Hockey Returns; Kings Enjoy Ceremony, Not Game
It was a big day for the Los Angeles Kings at noon on Saturday. They opened up the shortened 48-game 2012-13 NHL season, received their long-awaited championship rings on-ice, and finally got to raise their first Stanley Cup championship banner to the rafters at Staples Center.
All while the coveted Lord Stanley’s Cup was on display at center ice during the pre-game ceremony hosted by Bob Miller, Kings long-time play-by-play announcer.
There was a general feeling of giddiness inside Staples Center thanks to the NHL and NHLPA finally agreeing to the framework of an agreement which put an end to the lockout and labor dispute.
The Chicago Blackhawks were chosen as the Kings’ first-game opponent for this nationally televised game on NBC. The Blackhawks certainly remember the feeling of raising a banner. It was only 27 months ago that their 2010 championship banner went up to the United Center rafters.
After the Kings players were announced one-by-one to skate out onto the ice to receive their rings and hoist the cup, it was time to raise the banner. Joining former Kings legends Marcel Dionne and Rogie Vachon were three very special, surprise guests to present the banner.
The Kings invited Jimmy and Nelba Marquez-Green and their 8-year-old son Isaiah, a hockey-loving family, to help deliver the banner to honor the memory of their 6-year-old daughter, Ana, one of the students killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. Isaiah is a youth hockey player in his community’s junior development league program.
It was a tribute to families from all across America who watch hockey, play hockey and share experiences like today that bring joy and happiness into our lives.
“It was awesome,” Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said. “You know, that’s way bigger, way more important than anything that went on today on the ice. That’s pretty special. To be able to include them in all of this is special.”
Isaiah and is father were given the VIP treatment as they were allowed into the Kings’ locker room after the game to meet the players and get autographs. As a bonus, they were also invited into the Clippers locker room after their game that night at Staples Center.
When asked which game he liked better, Isaiah’s dad said, “I wish the Kings would have won, but I’m glad we got to see a Clippers’ victory.”
The Blackhawks got off to a quick start, scoring three goals in the first period to take a 3-0 lead. It did not help that the Blackhawks had a two-man advantage on the first power-play goal. The second and third goals were scored a little over one minute apart.
“Well, scoring first certainly helped,” Blackhawks Coach Joel Quenneville said. “Having a great first period like that quieted the crowd a bit and I thought we did a good job of how we played in that first. We got everybody involved and rotating, that’s obviously how you want to start a game, especially on the road.”
Conn Smyth Trophy recipient Jonathon Quick, who had herniated disc surgery in August, seemed un-characteristically discombobulated in goal for the Kings.
“You have to get used to getting knocked down and getting back up,” Quick said. “Everyone knew what we were here to do and try to win a hockey game and unfortunately we weren’t able to do that.”
The Kings playing without sharpshooter Anze Kopitar, who is recovering from a knee injury, might have also put them at a slight disadvantage.
Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane, who scored the first goal of the game, empathized with the Kings as he recalled losing the first game of the season after winning the cup.
“Everyone is going to play their best game against the cup champion,” Kane said. “That’s a game you want to prove yourself and make a statement. I think that’s what we were feeling tonight, and we had the opportunity to do that.”
The only two Kings to score were Rob Scuderi and Jordan Nolan as the Kings fell 5-2. Quick gave up five goals only once last season.
“We just have to get back to it,” Kings Captain Dustin Brown said. “We need to get our timing back.”
Maybe there is something to that Stanley Cup championship hangover theory.