Given the opportunity, most professional athletes and Hollywood actors would gladly trade jobs for a few days. So it shouldn't have come as a surprise when actor Matthew Perry started a fast friendship with Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar.
The hockey history that took place in the weeks that followed, on the other hand, caught everyone by surprise.
"I actually met [Anze] at a Dodgers game just at the beginning of their playoff run," Perry told NHL.com. "Like an 8-year old child, I just ran up to him and talked to him."
The meeting was exciting for the lifelong hockey fan who fell in love with the Kings more than 30 years ago while visiting his father, actor John Bennett Perry, in Los Angeles.
This spring, as the team stormed through the Western Conference's top three seeds on their way to the Stanley Cup Final, the world began to take notice of the eighth-seeded Kings -- and season-ticket holder Perry, who was a fixture at home and away games throughout the playoffs.
"I'm a Kings fan and an Ottawa Senators fan, because Ottawa is where I grew up," said Perry, who will be a presenter at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas on June 20. "My biggest dilemma would be if the Sens and Kings were in the Final. I would just root for overtime in Game 7 if that happened."
Using some time off from his new series "Go On," which premieres this fall on NBC, to follow the Kings' march to history had its risks -- especially when Perry attended Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final in New Jersey. During that game in Newark, Perry was showered with boos from the 17,625 fans when his image was shown on the Prudential Center scoreboard.
"It's awful. But I see it as a moment of pride, actually. Now everybody knows I'm a Kings fan. After the game, about 500 people asked for a picture of me. [I thought], 'You guys just booed me,'" said Perry, who then watched the Kings win the championship in Los Angeles two nights later. "In Game 6, I really did feel like I was out there. I was so tense. You just got the feeling you were a part of it. You think, 'Oh my God, I think they might win this game.'"
Like much of Los Angeles, Perry was thrilled to see his Kings win their first Stanley Cup with a postseason run 45 years in the making. Unlike much of L.A., Perry had a good buddy who happened to be one of the team's biggest stars. So when Kopitar mentioned he would be enjoying his day with the Stanley Cup last Sunday, Perry offered his home as a potential party location.
It wasn't long before the former "Friends" star had a very special guest of honor at his house.
"The Cup did make an appearance at my house. Grown men just act like absolute morons when they're around the Stanley Cup. I lifted it over my head very quickly and I drank a Red Bull from the Cup. I might be the only person who's ever done that," Perry said. "The last couple of months have just been so exciting for me as a Kings fan. There's been a lot of talk about bandwagon fans, but I fully embrace that. If people have just recently become Kings fans because they've won, that's fine with me. I've been a Kings fan since 1978."
Perry will have a few more days to bask in the celebration of the Kings' championship before returning to his series, in which he plays Ryan King, a sports talk radio personality grieving the loss of his wife. Former NFL receiver Terrell Owens makes an appearance in the pilot, and there will be at least one other pro athlete ready for a guest appearance in the coming weeks.
"You can look forward to seeing Anze Kopitar on 'Go On' in the fall. He agreed to do it," Perry said. "I'd also like to point out I played Ping-Pong against him and beat him 21-11. I have a tennis background, but he is a professional athlete who just won the Stanley Cup."
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