Even after losing to New Jersey 2-1 in Saturday’s Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals, the Los Angeles Kings have two more chances to win the championship.
Is it worth mentioning at this point that the Kings also are positioned to become the NHL’s first team since the 1942 Detroit Red Wings to blow a 3-0 lead in the finals?
Yeah, this is when paranoia kicks in, here in the Land of Coming Close.
The Kings feature former Brighton High School player Trevor Lewis, who gives Utahns an emotional stake in this series. Certainly, the 2012 Stanley Cup finals may yet become Utah’s greatest contribution to hockey since Eureka native Frank J. Zamboni invented the famed ice-resurfacing machine.
But the potential also remains for Lewis and the Kings to make the wrong kind of history, by losing again Monday and Wednesday. Utahns have lived vicariously through some memorable, disappointing finishes at the highest level, but a collapse by the Kings would top them all.
This would be even worse than having St. George’s Bruce Hurst already voted as the World Series MVP in 1986, only to have the ball go under Bill Buckner’s glove. Or having Clearfield’s Kevin Dyson catch a pass and be tackled a yard short of the goal line on the final play of Super Bowl XXXIV.
The NHL playoffs have been more fun than ever for me, thanks to Lewis. The Kings’ run of knocking off the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 seeds in the Western Conference has origins in the Cottonwood Heights Recreation Center, the venue across the street from his home where Lewis was learning to skate by age 2.
The Kings’ title would complete the franchise’s 45-year quest that included once coming close to the Cup with the great Wayne Gretzky, followed by a long history of failures. Lewis’ journey goes back 25 years to his birth, being raised by a Canadian-born father who himself had moved to Salt Lake City as a child. As Randy Lewis said, only half-kidding, his son “was either going to love hockey or hate life.”
Hockey, it is. And Utah gladly would claim the Cup.
Former Utah players have won world championships in the state’s more traditional sports of football, basketball and baseball, but such victories remain rare. So to have it happen in hockey would be absolutely stunning.
In a 62-year period that dates to the NBA’s founding, Lewis would become only the eighth athlete to play for a Utah high school team and go on to win a major championship.
Utahns have a collective 4-19 record in Super Bowls, with only one title in the past two decades. The two NBA championships for Utahns were separated by 50 years.
Only two Utahns have won World Series titles, and they came 58 years apart. In between, six Utahns lost in the Series, including Hurst with the cursed Boston Red Sox.
Lewis played aggressively and was involved in several scoring chances Saturday, but the Kings could not finish the job.
This series may end well, after all. The Stanley Cup, the iconic trophy that Lewis superstitiously refused to touch (his father’s account) or was told not to touch (his own version) when it once visited the Maverik Center in West Valley City on a promotional tour, could end up spending 24 hours in his custody. That’s the privilege afforded each member of the winning team, in addition to having his name permanently inscribed on the Cup.
But here in Utah, Hurst’s experience tells us that nothing’s engraved until it actually happens.