Congratulations are due to all of Churchill Wild’s California friends. Last night your Los Angeles Kings became the 2012 Stanley Cup Champions!
It went to the 6th game in a best-of-seven series – many were surprised it took that long. The road to the finals was dominated by the Kings as they rolled over everyone in their path. With the coveted championship trophy in the building the Kings dominated the Devils. The final score was of 6-1. Dustin Brown and Jonathan Quick led the team with stellar performances, but it was a true team effort and everyone looked like a superstar.
Speaking of superstars we also saw Matthew Perry, James Gandolfini, David Beckham and my lifelong crush Alyssa Milano in the crowd. Star-studded event is an understatement — I’m sure there were others, not to mention a certain distraction for the New Jersey coach.
Canadians are known for our love of hockey and last night my family was glued to the TV watching the action. We had been cheering for the Kings since the early rounds when our personal favorites were exiled to the golf courses.
The Stanley Cup finals are a yearly ritual in our house. I am a huge hockey fan and my wife probably loves it more than I do! My 11-year-old son Elliot plays hockey and is one of those stereotypical Canadian kids you hear about — he learned to skate shortly after learning to walk.
With the recent return of our Winnipeg Jets we may have our own team, but they didn’t make the playoffs. Lucky for me I had a connection to the Kings that made them my surrogate choice for the cup.
This past spring I traveled to LA for a round of meetings and an event hosted by Travel Manitoba at the Staples Centre. Being Canadian it was an appropriate gesture to host California’s travel industry professionals (in a suite) at the game between the Calgary Flames and the Kings.
I met a lot of great people and I’ve continued to stay in contact with many of them – a few are even coming up to the lodge this summer for one of our Arctic Safaris where they will see polar bears and swim with beluga whales in July and August.
Unfortunately I missed most of the game, but I ended up with an experience I’ll always remember, and one that my son bragged to all his friends about.
Travel Manitoba has a mascot named “Toba”, a polar bear with a big round belly and an enormous head. I’m always adventurous so I volunteered to assume the Toba identity, leaving myself at the mercy of Travel Manitoba’s Dene and Lilian to dictate my agenda.
I was escorted by Kings’ staff thru the hallways under the stands (beautiful building!) to my “dressing room” where I put the costume on and immediately felt like I was transported to a 100 degree sizzling sunny summer afternoon. I didn’t realize there was a cooling unit built in and toughed it out for the remainder of my moment in the spotlight.
Between the first and second period I was ushered onto the ice to assist the King’s mascot Bailey in supervising/refereeing a mini-game with mini players. As the kids skated circles around us we were sideshow entertainment for the fans.
When we inevitably met at center ice it was a surreal summit of two safari icons. The African Safari’s lion meets our Arctic Safari’s polar bear.
I couldn’t see much from inside that immense white bobble-head but I was assured the exchange was both comical and entertaining – and I give all credit to Bailey.
I may have missed the suite visit from one of my all-time hockey heroes (Luc Robitaille) but how many people can say they dressed as a polar bear in LA and waddled around in front of 18,000 fans? I guess this was my big Hollywood moment.
The Kings franchise was founded on February 9, 1966, when the city was awarded a 1967-68 NHL expansion franchise, becoming one of six new teams (California Seals, LA Kings, Minnesota North Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and the St. Louis Blues).
In the 45-year history of the franchise the Kings had never won a Stanley Cup. From the days of Marcel Dionne and Rogie Vachon to the era of Gretzky and Robitaille the Kings had many sweet victories and sad defeats, even going so far as losing in the Stanley Cup final of 1992-93.
The current roster including Brown, Quick, Richards, Carter, Gagne and the guiding expertise of Darryl Sutter are sure to make future seasons just as exciting. I can’t wait to see them face off against the Jets!
Congrats again to our California friends! Our polar bears look forward to seeing you this summer!