples Center opened at 2 p.m. -- a full two hours before the draft began -- and there were already long lines to enter the arena -- a testament to how popular ice hockey is in Southern California.

For two days at least, the Lakers took a backseat to the Kings as was evident by the Kings jersey on the statue of Magic Johnson in front of the arena. The Oscar De La Hoya statue and of course the Wayne Gretzky statue were also wearing Kings jerseys.

Once ticket-holders entered the arena they were treated to an opportunity to take their picture with the Stanley Cup and every individual trophy. Some fans waited in line for up to an hour to snap a picture with the holy grail of hockey.

While as expected there were many Kings and Ducks fans filling the stands, every other team was represented as well. There were Pens fans with Crosby jerseys, Caps fans with Ovechkin jerseys, Bruins fans, Flyers fans, Maple Leaf fans, Avalanche fans. You name the team and fans were represented at the draft. It was a shining example of how geographically diverse Southern California is that every fan-base in the U.S. and Canada was represented.

And while the boos from Kings fans drowned out Gary Bettman when he announced it was Anaheim's turn to draft, Bettman was booed himself when he was introduced. The commish seems to be booed in every NHL arena in America. The National Hockey League is going through a golden era right now and is the most exciting it has ever been so why Bettman gets the wrath of the fans all the time is a mystery. When Sidney Crosby -- who was sitting at the Pens table on the war room floor -- was shown on the video screen he was booed almost as loudly as the Ducks and Bettman.

Seeing all the Ducks and Kings fans was a reminder of how this rivalry is so good for the game and Southern California. And seeing so many California-bred prospects drafted shows how much youth hockey has grown in SoCal. It was especially rewarding to see Long Beach native and fourth-ranked forward prospect Emerson Etem chosen by Anaheim in the first round with the 29th overall pick.

Other Cali players drafted included Beau Bennett, Jason Zucker and Taylor Aronson.

And while Canadian prospects dominated the top of the draft, the Americans set a record with 11 first-rounders and a total of 59 players overall.

Chris Robinson drove up from Laguna Niguel to see who the Ducks drafted and was impressed with L.A.'s hosting job.

"I think it’s perfect," Robinson said. "It’s good exposure for the league and there’s a lot more hockey fans in L.A. than you’d think."

More pictures from Friday's first-round festivities at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles:

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