LOS ANGELES — The moment was more than seven months in the making, but it still felt right on time.
When the Stanley Cup championship banner rose above the ice and into the rafters at Staples Center on Saturday, Los Angeles Kings players watched it admiringly. They had made it happen.
This was their day, their achievement. An NHL-imposed lockout forced them — and the rest of the league — to wait three months to begin their season. But it didn’t steal the joy and celebration of the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.
Every detail had been carefully planned and orchestrated, from the presentation of the Tiffany-designed rings to Kings players to the escorting of the Stanley Cup trophy through the stands and onto center ice.
A perfect day . . . except for the long-awaited opening game itself. Perhaps it was the result of all the pregame excitement, but the Kings offered a coldly disappointing performance against the Chicago Blackhawks, who scored the game's first four goals and won easily, 5-2.
“It was awesome,” defenseman Matt Greene said of the banner raising. “It was good to see that thing go up, to be a part of history with the Kings. But you’ve got to move on. That was last year, and it should have been done a long time ago if this lockout didn’t happen. It’s a new year. We’ve got to get going.”
Until the puck dropped, the day was an unrestrained celebration. Fans arrived at Staples more than three hours before game time simply to gather outside, share the happiness and enjoy the typical Southern California weather — a sunny, cloudless day with temperatures pushing 80 degrees downtown.
Inside, emotions took over. A video montage of the Kings’ Stanley Cup run played overhead, and longtime announcer Bob Miller introduced players one by one, each stopping to accept a championship ring from Nancy Anschutz, the wife of team owner Philip Anschutz. The Cup was brought to the ice, where each player lifted it above his head for a moment before passing it to a teammate.
For most of them, it must have brought back memories of their Game 6 clincher against the New Jersey Devils last June, a 6-1 victory that ended their spectacular march to the title. In Stanley Cup tradition, players took turns hoisting the trophy above their heads and making a loop around the ice.
This was their reward. As a fitting end to the ceremonies, former Kings greats Rogie Vachon and Marcel Dionne held the rolled-up banner, accompanied by the parents and brother of Ana Marquez-Greene, one of the victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last month.
Team captain Dustin Brown and assistant captains Greene and Anze Kopitar took the banner and skated to the opposite end of the rink, where their teammates gathered around to see it rise above the ice at 12:22 p.m.
For the franchise, it was a moment that took 45 years to happen. For the players and fans, it was worth every victory and loss, although their pratfall in the opener was one they’re ready to forget.
“It would have been nice to add to the ceremony,” said Rob Scuderi, who scored the Kings’ first goal, “but I think the ceremony was something that stood by itself. From when it started to when it ended, it was great. And then once it ended, we didn’t do a very good job overall playing the game.”
Maybe it was to be expected after so much celebrating. But it’s time to move on. One season ends, another begins, even if it’s a little late.