Two months before local Olympians returned from London with gold around their necks, the L.A. Kings displayed shining silver in the Beach Cities in the form of the Stanley Cup.
On June 11, the Kings completed a storybook playoff run with a 6-1 win over the New Jersey Devils to win the first Stanley Cup in franchise history and become the first 8th-seeded team in North American professional sports to win a championship.
The outcome was totally unpredictable. The team barely made it into the playoffs, entering the postseason as the lowest seed (8th) in the Western Conference. The Kings were the lowest scoring team in the NHL when head coach Terry Murray was fired on Dec. 12, 2011.
Former Calgary general manager and San Jose Sharks coach Daryl Sutter was named as the new head coach with the hopes of inspiring a team many hockey analysts considered soft and underachieving.
Near the end of the regular season, things suddenly clicked for the Kings. They eliminated defending Western Conference Champion Vancouver and the top-seed St. Louis Blues in the first two rounds of the playoffs. The team jumped out to 3-0 leads in four straight series posting a 16-4 playoff run that included a 10-1 record on the road.
Redondo Beach resident Jim Fox is one of the most popular Kings in franchise history, spending his entire 10-year career with the team in the 1980s. He is eighth on the Kings’ all-time scoring list, eight in assists and ninth in goals.
Fox is in his 23rd year as the Kings’ television color commentator, sitting alongside Hall of Famer Bob Miller. Fox has witnessed many of the ups and downs of the franchise, so the Kings’ Stanley Cup victory was a special time for him.
“Personally it was an incredible celebration,” Fox said. “One thing that came to the forefront, especially at the parade, was how many different generations of a family have followed and supported the Kings over the years. I remember talking to grandparents who were at the first Kings game back in 1967, then I met their kids and their “kid’s kids”… so many people and families that have been loyal to the Kings and now we could all celebrate together. When you wait a long time for something, it is that much sweeter when it becomes a reality. But sharing it with my family and Kings fans of all generations was huge to me. To share it with so many people made me feel a part of the entire accomplishment and celebration.”
The Kings became front page news and tickets and merchandise sales skyrocketed. Team colors changed from “Forum” purple and gold to silver and black. New ice rinks opened up and boys and girls began playing hockey – both on the ice and on the street – at an early age.
The Toyota Sports Center opened in El Segundo, becoming the practice facility for the Kings and home for the successful Jr. Kings youth hockey program.
Local hockey fans had numerous opportunities to view and photograph the Stanley Cup after its presentation to the Kings. Keeping with tradition, each player and staff member of the championship team enjoyed possession of the Cup for 24 hours.
With the majority of Kings players living in the Beach Cities, the 35 1/2 inch, 34 1/2 pound trophy made its way to local piers, The Strand and numerous establishments including North End – a favorite watering hole of the Kings in Hermosa Beach.
Fans flocked to view the oldest trophy competed for by professional athletes in North America. The Cup was donated in 1892 by Sir Frederick Arthur Stanley, Lord Stanley of Preston and was first awarded in 1893 to the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association.
Fox made the most of his time with the Stanley Cup on July 25. The city of Redondo Beach had asked to honor the Kings and Fox suggested they take the Cup to the Redondo Beach Café.
“They (Redondo Beach Café) have always been so supportive of the Kings and the Kings Alumni and former King Daryl Evans was there with me representing the Kings,” Fox said. “I am a big wine lover, so with the help of assistant coach Jamie Kompon, we were able to drink some great wine from the Cup. Sharing the Cup is an amazing feeling because you see how everyone is spellbound by it when they see it.”