The final horn sounded and the Los Angeles Kings rushed towards Jonathan Quick. First in was Drew Doughty, who dropped his stick before time even ran out, but waited for the clock to hit zero before dropping his gloves and embracing Quick. Next was Colin Fraser, who threw his arms around both of them before they were swarmed by the rest of the team.
The throng of celebrating Kings grew bigger and bigger: a little too big, actually. There were just a few too many Kings in the crowd and when a third goaltender came skating out to join them, it was clear what was happening. The healthy scratches and some of the Black Aces were fully dressed in their equipment and Kings sweaters to be a part of the celebration.
It wasn’t surprising to see a couple of them on the ice. Brad Richardson, for example, played in 13 playoff games, and Kyle Clifford played in all but one of the Kings’ regular season games and dressed for 3 playoff games. Some of the players who joined in, however, are not eligible to have their name on the Stanley Cup, but they were all considered to be part of the team and the team included them in the best way possible: they were dressed like they had played.
Kevin Westgarth was easily the most noticeable, all 6’4″, 234 lbs of him, complete with long, slicked-back hockey hair. He came barging through the mob, throwing vicious hugs in every direction. He actually played in more games during the regular season than backup goaltender Jonathan Bernier, appearing in 25 games, but didn’t dress for a single playoff game. Still, he celebrated like he had scored the gamewinning goal in overtime.
Davis Drewiske was the Kings’ seventh defenceman, but they didn’t call upon him once during the playoffs. The Kings were fortunate enough to have their top-six defencemen remain healthy throughout their 20-game journey to the Stanley Cup, but it meant that Drewiske, who skated in 9 regular season games, was left in the press box. But there he was in black and silver with the rest of the team.
Scott Parse wasn’t a healthy scratch or a Black Ace. He played in 9 regular season games before suffering a lower body injury that put him on the injured reserve for the rest of the year. He hasn’t played a game with the Kings since November 8th, but he celebrated with them on June 11th.
Jake Muzzin didn’t even play a single game for the Kings this season, spending the year in Manchester. He did play 11 games for the Kings last season, which is more than can be said for Marc-Andre Cliche, the captain of the Manchester Monarchs, who has played 1 NHL game in his career, a game against the Dallas Stars in the 2009-10 season. But both of them got a chance to celebrate with the Cup champions.
Then there’s 22-year-old goaltender Martin Jones, who hasn’t played a single game in the NHL yet, but served as the third-string goalie for the Kings’ playoff run. With Jonathan Bernier likely on the trading block this summer, Jones might be joining the Kings as Quick’s backup, but he was already a part of the team as they hoisted the Cup last night.
The one player that is right on the edge is Andrei Loktionov, who played 39 games in the regular season, 2 games short of the required 41 to get your name on the Stanley Cup. He also chipped in 2 playoff games, both in the first round, but didn’t play in the Final. The Kings do have the option to request his name be included and they didn’t hesitate to include him in their on-ice celebration.
The Kings did have other Black Aces listed among their scratches, but just 9 of them were dressed and skated onto the ice. I have no idea what criteria they used for who to include and who to leave out. Of the healthy scratches listed on the game sheet who didn’t celebrate with the team on the ice, none of them played a game for the Kings this season, but that didn’t prevent the Kings from including Muzzin, Cliche, or Jones.
They seemed to (understandably) avoid the handshake line and stayed mostly on the outskirts of the main celebration, letting the regulars take centre stage. Well, except for Westgarth, who was one of the first on the scene to congratulate Quick on his Conn Smythe win and hugged as many people as possible, always seeming to find his way on camera, but his boisterous exuberance seemed right at home in the midst of the Kings’ celebration.
Others were a little more reserved. You could see on the CBC broadcast that Jones and Cliche excused themselves to the locker room as the on-ice celebrations continued, likely feeling a little out-of-place.
They did, however, all get a chance to take the Stanley Cup for a quick spin around the ice, which is where things get a bit dicey with hockey superstitions. I think it’s fantastic that the Kings included players who weren’t dressed for the final game in such a natural way, putting them in full gear so they could skate with the rest of the team. But touching the Cup is something loaded with superstition: you’re not supposed to touch the Cup unless you’ve earned it. For instance, when Eric Staal brought the Cup home in 2006, his brothers refused to touch it, hoping that they would get their own chance and not wanting to jinx it.
For the Kings’ healthy scratches and Black Aces, how much earning is necessary? Westgarth, Drewiske, and Parse were with the Kings all season, even though they didn’t play in the playoffs. Loktionov did play 2 games in the playoffs, but spend half the season in the AHL. Muzzin, Cliche, and Jones spent the entire season in the AHL and didn’t even play for the Kings this season. All of them lifted the Stanley Cup. For Jones, he lifted the Cup without playing a single game in the NHL.
Does this matter? I’m not sure. It depends on how superstitious you are or how much you hold to hockey traditions. Hockey is the consummate team sport and, if the team considers these players part of the team, then what of it? On the other hand, just practising with the team doesn’t feel like it should count. Did they earn the right to lift the Cup?
What do you think?