With the 2018 Stanley Cup Final in progress, it’s easy for my mind to go back to 2012. For Los Angeles Kings fans, 45 years of frustration were brought to an end by one of the most remarkable runs in playoff history.
Record Setting 2012 NHL Playoffs
The 2012 Kings won their first Stanley Cup breaking, so many records it’s almost unbelievable to think about now.
That year the Kings became the first eighth seed to win a Stanley Cup. They set a record for consecutive road wins with 10. They were also the first team to start every series at 3-0.
By the time the dust had settled in the playoffs the Kings claimed a 16-4 a record. That record is only bested by the Hall of Fame laden 1988 Edmonton Oilers that went 16-2.
The run was so dominant and unexpected that it washed away all the years of mediocrity that had given the Kings fans few playoff moments of joy.
So why was it bittersweet? For me, the run and the Stanley Cup win was as much about who wasn’t there than about the outcome.
For myself, a 20-plus year fan of the team, the Stanley Cup win was hard and bittersweet to enjoy because as the Kings were destroying the NHL, cancer was destroying my father’s body.
When my father was diagnosed with lung cancer in March of that year, it was tantamount to a death sentence. It was Stage IV and had spread to spots all over his body. We were prepared for six more months to be with him but we only got three.
Losing a parent has been one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to go through, not only because of the sense of loss but just missing his presence. The loss was palpable that spring, even more because when it came to sports, I was my father’s partner in crime.
He loved any team that had any L.A. in front of it (well except maybe the Clippers, he knew about Donald Sterling), and the Kings were no exception. While the Kings were making their run, I was ever the pessimist and my father the optimist. He always reminded me that nothing is over until there were all zeroes on the clock.
Our last meaningful conversation was on March 30th 2012. Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals was going on in Newark, New Jersey between the Kings and the New Jersey Devils. I purposefully didn’t have the game on as we spoke, mostly because I would be too nervous to talk, and in all honesty, I was not thinking about sports.
Already frail and weak, it was hard for my father to talk, so we sat there holding hands whispering to each other. All of a sudden, his iPod started buzzing with alerts as did mine, he asked what it was I smiled and said “Kopitar just scored the winning goal in OT,” he retorted “Told ya, Kings are going to win the Stanley Cup.”
My father died three days later, the Kings wrapped up the series in six games winning the clincher and Cup at Staples Center in front of their long suffering fans.
As I watched the clock countdown to zero, the emotions moved over me like a tidal wave. I cried tears of joy and sadness, joy because I finally got to see my team lift the Stanley Cup and sadness because the one person I wanted to share the joy with was gone.
That Kings team will always hold a special place in my heart, but as I said a bittersweet memory.