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Kings' Stanley Cup win will have lasting impact

by Barry Melrose

This is great for the city of Los Angeles.

There are no two ways around it. After finally defeating the Devils in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night, the Kings, at long last, are champions -- and for the city of L.A., as someone who knows what it's like to live and coach there, that's just a great thing. It's always great any time you do something for the first time and this franchise has been in the League since 1967, so it's a great reward for the city to finally get one after 45 years.

I also think this is a lesson to other teams. Several franchises in this League have been around for years without ever winning the Stanley Cup. The St. Louis Blues have never won the Cup. Neither have the Minnesota Wild, the San Jose Sharks, the Vancouver Canucks or the Phoenix Coyotes. The Florida Panthers, Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres? All still waiting to touch the Cup for the first time.

For fans of those teams, though, seeing the Kings finally win it all after 45 years is proof that no matter the wait, it can happen. If L.A. can win it, Minnesota can do it. St. Louis can do it. All of those teams can do it, and what's more important is the Kings have done it the right way. They've traded well, they've built through the draft and groomed their prospects well. They've made the right moves in the front office, too and it's all paid off -- and it can all pay off for those other teams, too.

We also need to remember that while L.A. may not be the first place you think of when you think of a passionate hockey market, there is a die-hard fan base in southern California that has waited a long time for this. There are a handful of Kings fans who have been season ticket holders since the team came into the League in 1967. It's amazing that these people stuck around for all those years, particularly the early seasons when the franchise was struggling. That's a long time to be a season ticket holder for a team that's never won it all. To invest yourself in a team for more than four decades and finally be rewarded is a special thing, and it's really tremendous to see those fans finally see what it's like to be on top.

It's also important to know that this is going to have a far-reaching impact on the NHL as a whole, too. Los Angeles is one of the biggest media markets in the world, and getting people excited in southern California will pay big dividends. All of a sudden people in the entertainment industry are writing about the Stanley Cup or hockey in general and putting it in their movies, which is a great opportunity for hockey to gain in popularity and perhaps more importantly, a great chance for young California kids to get involved in hockey.

We've seen an influx of kids born in the early 1990s who got into hockey after the Kings went to the Final in 1993. Now those kids are 18 or 19 years old, they're getting drafted and they're playing D-I hockey. This Stanley Cup win for the Kings means you'll see more of that again. Young parents in southern California will want their kids to play hockey. You'll see an uptick in kids playing minor hockey in California again, which is great for our sport and positive in general.

Hockey has started to gain a real developmental foothold in southern U.S. markets over the last 20 years and people may be skeptical, but the proof is in the pudding. In 2010, two first-round picks at the NHL Draft were from California. Over the past few years, kids have been drafted out of Texas and Florida roughly 10-15 years after the Stars and Panthers had postseason success. That's not a coincidence. Every college game I go to, you see kids from Southern California on the rosters, some of them play for junior teams in Canada and the World Junior teams and developmental teams all have California kids on them. A lot of that can be traced back to those Kings in 1993 and this will only enhance that.

When Bobby Orr was a star in Boston, there were new hockey facilities going up all over New England. When the U.S. won the gold medal in 1980, that created an uptick in American kids playing hockey, and that's what we're seeing in cities in the U.S. where teams win. There is potentially a huge talent base for developing NHL prospects in southern California, and the same thing is going to happen there.

Lastly, the thing that makes this so great for Los Angeles, and for the fans that have waited so long to see it, is that you never know when you'll get another chance. Yes, the Kings are a young, talented team, but you still never know. I saw a montage of the last few teams to win the Stanley Cup the other night. One was Chicago, one was Pittsburgh, both are great teams with great young talent, and neither team has made it back to the Stanley Cup Final since. It's so hard to say that the Kings look on paper like they will be back every year. No one looked better on paper than Pittsburgh and Chicago this season and neither team got through the first round.

Should the Kings be back? Yeah. All of their players are in their prime, young, they'll continue to stay together and grow together, but if you look at the Penguins and Blackhawks, they've both had the same recipe for success and they haven't come close to reaching the Final again. It's very, very tough to get here. A lot of people don't understand how hard it is to not only win the Stanley Cup, but to compete for it year after year after year. That's why we haven't had a repeat winner since Detroit 14 years ago.

There's no guarantee. That's why this is so great for L.A. and why the guys on this team, and its fans, better enjoy it while they can. There's no guarantee you'll be back.

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