LA Kings: Stanley Cup Is A “Rock Star” That Everybody Has To Celebrate
September 16, 2012 18 Comments
FROZEN ROYALTY EXCLUSIVE: Frozen Royalty attended the Stanley Cup party hosted by Los Angeles Kings video coordinator Bill Gurney and his wife, Tina Gustin-Gurney, on September 15. In addition to comments from Bill Gurney, the story includes extensive remarks from Mike Bolt, one of the Keepers of the Cup, and a photo essay.
WESTMINSTER, CA — On its final day in Southern California before heading to points east, winding its way into Toronto and Montreal before ending up at the engraver on September 22, the Stanley Cup made three stops on September 15, including a party held that evening by former Los Angeles Kings left wing and current radio color commentator Daryl Evans.
But its first stop was at the Westminster, California home of Kings Video Coordinator Bill Gurney and his wife, Tina Gurstin-Gurney, who welcomed over 200 people to their home for the chance to take photographs with hockey’s version of the Holy Grail.
Family, friends, long-time Kings fans, some of Tina’s former students (she’s a teacher) and others, all got an opportunity with that majestic trophy.
“[You think about] all the people you’ve worked with over the years,” Bill said. “It’s been in the background for so long, and finally, we won it. Everybody’s got to celebrate that.”
Bill began working for the Kings in the 1977-78 season. He was part of the house cleaning that occurred when Dean Lombardi took over as general manager in April 2006, but returned to the organization the next year.
“[It’s been] 34 years,” he reminisced. “But I went to the first game at the Forum [in Inglewood, California, the Kings’ first permanent home arena]. We used to walk to the games. We lived that close. We’d just stand by the doors, and when people had extra tickets, they’d give them to you. But you always kept $5.00 in your pocket, in case you had to buy a ticket.”
“We used to go to the kids games on Saturdays, disappear into the building, and then come out when they started [letting spectators] into the building—you’d come out of the janitor’s closet,” he added. “It was crazy. It’s been a long time, and a lot of fun.”
Winning the Stanley Cup has brought a wave of nostalgia over most people who have been affiliated with the Kings for a long period of time, and Bill was no exception.
“I was going over some old discs, converted from VHS [tape], and I saw some of the teams we had in the 80’s,” said Bill. “[Some of those teams] would’ve had a hard time in the [American Hockey League].”
“I went to [one of the team parties], and I went up to [Kings defenseman] Willie Mitchell and told him, ‘dude…you were six months old when I started working for the team,’” added Bill. “He was the only one who was born [when Gurney started with the Kings]—it’s just weird.”
Bill and Tina were in the stands at Staples Center to witness history being made on June 11, 2012, the night the Kings won the first Stanley Cup Championship in the 45-year history of the franchise.
“The fun part was, my wife, Tina, had [her] flip phone [taking video], and I’m just watching, looking at the clock, and then, when time ran out—we were sitting in the stands,” Bill noted. “Then, I looked up and saw ‘Kings Win The Stanley Cup.’”
“We stayed up in the stands to watch the Cup come out onto the ice,” Bill added. “That was the most amazing thing. That thing glowed so much. They might’ve had spotlights on it, but it was the centerpiece of the whole building.”
Just slightly over three months later, the Stanley Cup moved from center ice at Staples Center to his backyard patio. But before the festivities began, Mike Bolt, one of the Keepers of the Cup from the Hockey Hall of Fame had a surprise for Bill.
“When he arrived, we went back out to the car, and he popped the back of the SUV open,” said Bill. “He [opened the lid of the trunk holding the Stanley Cup] and says, ‘go ahead.’ I looked at him [quizzically]—’I can pick it up?’ He said, ‘just go with it.’ So I picked it up, and started to choke up a bit.”
“Tina asked, ‘remember, during the playoffs, when you had a sore neck from every time the Kings would win, and you’d be shaking your head like you couldn’t believe it?’ It’s a dream.”As Gurney’s invited guests got their photographs with the Stanley Cup and mingled, Bolt stood off to the side, enjoying the reactions.
“It’s the ‘People’s Trophy,’” he emphasized. “That’s what’s so great about hockey, that their championship trophy is shared, not just with employees—these are fans here, too, who Bill’s worked with. True hockey fans.”
“This sport is different from any other sport,” he added. “The Kings don’t own the Cup. They only have a certain amount of time with it. That’s what a lot of fans don’t understand—why [they may not get a chance to] see it. There’s only a short period of time, and that’s what makes it special, that’s why it’s the rock star that it is. It’s not going to be sitting in a display case at Staples Center, or at the Toyota Sports Center [the Kings’ practice facility in El Segundo, California].”
“It’s meant to be out, and shared with the people, [which is] kind of what Lord Stanley envisioned back in 1892, when he [drafted the] contract, handing it to the people of Canada.”
Bolt, who has been one of the Keepers of the Cup since 2000, indicated that seeing how people react to the Stanley Cup never gets old.
“They’re excited,” said Bolt. “It’s no different from seeing your favorite rock star, or movie star. I’ve seen people screaming, and grabbing onto it. We let people touch it, [but] we don’t let them lift it. That’s reserved for the winners. But anytime you can put your arm around it, and I’ve heard fans screaming at the tops of their lungs because they’re so excited, you can have that reaction around this star because it’s not going to feel uncomfortable about it, and sometimes, it welcomes it.”
“If it could talk, it would tell you, ‘you can touch me, you can kiss me, but if you want to put me over your head, you’ve got to earn me like those players do.’”
Speaking of Hollywood celebrities, some of them got an unexpected visit from the Stanley Cup on September 14.
“Last night, [Kings Governor, and President/Chief Executive Officer of the Anschutz Entertainment Group] Tim Leiweke had it at a private club, full of celebrities,” Bolt explained. “It was a place where they could go to eat, and not be bothered. It was amazing. [American Idol’s] Ryan Seacreat came in, Jim Belushi, and a few other faces that I recognized. These guys weren’t even invited. They were just in the place, and heard the Cup was there. They asked if they could get a picture. They were excited to see it, too.”
“That’s the one thing I’ve noticed about being in Hollywood, how many celebrities and stars have been around the Cup, and how excited they are,” Bolt elaborated. “They’ve been Kings fans for a long time, too. They’re no different from anybody else. They just have unique jobs, but they’re hockey fans, and they’re in awe and they’re starstruck as much as anybody else about the Cup.”
One celebrity of great significance to hockey in the United States got his own private audience with the Stanley Cup.
“[NBC Sports announcer] Al Michaels is another guy who’s been around sports, and made one of the most famous calls, ‘do you believe in miracles,’ in 1980 [when the United States beat Russia in the Miracle on Ice], which also helped build this game in the United States,” Bolt noted. “What [Team USA] did that year really impacted the NHL, even today, in terms of how many American players are in the National Hockey League.”
“I asked Al, ‘have you ever been this close to it?’ He said, ‘not this close,’ and he was excited,” Bolt added. “He was giddy around [the Cup].”
“That, for me, is the coolest part. The reaction never gets old. I mean, I’m not tired of looking at it, and I see it every day. I still have the same feeling from the first time I saw it, for the most part. Whenever I pull the Cup out of its case, I’m thinking, ‘wow, I’m holding the Stanley Cup here.’”
The Stanley Cup also made its way to Rock & Reilly’s Irish Pub in Hollywood on September 14, courtesy of Leiweke.
“We were in a bar [on Friday],” said Bolt. “Tim Leiweke got a phone call from a season ticket holder—I don’t know how many years ago. [He was] complaining about the team. Tim told him, ‘we are going to win the Stanley Cup one day, and when we do, I’m going to bring it to your bar, I promise.’”
“Tim was a man of his word, and the guy was blown away,” added Bolt. “He thought it was just talk, at the time, maybe just to get him off the phone. But Tim made the promise, and he kept it, [despite] how many years ago it was. He remembered. He kept his word, and the place was packed.”
Bolt said that the Kings winning the Stanley Cup is already helping to grow the game.
“It’s great for the game,” he noted. “I mean, Southern California, thirty years ago, even  years ago, before [Wayne] Gretzky got here, hockey was a small dot on the map here. I consider it a great, big dot on the map now.”
“It rivals some of the big markets we have in the game, from Pittsburgh to Boston,” he added. “I was telling the Mayor [of the City of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, and [Tim Leiweke] that I’ve been around this thing a long time, and I didn’t know what to expect when it came down here.”
“The impact that [the Anaheim Ducks] had on the area [in 2007, when they won the Stanley Cup] helps grow the game, and the impact has been bigger with the LA Kings winning it, because they’ve been here a lot longer, and it’s a bigger city, too. It’s been huge.”
The Stanley Cup leaves the Los Angeles area early in the morning on September 16, heading east to Manchester, New Hampshire, home of the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL, the Kings’ primary minor league affiliate, before making its way back to Canada.
“I’ll be in Manchester by 4:00 PM [on September 16], to be with the Monarchs [that night],” said Bolt. “Then it’s off to Boston, Toronto, Montreal, and then, off to the engraver [to have the names added]. It’ll be in the engraver’s hands by [September 22].”
“[The engraving and other work] takes a week,” added Bolt. “The names get put on it, we put a new base on it, we clean it up, tighten it up, and get it all ready to go for another year of travel.”
“From here on in, for the most part, the Cup sits on a table. The running around, players drinking out of it, eating out of it, hoisting it over their heads—that time has come and gone.”
With just a week left before the Stanley Cup is in the hands of the engraver, perhaps Bolt will get some well-deserved rest soon.
“I am a little tired,” he said. “I’ve been doing lots of running around. You’re always a little tired at this time of year. The Cup has not had a day off since June 11 [the date the Kings won it]. I’ve had a few. There’s a few guys who do this job. I’ve handled about 60-65 percent of what the Kings have done with it.”
“The Cup’s not human, so it can go without food or sleep,” he added. “We get a little burned out, but it’s a small price to pay compared to what [NHL players] do to win it.”
Bill Gurney and Tina Gustin-Gurney’s Stanley Cup Party, September 15, 2012
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