LOS ANGELES – It was a sight no one was prepared for -- Jonathan Quick practically had to be pulled away from a microphone at the team rally celebrating the Stanley Cup.
Yes, this really was a day of firsts for the media-shy Quick and Los Angeles, which celebrated the first Stanley Cup in the team's 45-year history amid a blizzard of silver-and-black confetti. Earlier, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner conducted perhaps his longest media scrum of the season, to the point where he stayed well after a team staffer tried to end it.
A few feet from Quick stood Willie Mitchell, who still sported his playoff beard but, like his clean-shaven teammates, was bleary-eyed with cheeks sore from smiling. If there was a face of the exhausted joy of the Kings, it was the 35-year-old Mitchell after he stepped off a bus from the team's victory parade down Figueroa Street into a darkened corridor of Staples Center.
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"I just had the reflection moment where I was actually by myself," Mitchell said. "You have your teammates right next to you … but you can't really talk because it's so loud. You actually have that moment of reflection where it's like, ‘Oh my God, this is a Stanley Cup parade' and the people and looking at how excited everyone is. And then you're like, ‘Holy [cow]!' We did do this. Inside, you're just like, butterflies. You feel it in your eyes."
A mild, 72-degree afternoon in L.A. was filled with the kind of celebration its hockey fans have waited for since the Kings' inception in 1967. Mothers propped their children up to see the double decker buses roll by. Obscure, random Kings jerseys from the past – Erik Ersberg, Rick Tocchet and Stephane Fiset – were evidence that these were not bandwagon fans.
Maybe this wasn't quite on the level of a Chicago Cubs-like lifting of a curse. But decades of layered failure, from the trading of draft picks in the 1970s to the 1993 Stanley Cup Final loss to a string of bad free-agent signings in the 1990s and early 2000s, made it that much more fulfilling for Kings fans.
"I knew we would get here someday," said 61-year-old Margie Fabele, who arrived at 9 a.m. for the noon parade. "I just didn't know when. It's a really great experience."
"It was more than you could expect," Penner said. "Even seeing it on TV from previous championship teams' parades, it's one of those moments you want to relive over and over again. I think I took more pictures than a lot of fans did."
Said Kevin Westgarth, "That was almost more surreal than anything else so far. Just the number of people and the reaction is incredible."
Besides Quick's outburst, the day's festivities reached a signature moment when coach Darryl Sutter pumped his fist to whip the crowd into a frenzy at the rally. Sutter, decked in a fatherly-like burgundy sweater, got a standing ovation from fans and players when he was handed the microphone.
Sutter said it was the most "unbelievable feeling I've had" when he looked at the bench during the final minutes of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, when the series was all but over.
"Just seeing the [expressions] on their faces is something I'll remember for the rest of my life," Sutter said.
Quick and captain Dustin Brown thanked the fans for enduring their growing pains over the past five years of general manager Dean Lombardi's long-term plan. The very quotable Lombardi, ironically, lost his voice and didn't speak. Brown spoke for the team when he told the fans, "You guys have a waited a long, long time for today."
Anze Kopitar said "It was too much fun not to win it again. Let's go get it."
With that, thoughts turned toward next year and a changed culture in Los Angeles. Penner holds the distinction of being on both Cup-winning teams from Southern California. That 2007 win helped grow and expose the sport in a non-traditional area, and this one certainly will garner some new fans.
"I think any time you win it, it does a huge amount of good for the city, for the organization, the fans," Penner said. "We probably got a bunch of fans from a young age. You saw a lot of kids out there. I would have loved to have been part of a Stanley Cup parade at 5-6-years-old."
Penner and teammates wore a weary glow from the non-stop trek they've been on since they first hoisted the Cup on Monday night after beating New Jersey 6-1 in Game 6. The team first took the Cup to a South Bay hangout, followed with a visit to the North End Bar & Grill in Hermosa Beach, and partied well into Tuesday. They then did "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," and "Jimmy Kimmel Live!"
In a serendipitous convergence of Southern California sports teams, the Kings on Wednesday night took the Cup to Dodger Stadium for a group photo with the Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who concluded the annual interleague Freeway Series. Matt Greene, a Detroit Tigers fan, donned a Dodgers cap for the parade, as did Quick.
Mike Richards said he's probably got a "couple hours" of sleep in the past two days. Asked how many beverages have been drank out of the Cup's bowl, Richards deadpanned, "Probably just one or two. It's crazy. I think everything's been in there, as it should be."
A staffer then handed Richards a bottle of water. Richards took it and then wondered aloud, "Water?" as a group of reporters laughed.
Appropriate for a city that found an oasis after a 45-year drought.