LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Move over, Lakers and Dodgers. Step aside, Trojans and Bruins. For now, hockey is King for LA fans.
Los Angeles got its first chance to celebrate a Stanley Cup on Monday night as people decked in black, purple and ear-to-ear grins partied outside Staples Center and across the city following the Kings’ 6-1 victory Monday over the New Jersey Devils in Game 6 to clinch the series.
“It’s a hockey town now!” said Kings fan Kate Byrne Haltom, who has long been a hockey fan but didn’t have much company in Southern California.
Lifelong Kings fan Andrew Gonzales, 21, was a bundle of tears and screams as he revelled with friends on Figueroa Street outside Staples on a night he thought might never come.
“It’s been 14 years I’ve been a fan, I started when I was six, I’ve been to over 200 games,” said Gonzales. “It’s the happiest day of my life. I could die. Yeeaaah!”
One group of fans started a mosh pit in the street and lit some small fires, but the fans were mostly tame as police and politicians had wanted, hoping to avoid some of the ugly violence and vandalism that has followed some Lakers’ titles.
There were scores of police in riot gear lining the streets in the hour after the game, and police said they placed several undercover officers among the fans.
A citywide tactical alert was called during the game with the Kings ahead early.
But police Cmdr. Andrew Smith said Kings fans have been easy to deal with throughout the playoff run and expected that the victory party would be no different.
“We’re big fans of the hockey fans right now, they’ve been very, very cordial,” Smith said during the game.
The team announced it would throw a downtown victory parade Thursday morning, ending with a party inside Staples Center.
The team made it interesting for the fans, thwarting their plans for a party to celebrate a sweep last week by losing Game 4, then dropping Game 5 in New Jersey.
But their fears and doubts were quickly put down Monday night as the Kings scored three quick goals on their way to a 6-1 win.
“Being a Kings fan we always know that disappointment is right around the corner,” said Nando Duran, who watched the game with his wife Amber in South Pasadena. “It feels good to be alive and be able to see them win the cup. We’re ready to pop the champagne.”
Associated Press Writer Grant Hindsley contributed to this report.