Looking Back at My Summer of Stanley

I started riding my bike for health during a weight loss competition that I was in.

It also coincided with the NHL Playoffs. I found that I was filled with a lot of nervous energy watching the Kings play the Vancouver Canucks in the first round again, and blowing off steam on my
bike seemed to work. Like many other fans, I have a lot of old Kings garb. I would always make it a point to wear something when I rode, as sort of a way to represent the team while I hauled my fat ass up on my
mountain bike.

Very often, other cyclers would be wearing their team of choice, be it the Lakers or Dodgers or USC. Usually, these fans also wear old, well-worn items representing their respective teams. Invariably, these things would be touting championships.

Most of the time, I’ll see title stuff from the Lakers, as well as USC’s National Champion shirts and Angels World Series shirts. (Amazingly, I haven’t come across a Ducks shirt yet, which is surprising considering how close I live to Orange County.) I even saw someone wearing an old Laker shirt from 1987, with caricatures of Kareem, Magic and Pat Riley barely visible after years of wear.

As I would pass other fans on the bike paths, wearing my old Kings gear, I would get fleeting smirks and condescending glances from them. But I didn’t care. This team, these playoffs felt different. Maybe it was the nervous energy that kept me riding, or maybe it was superstition. All I knew is before I knew it, it became a habit.

When the Kings knocked off the President’s Trophy-winning Canucks, riding on game day became a must. I took it as a superstition. A healthy superstition. And as the team progressed farther, I started to ride further. Toward the Stanley Cup Finals, I was making it down to the beach, heading deeper into Orange County.

Slowly, I started seeing newly-pressed LA Kings shirts on other bike riders. It was bizarre, but not unheard of. Everyone loves a winner in L.A.

When the Kings defeated the Coyotes to the Finals, I was riding every morning. I was so nervous, I needed to blow off that anxiety. I also made the decision to try and make it to one game. Just one. I wanted to say I was there. So, thanks to the help of a good friend, I secured tickets to Game 4.

Turns out, the Kings were on the verge of sweeping the Devils, and Game 4 tickets were at a premium.
I remember riding down to the beach on Game Day, and I saw Kings swag everywhere. It felt incredible. It felt as if Southern California was willing the Kings to win.

The atmosphere was incredible outside Staples that night. Hundreds of people were milling around L.A. Live, all clamoring for a ticket. My buddy and I sidestepped the crazies and made our way inside. The
electricity prior to the faceoff was amazing, as fans were waving their light tubes in unison and cheering wildly.

However, the Kings lost Game 4 and I found myself shrugging my shoulders and thinking to
myself: “Figures.” There were three games left, and the Kings only needed one win. But, as we all know, it’s the last win that is always the hardest.

Game 5 came and went with another Devils victory, and all the scenarios were running through my head as I rode my bike. As I was at dinner, I got a text from my friend Ben that seemed too good to be true. Me at Game 6“Matt, I have tickets to Game 6. Interested?”

The next morning, I was still in a state of shock. As I was riding down the Bolsa Chica boardwalk, I did something I never do. I stopped. I walked my bike across the sand to an empty lifeguard tower. My mind was racing and I needed some perspective. As I have done many times in the past, I stared out at the relentless surf pounding the shore, a calm washed over me. Out went 25 years of doubt and uncertainty. I remember thinking to myself: “You are going to Game 6 and you will see the Kings win the Stanley Cup.”

As we all know now, the Kings had a huge first period. I have NEVER seen Staples more raucous. And when the clock counted down the final ten seconds, it seemed as if the frustrations from 47 years were finally exorcised. The Kings had won the Cup.

I now can understand and appreciate the feeling of rooting for a true champion. Even though I don’t play on the ice, I feel an overwhelming sense of pride for the players and my fellow fans.

I allowed myself to bask in the glow of the Kings’ epic Cup run. Since then, I’ve watched Game 6 numerous times. I snapped up countless memorabilia commemorating the occasion. I posed with both of my kids for Chaz Curry’s fan project benefiting BeTheMatch.org. I got my chance to pose with the Stanley Cup when it was brought to the Los Angeles Times building.

Now I ride my bike not just to burn off my nervous energy, but for fun. I bought my own championship hat, which I wear during my rides. And instead of getting smirks or head shakes from Laker fans or Trojan fans or Angel fans, I now get respectful head nods.

And now that the league and the players have gotten on the same page and have saved the season, I can once again get excited. Like many other fans, I was upset about this lockout, especially since it gives Kings fans an abridged opportunity to tell the rest of the league to suck it.
Don’t get me wrong, I still plan on doing that.