The Wayne Gretzky trade is one of the most significant moments is the history of professional sport, in particular the National Hockey League. ESPN 30 for 30 and Peter Berg made a fantastic documentary about it in 2009 called Kings Ransom. The Great One’s landing in L.A. in the ’88-’89 season changed hockey in The Golden State forever. Fans and even celebrities flocked The Forum in Inglewood to get a glimpse of who was quickly becoming the hottest guy in town. Hockey exploded in the City of Angels and seats that had long been empty were being fought for. In only the next 5 years, 2 NHL teams were founded in California: The San Jose Sharks in ’91 and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in ’93. California is one of only four U.S. states with more than one hockey team. Florida is one of the four, and both of its teams also joined the NHL within the same 5 years – ’92 and ’93. The other 2 are New York and Pennsylvania. That kind of growth was unprecedented back then and would still be today. And it is not as if the teams two California-expansion teams have been simply holding places in a rank . It took the Ducks only 10 years to reach their first final and 14 years to win their first Cup. The Sharks have been among the strongest teams in the league since ’02-’03, when they last had a losing record (in the regular season). All this to say, their seems to be a new hockey kingdom these days. The Los Angeles Kings and their fans have gotten quite used to winning over the past little while. Now, do not mistake my Canadien faith for arrogance. Two is a lot. But it is not rafters of Cups. That being said, it is 2 in 3 years and that is in fact a remarkable feat. The celebration on the ice at the Staples Center last night seemed strangely routine – familiar. It felt as if the 2013 Cup did not happen. That could be because of the continuity within the Kings organization, as their roster was hardly altered from their first Cup to this one. They decided to grow their team with the group they currently have. The word “dynasty” creeps into my mind. Not so much because of the number of championships won, but because of how many more could well come.
Another season is over. This year the Canadiens came almost close enough to taste it. It has been 21 years since the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge have been champions. It has been 21 years since the club has played a game in the Stanley Cup Final. In 1993, as it is well-documented, the Canadiens won the Lord’s Cup in a 5-game series against Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings. They were 14 years removed from their 1976-1979 championship streak. It was the longest drought the team had ever suffered. The longest before that was a 13-year wait which was ended in 1944, when Toe Blake was still a player and scored the Cup-winning goal in a sweep of the Blackhawks. Between the end of the Habs’ streak in ’79 and their last cup in ’93, they had one Cup win and one berth in the final. I suppose during those years the days of total league dominance were over. But championships are what matter and the glory days truly ended in ’93. It was no longer Montreal’s league.
Hockey and the beach have never seemed a proper fit. It never felt right. However, I am starting to think that a beach-side house and an all-season wardrobe are good compliments to the game played on ice. Perhaps it is good for the soul. Leaving the arena and feeling the ocean breeze and hearing the palm trees creek and rustle. Nice cars and occasional run-ins with celebrities at dinner. At one time anonymity would be included in this paradise, but that is quickly turning into recognizability for the Kings. I imagine there must be something right about the combination of sun and ice given the success that has recently been born from it. What we can all be certain of for the moment though, is there is no city more fit to be home of the Stanley Cup. The Kings truly are the kings.