LOS ANGELES - Dustin Brown stood on a flatbed truck and raised the big silver trophy above his head once again. The air in downtown Los Angeles filled with a blizzard of silver-and-black confetti.
The Los Angeles Kings are Stanley Cup champions for the first time, and a celebration 45 years in the making certainly appeared to be worth the wait.
The Kings rode double-decker buses and flatbed trucks in a parade through the city center, moving slowly up Figueroa Street past thousands of roaring fans. Brown and goalie Jonathan Quick, the Most Valuable Player of the playoffs, then raised the Cup outside Staples Center, where the Kings completed their 16-4 rampage through the postseason on Monday by eliminating the New Jersey Devils.
"It was more than you could ever expect," forward Dustin Penner said. "It's one of those moments you want to live over and over again. It's amazing to hear all the support, and to put faces to the cheers we've heard all year."
The Kings gathered inside the arena for a packed rally, with fans waving towels and giving repeated standing ovations to every speaker. Coach Darryl Sutter even pumped up the fans with a series of joyously out-of-character fist pumps, and forward Anze Kopitar riled them up even more.
"It's too much fun not to win it again, so let's go get it," Kopitar said.
Quick then cracked up the crowd with profane praise of his teammates in a ceremony running live on local television. But even amid the pomp and profanity of a major party, the Kings' affection for each other broke through.
"Just to see the looks on their faces after they won it is something I'll remember for the rest of my life," said Sutter, the midseason replacement who revitalized the Kings' season. "It's just awesome, awesome, awesome."
The Kings will have all summer to absorb what they accomplished this spring, but the superlatives are remarkable.
Los Angeles is the first No. 8 seed to win the Stanley Cup, and only one modern NHL team did it in fewer games. The Kings took a 3-0 lead in all four of their playoff series - also an NHL first. Los Angeles never played an elimination game, getting stretched to Game 6 once, and only trailed for about 184 minutes in the entire postseason.
The Kings finished third in the Pacific Division, albeit only two points behind winner Phoenix, and didn't clinch a playoff berth until right before their penultimate game. They were the NHL's lowest-scoring team for most of the regular season before getting it together in late February around the time Jeff Carter arrived in a trade with Columbus.
"I don't think we really had the season we expected of ourselves, and I don't think we were an eight seed," said defenseman Rob Scuderi, still sporting black stitches in his nose and upper lip after New Jersey's Steve Bernier slammed him headfirst into the boards in Game 6, resulting in a five-minute power play in which the Kings scored three goals and essentially wrapped up the Cup.
The Stanley Cup has already made an extensive tour of Los Angeles, starting at a Hermosa Beach pub just a few hours after the Kings claimed it. The Cup was in Brown's backyard Tuesday morning, where his two oldest sons drank chocolate milk out of the bowl while wearing their Spider-Man pajamas.
After appearances on "The Tonight Show" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on Tuesday, the Cup made its way on Wednesday to Dodger Stadium, where the Dodgers and Angels posed with the Kings for a remarkable photo before every hockey player threw out a first pitch. On Wednesday night, the Cup ended up at a popular stage show in Hollywood's historic Roosevelt Hotel, where soccer superstar David Beckham and former Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell joined in the celebration.
"It feels great," said Kopitar, the playoffs' scoring co-leader with linemate Brown. "You want to have parades every year. It's going to be tough, but we think we have the team to do it."
The Kings are uniformly excited they've got a strong chance of successfully defending their title next season with much the same roster. General manager Dean Lombardi, who lost his voice in the post-Cup celebrations and couldn't speak to the rally crowd, already has signed most of Los Angeles' key contributors for at least one more year, with only forwards Penner, Jarret Stoll and Colin Fraser headed for unrestricted free agency.