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CHRIS ERSKINE / FAN OF THE HOUSE

A long wait makes Kings' Stanley Cup party sweeter

L.A. Live explodes into a celebration Monday night after the Kings defeat the New Jersey Devils, 6-1, to clinch the NHL championship.

June 11, 2012|Chris Erskine
  • Kings fans outside Staples Center celebrate the team's first Stanley Cup championship on Monday night near L.A. Live.
Kings fans outside Staples Center celebrate the team's first Stanley… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

Turns out Cinderella wears hockey skates after all.

L.A. Live exploded in celebration Monday night, the Kings' 19-year rebuilding plan finally coming to fruition.

And their fans to full ignition.

Boisterous and beery-eyed, they took to the streets surrounding Staples Center, hugging, high-fiving, even crying as they celebrated something their sports-obsessed city has never had: an NHL championship.

OK, Kings fans, you can exhale now. Your Cup runneth over.

The celebration — and I knew you'd worry — was fervent but largely peaceful, at least in the initial 90 minutes. At Magic Johnson's statue, they shot confetti cannons into the air, sounded air horns, climbed on each other's shoulders, screamed.

That felt good, so they screamed some more.

Rudy Gallegos, 30, was a center of attention, holding a replica silver cup over his head, posing for photos, spinning round and round, taking it all in.

"I've been a fan since the fifth grade," he said.

Twenty minutes after the game, a swirling sort of mosh pit formed, mostly with the fans who had spilled out of restaurants or come downtown to join the celebration.

Police watched patiently, but by the time Staples fans emerged, the LAPD had isolated the celebration mostly to the portion of Chick Hearn Court between Staples and L.A. Live.

"I want to cry, I'm close to it," said fan Robert Hockenbraugh, of the Kings' first Cup. "This exorcises so many demons, it's unbelievable."

"We have the Cup! We have the Cup!" shouted fans.

"I didn't think it would ever happen, the season's so long, the playoffs are so long," said Scott Spinuzzi after emerging from the arena. "It's more luck than anything."

And sweat. And heart.

Tell me, does hockey have a mercy rule? Staples almost needed one Monday night, the game over early, the outcome never really in doubt.

The Kings played Game 6 as if it were Game 7, as if it were now or never. Who wanted to face death back in New Jersey, which is a lot like life in New Jersey, only less painful. But still.

And that's exactly the way their fans partied afterward. Now or never.

"Most of these people will be dead before the next one happens," Spinuzzi predicted.

They celebrated with dignity, they celebrated like buttheads. It wasNew Year's Eve, July 4 and your brother's bachelor party rolled into one magical night.

"I'm nearly speechless," said Kelly Eaton after spilling out of Staples. "How often do you get to see history?"

Before the game, Kings fans were subdued but confident.

"I'm so nervous I can't even drink beer," said season-ticket holder Greg Murphy.

"Tonight's the night," they assured each other all across the L.A. Live plaza.

Outside Staples, Stacie Kortkamp stood next to Jerry Archuleta and held a hand-lettered sign:

"HE SAID HE WOULD MARRY ME WHEN YOU WIN THE CUP! GO KINGS GO!"

"That's what I told my ex-girlfriend in '93," one heckler yelled.

When would the ceremony take place?

"She says tomorrow, I say sometime this summer," said Archuleta.

"You're in trouble, dude," said a passerby. "It's happening tonight."

It was happening, all right. And what a run it was. Till this postseason, even the die-hard Kings fans had their doubts.

"In December, they asked me to renew my season tickets," says Denise Abeita. "I was, like, come on, they can't even score a goal.

"But it's happening tonight," she said.

Finally.

chris.erskine@latimes.com

twitter.com/erskinetimes

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