When Montreal-born brothers Chris and Kosta Tsangaris opened the Redondo Beach Café in Southern California seven years ago, they wanted to create a haven for Canadian expats and L.A. hockey diehards. They never dreamed that one day they'd be hosting the Stanley Cup.
"The amount of people that showed up -- we never expected something like that. It's a Wednesday morning a month removed from the actual Cup victory. In L.A., things get old fast," said Chris Tsangaris, who moved to the area in 1988 after accepting a football scholarship at Long Beach State. "It was incredible. The Kings brought it out and it was just majestic."
The huge turnout, which stretched from the restaurant all the way to the sandy beaches a few blocks away, was for a Los Angeles Kings alumni charity event hosted by the Café where fans could have their picture taken with the Cup.
The Cup arrived at the Redondo Police Department that morning before being escorted by police to the Café, where Kings alums Jim Fox and Daryl Evans carried it into the parking lot for the public to enjoy. With alums Fox, Evans and Nelson Emerson attending, the celebration was a historic one for Los Angeles' premier hockey hot spot.
Considering where the Tsangaris brothers came from, it shouldn't be too surprising how closely the restaurant has become linked with the Kings. Their father owned a barber shop across the street from the Montreal Forum and the family witnessed several Stanley Cup parades in the 1970s. After graduating from Long Beach State and playing six years in the Canadian Football League, Chris Tsangaris returned to Redondo Beach and opened the restaurant with his brother, making sure to include all kinds of Canadian creature comforts. That includes countless hockey banners and jerseys hanging from the walls, plenty of Canadian beers available at the bar, and Montreal-style smoked meat and poutine imported from Canada.
It didn't take long for Canadian expats, including Kings players, to take notice.
"Simon Gagne has popped in. He came right off the plane with his dad and his brother from Quebec," Tsangaris told NHL.com. "He said 'Can you believe we're eating poutine and smoked meat here?'"
Thanks to their increasing following with Los Angeles' hockey community and a growing relationship with the Kings, the restaurant became a fan favorite as the team made its historic run toward its first Stanley Cup. When the Kings hoisted the Cup last month, customers could finally stop asking the Montreal-born brothers about their cherished Canadiens' win over the Kings in the 1993 Stanley Cup Final.
"That's a funny relationship we have [with customers]," Chris Tsangaris said of the 1993 Final discussions, noting that an iconic player from that series happens to be a Café regular. "Marty [McSorley} comes in. He usually sits at the table where our [Canadiens' 1993 Cup] banner hangs. We try to position him to look away from the banner. But it is what it is. You move on."
With the Kings set to open the 2012-13 season as the defending Stanley Cup champions, there could be a new banner hanging at the Redondo Beach Café.