Facing my fears: A Golden Knights-Kings first-round playoff match-up
By Howard Stutz
Special guest contributor
My home office contains a small shrine to the Los Angeles Kings.
Photos of me with Kings’ legends Luc Robitaille, Anze Kopitar, and Dave Taylor are displayed along with signed hockey cards from Jim Fox and Butch Goring. There are Robitaille and Fox bobbleheads, and other memorabilia.
Two Stanley Cup Champion caps, from 2012 and 2014, are front and center. I’ve longed to add a third cap signifying the Kings winning the greatest trophy in sports. A victory this year, however, comes at the expense of the Vegas Golden Knights.
I’ve dreaded an NHL playoff matchup between the Golden Knights and the Kings since post-season reality came into focus a month ago.
I’ve been a Kings fan since the team was created in 1967. I can still hear the voice of radio/TV announcer Jiggs McDonald broadcasting the team’s games featuring Eddie “the Jet” Joyal, Juha “Whitey” Widing, Bill “Cowboy” Flett, and Réal Lemieux.
The Kings didn’t win many games those early years, but players such as Bernie Nichols and the “Triple Crown Line” of Taylor, Marcel Dionne and Charlie Simmer kept our attention. The 1982 “Miracle on Manchester,” when the Kings rallied from a 5-0 deficit to beat the heavily-favored Edmonton Oilers 6-5 in overtime, remains one of the great moments in LA hockey.
The Kings didn’t win the Stanley Cup even with Wayne Gretzky, but “The Great One” put Los Angeles hockey on the map.
It took 16 years after Gretzky was traded to St. Louis, but Los Angeles had a magical run in 2012 and Kings’ fans rejoiced when Dustin Brown became the team’s first captain to hoist the Cup. It may not be as iconic as Al Michael’s “Do you believe in miracles?” line, but Bob Miller’s, “After 45 years, the Kings can finally wear their crowns,” brings smiles to Kings’ fans everywhere.
Two years later, the Kings again took ownership of Lord Stanley, closing out the New York Rangers on Alex Martinez’s overtime goal.
Fast forward four years, and the Golden Knights are making their own magical moments.
Our family has grown to love the Golden Knights. We figured it would be a fun first season, watching the team win 20-to-25 games. But even the greatest hockey experts never predicted the Knights would make the NHL playoffs, let alone win the Pacific Division, in the team’s inaugural season.
We attended nearly a dozen Golden Knights home games. We own Golden Knights jerseys, hats and other gear. We watch the games religiously on TV.
So how can I root against the Knights in the playoffs?
Because it’s the Kings and “Because it’s the Cup.”
We attended all three Kings-Golden Knights games at T-Mobile Arena, although the first one doesn’t count because it was a pre-season game and the Kings left all their stars at home. So it was the Knights versus the Ontario Reign.
In the first regular season match up, I wore a Kings jersey and a Knights cap. The Knights scored three first period goals and forced goalie Johnathan Quick’s early exit in a 4-2 Vegas victory. I wore a Knights jersey – with my Kings sweatshirt underneath – in February during a Kings 4-1 win.
The Kings games are no longer televised in Las Vegas and my allegiance to the Knights is growing stronger.
However, this might be the last chance at the Cup for this core group of Kings – Quick, Brown, Kopitar, Drew Doughty, and Jeff Carter. I’m just not ready to bid farewell to my fondness for the Kings.
I was hoping the Knights would draw the Ducks or Sharks in round one, but it wasn’t to be. My prediction? Kings will win the series in six games.
Honestly, if the Knights’ magical season continues into the second round, I won’t be too down. The way I look at it, one of the two teams I’d like to see hoist the Cup will still be playing hockey.
I hope to add either a third Kings Championship cap to the collection, or my first Knights’ Stanley Cup hat.
Howard Stutz is a 35-year resident of Las Vegas and longtime journalist. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter