The year was 2012, and it was a banner year for the Kings, their 45th season culminating with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman handing the Stanley Cup to Dustin Brown. Almost a year and a half later, that dizzying postseason celebration on the ice at STAPLES Center remains frozen in both time and images on cell phone cameras.
But as the memory of that June night fades, reminders are but a glance away. An 11x13 banner floats high above the ice at the Kings’ home rink, a symbol of an old franchise’s commitment to rising to new heights.
“We wanted something that one of the Original Six teams would do, something clean with your logo and what you accomplished,” says Danny Zollars, the Kings’ Senior Director of Game Operations.
The black banner, which features a Kings’ logo above the text “Stanley Cup Champions 2011-12,” is, in a word, elegant.
“It’s very simple and very clean,” Zollars says.
In designing the banner, the Kings found a look that was uncomplicated yet bold.
“We did it in black so it would stand out,” Zollars says. “It’s 11x13, which is slightly bigger than some of the others. It’s vertical, unlike the Lakers, which are more horizontal.”
Like seats at STAPLES Center or real estate in Los Angeles, the banner’s location is paramount. The Kings wanted their Stanley Cup banner to hang from the rafters, the way similar standards are mounted in traditional hockey markets like Boston and Detroit.
“We wanted to find a place where we could focus on our team,” Zollars says. “And we wanted more of a traditional hockey look. I wanted to have it hang from the rafters, and everyone agreed.”
An entire summer’s planning spilled over into fall as the NHL’s lockout droned on. All that diligence led to decisions on the banner’s look and placement. Then, as is so common in hockey, serendipity took over. When the Kings placed the banner in its permanent spot above the seats, they realized it was directly adjacent to the air conditioning ductwork, which resulted in a dramatic billowing-in-the-breeze effect.
“Where it hangs in the rafters,” Zollars explains, “it is right next to a vent. That wasn’t by design as everyone thinks. Part of the vent just hits and it blows. We hit that shot during the National Anthem.”
In settling on a championship banner that is uncluttered and straightforward, the Kings went with a look that is reminiscent of the NHL’s great franchises. It was lifted above the ice on Opening Day (last year) during festivities to celebrate the Kings’ first championship. It was a memorable afternoon as the Stanley Cup was in the building, players received their rings and the banner was finally unveiled.
“We spent a few months planning the ceremony,” Zollars says. “I think it was one of the two greatest moments in team history. We tweaked it and wanted to go in a different way, with the players spread out on the ice. We watched all the nights from the past 10 years and the players typically get in one little huddle.”
Before raising the banner, Kings players got in one last skate with the Cup on STAPLES Center ice.
“We wanted to figure out a way for everyone to get a moment with the Cup,” Zollars says. “Our fans were so hungry for more that we had the players skate with the Cup one last time.”
The commemorative streamer wasn’t the only change to the Kings’ quarters. The retired numbers of franchise icons Rogie Vachon (30), Marcel Dionne (16), Dave Taylor (18), Wayne Gretzky (99), and Luc Robitaille (20) were also redesigned and relocated.
Gone were the replica jerseys from each individual player’s era, replaced with a streamlined banner that displays the numbers in a uniform, sans serif font.
“The numbers are clean and simple,” Zollars explains.
Instead of recreating the jersey from each player’s particular era, the Kings opted to unite their icons with a consistent look.
“The color says what era each player played in,” Zollars explains. “The numbers honor the player and his accomplishments.”
As with the Stanley Cup banner and last year’s uniform redesign, the Kings looked to their sport’s legendary teams for inspiration.
“We want to hold ourselves with the Canadian teams or with the Original Six teams in going with a simple, clean look,” Zollars says. “As an organization, we like old-fashioned, clean designs.”
The uniform numbers are simple, but their size and placement in the rafters is enough to make them eye catching.
“They are big, but we still have room for a couple more,” says Zollars, who helped the Washington Wizards revamp their banners in a previous gig.
While working with New England Flag & Banner on the design, one of the Kings’ objectives was finding a look that would be timeless and enduring. Count on subsequent Kings’ banners looking a lot like the first one, should they win the Stanley Cup again.
“I think it will be exactly the same,” Zollars says. “The Red Wings have a lot of banners hanging and they all look exactly the same. I think that is intimidating. With Boston and Detroit, they all look the same. We wanted to emulate those teams.”
Two years ago, the Kings did a good job of emulating hockey’s greatest franchises with a 16-4 playoff record en route to the Stanley Cup, and they followed that up with a return trip to the Western Conference Finals. To relive that glory, fans at STAPLES Center need not look back, just up, where the Kings’ first Stanley Cup banner rises above.