A gay dad, @SpencerLAKings, checks in on Father’s Day. He and his sons caught SCF games in New Jersey and at Staples. The Cup, Best.Father’s.Day.Present.Ever!
It was Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. The Kings were up 3 -0 in the series, and could sweep and win the Stanley Cup for the first time in their 45-year history. I drove to Staples Center with my oldest son.
My younger son also wanted to come, but I had just finished taking them both to New Jersey for Game 2, and an extra ticket for Game 4 in Los Angeles was outrageously priced and hard to find.
All three of us had taken a road trip the previous weekend to the New York area and had watched the Kings win Game 2 with an overtime goal by Jeff Carter. When Carter scored, my youngest son was screaming so loud that one of the Jersey fans threw an entire beer on him.
Throwing beer on an 8-year-old, I thought? Really? My son later wondered if beer was what they used as confetti in Jersey.
But it was all good. The Kings were up 2-0 in the series and we had a blast with the few Kings’ fans sitting in our section. And we enjoyed hearing Springsteen’s No Surrender for the second game in a row.
And now it was game 4, and the Cup was within reach.
In all my years of being a sports fan in Los Angeles, I had never felt so much excitement and anticipation. Not ever for a Laker game. And not ever for a Dodger game. Hockey fever had indeed, come to Los Angeles. The bandwagon was growing.
Our normal parking place was filled, so we drove to another lot to encounter the price gougers – $100 for parking? Not in a million years I told my son. We ended up parking on the street about a mile away and walked.
My son could barely stand it. Tonight could be the first time we had ever seen the Stanley Cup in real life. Dustin Brown could be holding the Cup high above his head at center ice with his teeth gaping grin and his pathetic beard. Who would he give it to next?
Would Sutter go on the ice or quietly go back to the dressing room? What would Terry Murray be thinking? Would he be proud of the team he helped form? Or would he be bitter having been fired mid-season, being delegated to being a scout for the team?
During the 3rd period, Drew Doughty tied it up at 1, and we really thought that the Cup was ours to see in Los Angeles. But Adam Henrique scored short-side on Quick at 15:20 of the 3rd period. And that was that. So much anticipation. And now, so much disappointment.
The Kings had lost game 4. And my son cried.
We still had a commanding 3-1 lead in the series, but my 11-year-old son was inconsolably crying.
Wow. Crying after a hockey game? It brought back a flood of memories of growing up. It brought back a time in my life when I expected to be disappointed and never thought I could win.
I had grown up in a very strict, homophobic, Catholic family and never really felt comfortable showing any emotion, and certainly, never in public. I remembered the mid 80’s. Feeling that my world was going to end because the Kings had yet again, failed to advance in the playoffs.
I remembered Dionne, and Carson, and Robitaille, and Nicholls. And always listening to Bob Miller.
Yes the Kings had made me cry once too. But always in the privacy of my own room. And then there was 1993. I was too old to cry then. But I’m sure I did anyway.
The infamous McSorely illegal stick incident. And then later to find that someone had broken into the Kings’ dressing room and given inside information about McSorely’s stick to the Canadiens.
No one could have imagined that it would be another 19 years before the Kings would make the Finals again. No one could have foreseen that the 1993 Canadiens would be the last Canadian team to win the Cup for a very long time. Coincidence? Maybe not.
Yes, my son cried after Game 4. Just as I had done when I was his age.
After game 4, I thought “Could the Kings lose 4 in a row and lose the Cup after getting this close?” Of course they could. It was after all, the same Los Angeles Kings that I had painfully watched for more than 20 years.
Game 5 was in Jersey and my kids were with my ex. I watched alone in my room, comforted only by Twitter. Midway through the game, I was forced to mute the television and just watch without sound. Doc Emrick seemed a little bit too happy that the Devils were winning. And when the Devils won and forced a game 6, I felt an old familiar feeling in the pit of my stomach. Yes it could happen. The Kings could lose 4 in a row.
Game 6 returned to Staples Center.
Would it be divine intervention that after so many years, Kings’ fans would be able to view a Stanley Cup being hoisted in Los Angeles? Or would we be going back to Game 7 in Jersey?
Game 6 would be the deciding game of the series. The biggest game in the history of the Los Angeles Kings. They could either win the Cup, or be forced to go back dejected to Jersey, where of course, they would easily lose Game 7. We arrived at Staples cautiously optimistic.
We sat in the same seats that we had all season. We had come to view the people that sat around us as our extended family. They had been there all year. Through the good times. And through the bad. Some young. Some old. We may not all have known each others names, but we had formed a very special bond, particularly during the playoffs.
Al Michaels sat 2 rows behind us with his family. I often wondered how someone who actually called the greatest hockey victory off all time, could get so excited about watching the Kings. There was the financial planner to my left with all of his family. If I were straight, I would have developed a major crush on his daughter.
There was the young good-looking couple to the right. And all the others. Each with their own personal history with the Kings. When the game started, I again got goose bumps listening to The Black Parade, by Chemical Romance, as the Kings were introduced.
I whispered to the guy sitting next to me. “No Posts tonight please.” In games 4 and 5, the Kings had gotten several shots past Brodeur, only to hit the post.
Midway through the fist period, a 5-minute major penalty was called on Steve Bernier. Then it started. Brown scored. Carter scored. And then when Lewis scored, it became apparent that tonight would be the night.
The cute kid behind started hugging his father. Al Michaels was hugging his wife. I was jumping up and down like a little kid. My son jumped in my arms.
This was not a time for hi-fives. It was time for embracing. The Black Eyed Peas were right. Tonight would in fact, be a very good night.
The rest of the night was a blur. Staples got louder and louder as the game went on. We couldn’t hear a thing. It was bedlam. The last minute of the game, the players began hugging each other on the bench.
Sutter actually cracked a smile. I looked at my son’s face and took a picture. It showed an expression on his face that I could not describe nor would I ever forget. The seconds ticked down, and then it was over. The Los Angeles Kings had won the Stanley Cup.
We sat in our seats and watched the most amazing, unparalleled trophy presentation in any sport. This is why we love hockey, I thought. This was awesome. Pure awesomeness. Brownie had the Cup. And then, it was Mitchell’s. And then, to everyone’s surprise, it was Gagne. Then Kopi, then Green…. and it went on from there. Sutter stayed on the ice and finally hoisted the Cup. The crowd went absolutely bananas.
Eventually, when the players started leaving the ice, we all started leaving very, very slowly. We all hugged and vowed to keep the same seats for next year. And just like when I was a little kid, the Kings had once again, made me cry.
But this time, I was not alone. There was not a dry eye in the house.