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.

Click (then click again) to see a larger version with labels of all the players, including the healthy scratches and Black Aces around the outskirts.

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?

Comments (16)

  1. From a Kings fan perspective, the only one that felt a little off was Jones. He’s almost certainly going to be the backup next year (Tampa, Toronto… make the Kings an offer for Bernier!), but I don’t think that’s enough even if he’s been hanging around since the Monarchs’ season ended.

    One of my friends said that Detroit did the same thing in 2002 and a couple other teams have done it since. I think it’s a nice gesture, since these guys still go hard in practice and that counts for something, even if their names aren’t necessarily going to be on the Cup (Richardson, Parse, Loktionov, Clifford and Westgarth all will, of course).

  2. I’d say that if you didn’t play a game for the Kings this season, you shouldn’t be touching the cup. If you did, well, then you were involved and helped (in at least a small way) to win it.

  3. The GM and coach can petition to have a player’s name engraved on the Stanley Cup if they don’t meet the “requirements”. Generally, the NHL has not said no in the past when the team requests its. It is possible some of these guys names will be on the Cup, especially if the players vote on it, you know they won’t say no to anyone.

  4. I LOVED watching The Black Aces skate with Lord Stanley! It is a classy move by a classy organization. Way to Go, Kings!

  5. I think it indicates a healthy inclusiveness in the group, creating a good team culture. As for the superstition part, to even suspect you will get another chance to touch the Cup as a member of a winning team (any kind of member) is a little presumptuous. The odds are very very long you will ever get the chance again. You hear some players say that they didn’t fully appreciate the magnitude of the achievement if they won when they were very young. So heck yes, if you have any claim at all as part of the winning team, grab it before it moves on. That shows the Cup more respect than trying to influence the fates in your future favor.

  6. I checked the transaction page and thought Jones might’ve gotten dressed as a one-game backup at some point during the year, but, nope.

    Basically, I think they just did it to scare Bernier into a low-money deal.

  7. If you dressed for game(s) this year, then you should be part of it. I’d include the third string goalie in that. Let them lift the cup – why would you deny a lifelong dream to some young kid for the sake of a superstition? Dumb. If anything, it will fill them with a desire to do it “for real”.
    The *real* roster gets engraved. That’s what people should be careful with (as Peter Pocklington found out).

    • I don’t know about your dreams, but as a kid, my dreams didn’t exactly go “Game Six, Stanley Cup Finals, I’m hanging out drinking a beer in the owner’s box as my team wins a cup. Now I get to put my gear on and go celebrate on the ice!”

      My dreams involved, you know, being ON the ice and playing a role in winning the cup. I think it’s fine they get to celebrate with the cup, even on the ice, but in a suit. Putting full gear on like I just played the most intense 60 minutes of hockey in my life seems a little… fake.

      • I think those guys were probably telling themselves “I’m the future of this franchise – this is awesome.” and not thinking about it a lot more than that :-) Given the choice between drinking another beer, an hoisting the cup, I know what I’d do. As for the gear, yeah, a bit fake, but I’d just write it off as making the photos look better.

  8. It’s entirely possible that they asked the Black Aces to dress for the celly but that the guys who are true to the superstition withdrew from the event so that they didn’t touch the Cup, is it not? I probably would’ve taken that option – have some beers with the team but not hoist the Cup.

  9. It’s all a part of the plan. Get these kids hungry and know what it is like to now play for an organization that expects you to win.

  10. It wasn’t for the Stanley Cup or anything, but I had a similar situation in high school. I played soccer my junior and senior years. My first year playing, our team did very well, winning our division, sectionals, and we ended up winning the state championship for our school size. I didn’t play in any of the playoff games. I played in roughly half the games.

    I knew I wasn’t going to play in any of the playoff games unless multiple people got hit by a bus. It was OK though. I played football, baseball, and basketball for years. I knew my spot on the team and accepted it. Right after we won, everyone was ecstatic, including me. On the bus ride home, I started thinking thoughts of how I didn’t help the team, they didn’t need me, etc.

    Once it settled in though, my feelings changed again. We all practiced, played, sweated, and bled with teammates for months. I may have not scored a goal, but I pushed my teammates harder in practice, cheered them on during games, and was part of the team. We all enjoyed in celebrations when we got back to our hometown. From the All-Star to the guy who rides the pine, winning the championship was a whole team effort.

  11. They forgot the cook who prepares their after game buffet. Geez….

  12. If you watch the celebration, Jones is clearly uncomfortable holding the cup. He barley held onto to it for 5 seconds.

  13. I can understand a guy who plays 20 games, is on the roster for most of the season, and practices/travels/is legitimately part of the team. Yes, they helped, they deserve to celebrate.

    I dont agree with a guy who played most of the year in the minors, maybe played 2 games in the season but none in the playoffs, didnt really contribute much. Same goes with the third string goalie who spent all year in the minors and didnt dress for one game, even as a backup.

    These guys can celebrate in the locker room, at home, join the parade, but I dont feel they deserve to lift The Cup

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