LOS ANGELES -- They came to raise a glass to a Cup, again, to toast a game played on ice in a city where it no longer rains, much less snows.
They lined the metal barricades 20 deep, shoulder to shoulder in black jerseys. They were tatted homies, mustachioed hipsters, mothers pushing strollers. A group of young women dressed as referees and urged everyone to go vegan.
A man in a yarmulke stood next to three guys from a nearby construction site, still wearing hard hats. A businessman stood on Figueroa Street beneath his office tower, tie slung over his shoulder, next to a man who arrived shirtless, pushing his belongings in a shopping cart.
They came for the same story. The last time, it went something like this: Hockey? This time, the Los Angeles Kings wrote the answer: Darn right. The best there is.
The Kings paraded the storied trophy through the skyscrapers Monday before capping the day with a rally at Staples Center. There, three days earlier, the Kings beat the New York Rangers, 3-2, in a riveting game to capture the Stanley Cup. The Kings, after four decades of sometimes famous futility, have won two of the last three NHL titles.
"I've never seen a sports team so united, so resilient," said Alex Lozano, who woke up a little after dawn to catch a bus from Glendale to the celebration. "I think all of L.A. is proud of that."
Lozano has been a Kings fan for 30 of his 50 years.
"It's sweeter the second time around," he said. "I would love to have one every year."
There were signs that we're still not exactly taking this in stride; Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, a historically disciplined politician, took the microphone on Monday and, in praising the team, promptly dropped an F-bomb on live TV.
Still, they're talking dynasty around here. The Kings played a record 64 playoff games in the last three seasons. Seventeen players were on the roster for both championships, a significant number in an era when salaries are capped. And yet, team architects have continued to make key additions -- the Kings traded for Marian Gaborik this spring, and the forward went on to score a league-high 14 goals in the postseason.
General Manager Dean Lombardi was joking on Monday, but not entirely, when he asked two of his stars, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, to pick which of their rings they liked the most. The players answered, in unison: "The next one."
"This franchise," Lombardi told the packed Staples Center, "has now evolved to another level."
It was heady talk, though most fans seemed content with the present, to welcome the Cup back after just two seasons.
Dewayne Holland, 49, of Kernville, has been a Kings fan since he was a boy, and he raised his daughters the same way. In a drawer at home is a shirt one of his daughters made with fabric paint when she was 6, depicting Holland sitting in a lounge chair and watching a Kings game on television. The daughter, Katie, is now 22.
"It took so long for us to get the Cup," Holland said. But it was worth the wait, he added: "They play their game. They never panic."
Indeed, a number of fans contrasted the stoic, homespun Kings to certain other sports franchises in Southern California, who have demonstrated that money cannot buy chemistry, or have seen front-office turmoil eclipse their performance. The Kings seem to have won L.A. not just because they win, but because of how they do it, with their backs against the wall.
During the team's first Stanley Cup run, in 2012, they barely made the playoffs, and then became the NHL's first eighth seed to eliminate the first- and second-seeded teams in their conference. That, it turned out, was nothing. This time, the Kings lost the first three games in the first round, and were one defeat from going home.
Mitch Snowden, 23, a college student who never misses a game on TV -- including for class, he pointed out -- was watching at his lucky bar when the San Jose Sharks went up 3-0 against the Kings. A Sharks fan brought a broom to the bar and then, assuming the Sharks were going to sweep, ordered a beer for his broom. When the Kings won Game 4, "I walked up and drank the beer he ordered for his broom," Snowden said.
It was the beginning of a magical run -- the Kings came back and won that series, and then became the first team in NHL history to win three Game 7s in the first three rounds of the playoffs.
All along, they were guided by Darryl Sutter, a cranky man who says you "can't manage luck," who might consider himself a farmer first and a hockey coach second, though he would never reveal that much about himself. Sutter, now firmly a legend in the sport, allowed himself a few smiles Monday.
"You see this baby right here?" he said, fingertips on the rim of the Cup. "She's been gone for a couple years. And, oh, we're happy she's home."
(Times staff writers Jason Wells and Caitlin Owens contributed to this report.)
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