Monday, May 7, 2012

Kings - Blues Game 4: Winning Is AMAZING!

Experiencing something for the very first time is a unique combination of exhilarating and nerve wracking. You don't know completely what to expect or what you'll be feeling when it happens. Even if you have an idea from talking to people who have been there before, you can never be completely prepared for how it feels for YOU.

In my tenure as a Kings fan, winning like this is a "first time" experience.

Walking to Staples Center at 10:30 AM, I didn't feel especially anxious, but I was hyper-aware of every detail of the day. The cloudless blue sky. The crowds of people dressed in Kings jerseys having breakfast at Denny's and The Pantry. The balloons and music outside the arena. The color of the girl's nails that scanned my ticket as I walked in to watch and hope history would be made.

After the initial roof raising during player intros, things settled down for me emotionally and I didn't feel all that different from a regular season game. Then I watched the Blues skate out to start the 3rd period and pairs of their players clustered together, talking as they skated in circles. I new they were giving each other that pep talk I've given the Kings so many times in my head. "We're down but we're not out. We can do this. It's not over!" In that same moment I realized the Kings were 20 minutes away from eliminating them -- putting them in OUR old position for the first time. And in that moment I also realized I had no idea what winning would feel like.

The best comparison I can make is to getting your first kiss. You hope it will happen but don't completely see it coming, and you're taken aback for a moment when it actually does. Is this really it? WOW! Then the shock and disbelief sets in. Wait, is this REALLY HAPPENING? OMG! OMG! Oh crap, am I even doing this right? And when the shock and disbelief wear off, all you're left with is that warm, fuzzy feeling, followed by the desire to do it all again. Soon. VERY SOON. Then you find your way home, lost in your thoughts and thinking about nothing else the rest of the day.

As the shock and awe were wearing off, I was watching the Jumbotron through my camera screen as I was shooting video. As I watched, I was mesmerized by Jonathan Quick's face. He was holding back a smile that was part shit-eating grin and part tearful thank you as he wiped the sweat from his face.

And Quickie being Quickie, he thought of others before himself and thanked the fans on Twitter. All those beautiful emotions crossing his face turned into simple, heartfelt words.

No Jonathan. THANK YOU.
Our Kings were knights in shining armor as they vanquished old demons to the sheer delight of their fans. The curse of the afternoon game? Gone. Can't create enough offense? Done. Too immature and undisciplined to win at this level? Nada. Can't get out of the first round of the playoffs? Toast.

It was especially sweet that the final goal was scored by our fearless Captain Dustin Brown and assisted by both members of his "official" leadership team -- assistant captains Anze Kopitar and Matt Greene. Together, they weathered storms of criticism to bring this team together and kept their faith in each other and their teammates along the entire journey. Their dedication -- and that of the Kings faithful -- is finally being rewarded.

The journey to the ultimate prize is still a long one, but right now, for the first time it feels truly within reach. We are headed into uncharted waters and like the team we love, we must stick together more tightly than ever until we reach our destination. We've savored the sweetness of that "first kiss" and we want as many more as we can get.

I may not have known exactly what to feel when the Kings put the semi-final round on ice, but I did know one thing for sure. I knew the right way to celebrate -- with a pancake dinner.


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