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STAPLES Center Erupts For Playoff Hockey

by Andrew Howard / Los Angeles Kings
STAPLES Center errupted for each of the Kings goals including Brad Richardson's.

Even before the ear-splitting, towel-waving frenzy that accompanied the Los Angeles Kings entrance onto the ice at STAPLES Center, there was a party in the concourses.

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For the first time since 2002 there was a playoff hockey game at the STAPLES Center, and the fans made sure to celebrate every moment of it.

The entrances were packed an hour and a half before face-off with long lines of anxious fans waiting to be let inside.

Once inside, loud chants of Go Kings Go filled the bustling walkways. A small number of brave Vancouver Canucks fans navigated the concourses, cheering on their team as well.

Alongside a window eating sandwiches before heading to their seats were long-time Kings fans Brett and Scott.

Brett, a native of Rowland Heights, said he dates the start of his Kings fanhood to the days before the arrival of Wayne Gretzky.

"A friend from back east took me to my first game at the Forum and that was it," Brett said. "I was hooked after that."

Scott said that he and Brett have tickets to all the possible Kings home playoff games, and should the team make it to its second Stanley Cup finals, they will be there too.

"It's great," said Brett of seeing the Kings in the playoffs after a seven-year absence. "It's nice to see that they stuck by the plan finally of growing the team."

Also enjoying a bit to eat before the game were Bob and his son, Paul. After growing up without an NHL team in San Francisco, Bob became a Kings fan when he moved to Los Angeles. Now living in West L.A., Bob said he had season tickets for 25 years. However, he decided not to get them this season, and as it just so happens, the Kings find themselves in the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

"Still exciting, obviously," Bob said.

Waiting atop one of the escalators on the 300 level were Jim and Steve from La Cresenta. The pair have had season tickets for the past three seasons, and about a half an hour before face-off they were raving about the energy that was apparent throughout the arena.

Looking back on the memories, Steve lists Gretzky's record-breaking 802nd goal against the Vancouver Canucks on March 23, 1994 as his greatest.

"When Wayne Gretzky scored the biggest goal of his career and they roll the Rolls Royce convertible on the ice for him," Steve said. "Awesome memory."

Another memory for the Kings and their fans could be Monday night, when before a standing-room only crowd of 18,264, the Kings defeated the Canucks 5-3 to take a 2-1 series.

The rock band, The Briggs, kicked off the pre-game festivities with a live rendition of their song, "This is L.A.," pumping up STAPLES Center just before the opening faceoff.

Then, with the lights dimmed and the white towels given to all the fans prior to the game glowing in the dark, the volume reached a level seldom seen at Kings games in the last several years.

"I thought the building was very good," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "I've been hearing for the past couple of years about the atmosphere that's going to be there whenever the team gets to the playoffs, and it was that plus. It was tremendous. Fans were a big, big part of the game here for us tonight."

Kings defenseman Drew Doughty was similarly impressed with the intensity that the crowd displayed throughout the entirety of the game, even when the Kings fell behind 1-0 early.

"It was great to get that win," Doughty said. "Honestly when I was coming here I was pumped to get here and play at STAPLES Center. We went out there, the fans were unbelievable. I did not think we could match Vancouver but we did just that."

Through the course of the conversation, Steve and Jim said that they will be at every Kings home game throughout the playoffs.

"We got it all set up," Jim said. "We're going all the way to the Stanley Cup this year."

For a team that finished second-to-last in the Western Conference last season, a run to the Stanley Cup finals would have been difficult to predict.

But, then again, as Bob Miller said in the video prior to the start of the game: "Hey, it could happen."

In 14 more wins, it could.
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