Kings fans cheer as they take pictures of the Stanley Cup outside Staples… (Jae C. Hong / Associated…)
With excitement -- and traffic -- building around Staples Center, the Kings prepared to raise their Stanley Cup banner on Saturday by holding a fan fest on the street outside the arena.
Air hockey tables and vendors were set up for fans to enjoy in the warm sunshine, and a happy mood prevailed. At one point key club executives including General Manager Dean Lombardi, assistant GM Ron Hextall, Business Operations President Luc Robitaille and team governor Tim Leiweke were handing out hot dog coupons to fans.
But the nicest touch was when the Stanley Cup, which had been on display outdoors, was brought into the building via a relay of fans and longtime season ticket holders. People held up their kids to get a better view and snapped photos with cellphones and cameras, hoping to preserve the moment.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was among the spectators for that special Cup relay and said it emphasized the positive impact the Kings’ triumph last June would have on hockey here and everywhere.
“What I think is great for the Kings is when you think of the history and leagacy of the franchise, you think of the players that played here in the past, you think of the fans, including some of the ones who carried the Stanley Cup through the crowd,” Bettman said. “They announced one season ticket holder had been so for 45 years.
“I think when a franchise achieves this level of success it makes the franchise even stronger and fulfills a promise and a prophecy and takes an excited, pasisonate fan base and brings them to a new level. And brings in new fans. I think you’ll continue to see an impact on hockey throughout Southern California at all levels. I think based on what happened here last June there are more kids now who are skating and eager to play hockey.”
Bettman, a target of fans’ ire during the just-resolved lockout, said he would not go onto the ice for the banner-raising ceremony. He said that’s his normal routine and not an exception in this case to shield him from boos.
“This is not a time for a league ceremony. This is the ceremony between the club and its fans to celebrate their great accomplishment,” he said.
We’ll have more later about the ceremony.
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