The Los Angeles Kings have ended their Stanley Cup drought and have done so in dominating fashion, losing only four games during their 2012 NHL playoff run. The Kings knocked out the top three seeds in the Western Conference during their quest for glory, and while some will bemoan the fact that the cup will reside in a non-traditional hockey market until next June, the fact is that the Kings' Stanley Cup victory is a good thing for the NHL.
The last four cup winners have all been what would be considered traditional hockey markets: Detroit, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Boston. Sure, Boston and Chicago had experienced title droughts before winning their most recent Stanley Cups, but these are teams you are not surprised to see having their names engraved on Lord Stanley's Cup.
The teams that came before those four, Tampa Bay, Carolina and Anaheim were unexpected winners, but their victories didn’t have a lasting impact on the NHL. That should change with the Kings' 2012 victory.
The last time hockey was as big as it currently is in Los Angeles was when Wayne Gretzky made his way from Edmonton to the City of Angels. And while the trades that brought Mike Richards and Jeff Carter to Los Angeles were not as celebrated as the Gretzky trade, they had a bigger impact on the team than "The Great One" did, for they won the biggest and most historic trophy in sports, something No. 99 was not able to accomplish.
Gretzky to the Kings opened up a period of tremendous growth for the NHL. His trade to the West Coast of the states was one of the main reasons for the subsequent expansion of the league. He showed that hockey could succeed in a non-traditional market, but he was really one man. The 2012 Los Angeles Kings are a team—a team that won the Stanley Cup, and that is a huge difference.
The Kings' victory is good for the fans. They see that no individual is bigger than the team. They see that, yes, fair-weather clubs can win the cup over the more marketable and better-known clubs. Younger fans see that hockey is not just a sport for the colder climates. This win could inspire children from the southern and coastal states to take up the sport and look to become hockey stars themselves.
For the NHL, the Kings' victory shows that there is parity in the NHL, and through hard work, good drafts and some timely trades, an unexpected team can take the title. LA's victory allows the league to sell the idea that any team has a chance to win the most cherished trophy in all of sports, not just those teams with the deepest pockets.
You don’t have to be a fan of the LA Kings to celebrate this victory. But you can’t deny that the moment the Kings won the 2012 Stanley Cup, it was a good thing for sport and NHL as a whole.