Kings Coach Darryl Sutter and defenseman Willie Mitchell share a lighter… (Bruce Bennett / Getty Images )
NEWARK, N.J. -- At this stage, the inner child comes out in nearly every hockey player and coach.
New Jersey Devils icon Martin Brodeur sounded like an excited teenager, not a seen-it-all 40-year-old goaltender Tuesday at media day for the Stanley Cup Final before their series against the Kings. You might have thought it was his first Final, not his fifth.
Less than an hour later, Kings captain Dustin Brown occupied a spot not far from where Brodeur had been seated. The baby-faced Brown — a father of three sons, no less — reached back into his early childhood when asked whether he had ever envisioned being handed the Stanley Cup by the commissioner.
"Have I thought about that? Yeah, I've thought about that since I was 4 years old," Brown said.
That would have been 1988, so long ago that there was no commissioner of the NHL (Its leader was President John Ziegler Jr.). Also in 1988, the Edmonton Oilers won their fourth Stanley Cup in five years, led by future Kings star Wayne Gretzky.
And so, the boys of winter landed in New Jersey, becoming men of spring. A muggy spring at that.
The Kings, who are 8-0 on the road and 12-2 in the playoffs, were taking in the sights and sounds of the Stanley Cup Final, the first for the franchise since Gretzky took them there in 1993. For Coach Darryl Sutter, it is his first appearance in the Final since he was coaching Calgary in 2004.
Game 1 is Wednesday night at Prudential Center, eight days after the Kings won the Western Conference title. In 2003, the Ducks had 11 days off before the Final and lost to the Devils. The Oilers and the Ottawa Senators had nine days off before losing to Carolina in 2006 and to the Ducks in 2007, respectively.
Soft-spoken Kings goalie Jonathan Quick looked as if he would rather be dealing with a regular-season shootout than a lengthy media session.
The Vezina Trophy finalist for best goalie seemed to be the exception.
"We could be watching on TV. You know what, this will take an hour out of today," Sutter said of the media session. "What are we going to do? Go to the mall?"
The Kings have four players who have won the Cup and five others who have reached the Final. Two in the latter group would be linemates Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, who lost to Chicago two years ago when they played for Philadelphia.
Richards was sent to the Kings and Carter to the Columbus Blue Jackets on the same day, during the NHL draft in June, and were reunited in Los Angeles in February.
"We were pretty mad," Richards said. "I'm not going to lie. It's something I've never had before. I've never been traded. Jeff has never been traded. For us to be traded at the same time I think was a lot of venting to each other.
"Like I said, everything happens for a reason. If that was the path that was intended for us, that's great."
Richards' career path included a stint with Peter DeBoer, the Devils coach who coached Richards as a junior player in Kitchener of the Ontario Hockey League.
"I love Richie," DeBoer said. "You know, we won together. He grew up in the organization I was running. He's a great kid. He's one of those guys you want in the foxhole with you if you're going to war. I know we have some of those guys on our team, too."
That would include four-time Vezina Trophy winner Brodeur, captain Zach Parise and the man the Kings tried to sign two years ago, winger Ilya Kovalchuk.
"I don't think you're ever surprised at what he does, how he handles everything," Lou Lamoriello, the Devils' president and general manager, said about Brodeur. ". . . If you look back in history, he got pulled in the sixth game in Anaheim [in 2003] and came back and shut out Anaheim to win the Stanley Cup.
"Marty is an unflappable person. He has a personality that never looks back. He loves the game. He plays it because he loves it."