Imagine being relieved of 50 percent of your work stress for an entire quarter! Yup – that’s the feeling.
Back in 2012, when the Kings won their first Cup, I was fortunate enough to be asked to write the original ‘My Stanley Cup Story’ series for LAKings.com. To be privy to those interviews and the exclusive information I was given, and to be able to, in turn, present my own creative stories to eager fans, salivating at the mouth for a glimpse of their team’s first Stanley Cup Summer was nothing short of a privilege.
This summer, to have been able to do it again…how many other people can even put themselves in this category?
I decided to write this last piece for two reasons. First, I had some really great quotes from some of the subjects that didn’t quite fit into their respective stories that I didn’t want to go unheard. Second, I feel like I have some interesting insight about the team and these players that you, the reader, might find interesting – I know I would.
I reached out to the Twitterverse to see which Kings personnel fans wanted to be featured in the series, and there was an understandable but overwhelming request for the first time champs. Of the 10 Kings personnel I covered, most were first-timers, and only one – Jarret Stoll – was a repeat customer from my 2012 series.
Marian Gaborik was one of the first players I wrote about when I first broke into hockey, 14 years ago. To be able to write his Cup story gave me a feeling that my career had been brought full-circle, especially considering where Gaborik is in his own career. I was extremely impressed with how responsive he was and how he offered to call me from Slovakia just so I wouldn’t run up my personal cell phone bill.
Tanner Pearson is just a kid – but a polite, well-spoken one at that. He had this to say about the City of Angels:
“A nice place to live, a wonderful place to play, great fans, great city, it’s definitely an underrated place.”
Professional athletes get a ton of credit, and rightfully so, for their physical strength. One thing that I think gets overlooked is their mental strength, and I realized that after speaking with Jake Muzzin. The way he was able to translate his experience as a Black Ace in 2012 and use it as an enormous motivating factor, shows how goal-oriented and focused he is, and that requires a great deal of mental discipline. This is what Muzzin shared about his experience on the ice after the Kings won the Cup in 2012:
“I really didn’t want to lift the Cup either because you’re not really a part of the team. When you’re a part of the team you’re playing and you’re winning and losing as a team and there’s history there with everyone, and I wasn’t involved in any of that. For me, I was living with Dwight King and Jordan Nolan at the start of the year, so to see them have the success they were having, and other guys that I had played with in Manchester before was rewarding for me as well.”
Before the series began, Robyn Regehr’s story was probably the one I was most looking forward to writing. After all his years in the NHL, he is proof that good things happen to good people. Regehr has to be one of the most articulate people I’ve ever met, and when you’re talking to him he is genuinely present and sincere. I asked him to call me after 6 p.m. one day because I had been summoned for jury duty and after giving me perfectly quotable stories about his Cup adventures, he proceeded to ask me how my jury duty went.
Stoll was the only player I repeated from the 2012 series, and I can’t say it was really an accident. Like Regehr, everything out of Stoll’s mouth is quotable, and it makes my job so much easier. Kudos to him for persevering in a two-week battle of phone tag with me that included his trip to Brad Richardson’s wedding. I probably would have given up on me.
My favorite storyline from the entire 2014 playoffs has to be that of Jeff Schultz. I thought the ‘too good to be true’ quotient only reached that level in romantic comedies! Schultz is another genuinely good guy who is very well-spoken – I’m actually quite surprised I don’t have unused quotes from him, given that his story was difficult only because there was so much material.
I knew I wanted to write Davis Payne’s story when I saw a replay of an interview he did on the ice just after the Kings won the Cup. The raw emotion that he displayed was compelling, and I wanted that emotion from a first-timer in a story. His interview did not disappoint:
“It’s funny, you always dream about winning a Stanley Cup, and then I think at a certain point, about half way through the playoffs perhaps, it goes deeper than the dreaming, it goes into dreaming about what your day would be and what you’re going to do with it.
The reaction you get from people around the Stanley Cup is incredible to experience. To see lifelong friends, coaches and family be able to enjoy it, what is a long journey, it’s an amazing feeling and it’s amazing to be part of that.”
When I interviewed Kyle Clifford I noticed a pattern that had been developing in all the interviews. It was obvious that everyone had the exact same view of the ‘team bond’ that had become so analyzed throughout the playoffs, and how the Kings players truly love each other and play for each other. It was actually challenging to write Clifford’s story due to the fact that he would defer to this idea at almost every question:
“With our team we had our goal in mind, and we wanted to do that, and we were going to save the ‘good jobs’ until after we won. When we were down 3-0 to San Jose, I think everybody got to the same page, and we started playing LA Kings hockey and we knew what we had to do.”
I felt very honored to interview Wandamae Lombardi. She offered a very unique perspective, being the spouse of the President/General Manager, but also as a woman. Her thoughts and feelings about things were very sweet and endearing:
“For me, the most poignant time is just being down on the ice when we won and looking around the glass and seeing so many happy people. At the parade, that many people in downtown LA being happy….the smiles on everybody’s faces just made me feel so happy – they were trying so hard just to reach through the glass. I just want to hug them all.”
I got the Martinez interview about two weeks after his actual Cup day, but it was worth the wait. Whereas most of the other interviews spanned 10 to 15 minutes, Martinez gave me nearly half an hour, which, I suppose, is appropriate considering he scored two of the biggest goals in Kings history with both his overtime series winners. The gossip-seeking journalist in me was a bit disappointed to find out that Martinez really is that humble, team-oriented, modest guy that deflected credit, even after his Cup-winning goal. But I did manage to get him to admit this:
“It’s pretty crazy to think about and obviously it’s pretty special, from and individual standpoint. Every kid that has played that game has scored that goal in his driveway, when you’re playing growing up. For it to actually happen – I don’t really even know what to say. It’s probably the coolest thing that I’ve ever done.”
Then there’s this gem from Martinez about the Kings as a team:
“We’ve got a really good group of guys in this room, and we really do care about each other – I’m not just saying that. How many times in your life do you see a bunch of grown men acting like a bunch of little kids? It is some of the rawest emotion that you’ll ever see. It’s something you literally work your entire life for. To be able to help certain guys, like Robyn Regehr, who is an unbelievable hockey player and human being – he’s played over 1,000 games – and to be able to be a part of that, and the same thing with Gabby. I’ve been in the league for four or five years and I’ve been able to do this twice already? That’s ridiculous. But to be a part of it for someone else that you look up to, who has helped you – Reggie has helped me a ton, both on and off the ice as a hockey player. To be part of that is very special.”
This last point from Martinez pretty much sums up the biggest thing I learned from writing this series. It’s easy as an outsider, and even somewhat of an insider, to question how much of the ‘team bond’ is a legitimate factor in success and how much is glorified by the media. After having in-depth conversations about the team and the Cup with eight players, an assistant coach, and the GM’s wife, I truly believe what they truly believe, which is in this unit as a whole – as a family.
If there’s something in the water, pass me a bottle…and maybe next summer’s content on a silver platter, too.
Join the conversation on Twitter with the NHL, LA Kings and the Hockey Hall of Fame for their summer with Stanley by using the hashtag #StanleyCup
LA Kings: @LAKings
LA Kings PR: @LAKingsPR
Cup Keepers: @KeeperOfTheCup
Hockey Hall of Fame: @HockeyHallFame
Deborah Lew: @by_DeborahLew
For photos of the Kings’ summer with Stanley, view the Hockey Hall of Fame’s ‘Stanley Cup Journal’ CLICK HERE
You can also check out the Stanley Cup on Facebook at Facebook.com/StanleyCup and Facebook.com/TravelsWithStanley