Last night the Los Angeles Kings completed an improbable postseason run by dispatching New Jersey 6-1 in game six to capture their first ever Stanley Cup.
After limping into the postseason as the eighth seed in the West, the Kings stunned the Canucks and then proceeded to knock off both the Blues and the Coyotes en-route to the Finals. An eighth seed no longer, the team had seemingly evolved into a powerhouse overnight, losing only two games through the first three rounds and being undefeated in all road games. Not surprisingly, they headed into the final round matchup against the Devils as touted favourites.
The Kings’ 3-0 series lead in the Finals quickly evaporated with Martin Brodeur rediscovering his form and the Devils claiming games four and five, bringing the series back from the dead. With a hyped and expectant Staples Center behind them for game six, the Kings would stamp out any hopes of New Jersey completing their comeback and they took an unassailable lead early. The Cup was theirs.
For the Kings and their fans, this day had been a long time coming. Forty-five years in fact.
The Kings franchise began in 1967, seeking to cash in on the success that had met Los Angeles’ other professional teams: the Lakers (moved from Minneapolis in 1960) and the Dodgers (moved from Brooklyn in 1958). The Lakers and Dodgers quickly became woven into the fabric of the city but a professional hockey team did not find it as easy to acclimatise. The combination of Marcel Dionne, Charlie Simmer and Dave Taylor (one of the highest scoring trios in league history) in the late 1970s brought immense promise but failed to yield results. Over time, the team started gaining a good fan-base in the city and their cause was made infinitely easier in 1988.
Wayne Gretzky’s arrived in the City of Angels in 1988 on the back of a nine-year stint with the Edmonton Oilers, with whom he won four championships. In addition to bringing results on the ice, Gretzky legitimized and popularized pro hockey not only in Los Angeles but state-wide, paving the way for two more expansion teams in California: the San Jose Sharks (1991) and the Anaheim Ducks (1993). With the help of the ‘Great Gretzky’, the Kings made it all the way to the Finals in 1993 but fell short to a Montreal side intent on getting their franchise’s 24th championship. This momentum did not last and the franchise constantly failed to replicate their 1993 success, only making the playoffs six times since.
This year’s ensemble led by Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Jonathan Quick have laid the doubts to rest.
With no NFL team in Los Angeles and both the Lakers and Clippers bowing out early in the NBA playoffs, all eyes in the city were on the Kings and they delivered. Right now, they truly are the Kings of LA.
By finally reaching the summit, the Kings removed themselves from the unenviable position of being a chronic American underachiever.
This category is crowded but there are some teams which stand out more than others. Let’s look at some of the more famous examples, from each of the other three major leagues. To qualify, teams must have been in existence for over forty years and be without a major, modern-day title.