FROZEN ROYALTY EXCLUSIVE: In the fourth installment of this series featuring the broadcasters of the Los Angeles Kings, radio play-by-play announcer Nick Nickson shares his thoughts about the Kings winning the Stanley Cup last June, and what it means to him.
LOS ANGELES — While the National Hockey League owners and players are locked in yet another ridiculous, unnecessary labor squabble, subjecting their fans to the fourth work stoppage since 1992, the Stanley Cup is in the hands of those who are engraving 52 names from the 2012 Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings onto it.
With some pre-season games already lost (through September 30), and the opening of training camps on hold as the two sides continue to do everything but negotiate seriously and work to reach a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Los Angeles Kings have had a bit more time than most teams to bask in the limelight following their first Stanley Cup win in franchise history on June 11, 2012.
Indeed, many Kings employees, not just the players, coaches, trainers, equipment staff, management, and owners, have had an opportunity to have their own time with the Stanley Cup, not to mention the public events for fans and season ticket holders. Even better, the Stanley Cup will return to the Los Angeles area in the not-too-distant future, some time after the engravers finish their work.
One of those employees was radio play-by-play announcer Nick Nickson, who, after 31 years with the Kings, would be able to appreciate his four hours with the most revered trophy in sports more than most.
“We had about 200 people attend, and I was able to make sure that we had at least 15 or twenty season seat holders who live near me come to the event, because I wanted to make sure that some of them had the opportunity to be with it,” Nickson told Frozen Royalty in an exclusive interview. “When the doors first opened at 8:00 PM, people got in line to get their pictures. I said, ‘if you stick around for the whole four hours, you’ll be able to get more pictures,’ and sure enough, a lot of them stayed.”
“At one point, we had 15 or twenty of us around the Cup, reading all the names,” Nickson added. “Mike Bolt, [one of the] Keepers of the Cup, [who] has been [the one handling] most of the Kings’ functions in Southern California, was explaining to us what they do with the bands [that have the names] when they fill up, how the Cup is put together, and how he keeps track of everything.”
Nickson quickly noticed the powerful attraction the Stanley Cup has on everyone, not just hockey fans.
“It’s interesting because I think, even for the casual sports fan, I noticed that—we had it at a country club, the Robinson Ranch Golf Club,” said the native of Rochester, New York, who just finished his 36th year of hockey broadcasting. “To see the reaction, just of the people who work at the club—I said [to them], ‘when you get a chance, get a picture with the Cup.’ They might not be huge hockey fans, but now that the Kings have won it, and there have been so many [published] stories about it all summer, I think everybody recognizes what the trophy means, not only to the team that wins it, but to its fans. Because so many casual sports fans realize that, if they have the opportunity to be near it, I don’t think they want to pass it up.”
“As we all know, unlike the other championship trophies in sports, fans don’t get access to it like they do with the Stanley Cup,” added Nickson. “From that standpoint, for the fans, it really is a unique trophy. It’s unique within itself, with all the names, the history, and [its] age, 120 years. But to have the availability of the Cup to [the fans] is great. Anybody who knows anything about sports would love to have the opportunity to get their picture taken with the Stanley Cup.”
“That’s because of the history of the Cup, and, since the mid-90’s, it really has been, not only a championship trophy that the winners of it every year, the players and coaches, can savor by having their day with the Cup in the summer, but all the organizations that have won it, aside from all the players and coaches getting it, a lot of people in the organizations, [like] the four of us broadcasters, almost all of the full-time employees with the Kings that I know of have had an opportunity to have a day, or a partial day with the Cup.”
Nickson indicated that as special as the Stanley Cup is for those who are part of the Kings organization, the fans are right there with them, in their own way.
“[Hans Tesselaar, a long-time Kings season ticket holder who is a writer for the Los Angeles Times], has been a hockey fan since he was a kid,” said Nickson. “He lives [in the Santa Clarita area], so he was at our party. Of all the people who I’ve seen and witnessed near the Cup, and having their picture taken with it, whether I’ve known them or not, Hans has been the one who I think has shown his appreciation, and has shown his emotion for the moment, maybe more so than anybody.”
“His reaction has always been genuine, and you can tell that this was a moment he [had been] waiting for over thirty years, like so many of us have waited, and to have the opportunity to be with the Cup, I could tell—it’s a special time, a special moment for him, as it will be for so many of us,” added Nickson.
As mentioned earlier, for so many, hockey fans and non-hockey fans alike, seeing the Stanley Cup, and being near it, will always be a thrill, and Nickson is certainly no exception.
“It never gets old,” Nickson emphasized. “I’ve been to [long-time Voice of the Kings] Bob [Miller’s] time with the Cup, which was in late June, [television color commentator Jim Fox] had it in July, and I had it [on September 9]. Just watching, especially the fans, and the people you know who are just die-hard hockey people, watching their reactions when they get a chance to take a photograph with the Cup, or to be able to touch it, it really is remarkable. It reinforces the magnetism that trophy has with fans all over North America.”
“[The next time I see it], I’ll be just as enamored and wide-eyed as I was when I first saw it come on the ice at Staples [Center], and when I saw it at [Kings Governor Tim] Leiweke’s and Miller’s in June, Fox’s in July, and when I had it on [September 9],” Nickson added.
Looking back to that fateful night in June when the Kings won the Stanley Cup for the first time in the 45-year history of the franchise, Nickson’s call of the final seconds of the deciding Game 6 against New Jersey has already become one of those classic play-by-play calls that will be forever remembered.
You can listen to Nickson’s call of the end of the game, along with a montage of his calls of all six Kings goals in that game, by clicking on the arrow below (audio courtesy Nick Nickson):
Within thirty minutes of Nickson making that call at the end of the game, it accompanied a highlight package on the NHL Network, and it has been used on several of their promo spots. Nickson’s call was also replayed countless times on local radio here in the Los Angeles area after the Kings won, and it can be heard on the DVD commemorating the Kings winning the Stanley Cup.
“I’ve had quite a few fans, and people I know, tell me that they have it recorded,” Nickson noted. “As a matter of fact, Hans Tesselaar (mentioned earlier)—at the end of the season, I sent him a montage of the six goals in that game, with the final ten seconds (the same clip as above).”
“He’s using it as his ringtone.”
On June 14, the Kings celebrated with an estimated 250,000 fans who lined Figueroa Street and Chick Hearn Court in Downtown Los Angeles during the Stanley Cup Championship parade.
Nickson was blown away by the spectacle, as the double decker bus he was on slowly made its way south on Figueroa Street towards Staples Center.
“I didn’t know what to expect, never having been in a parade before,” he said. “But when we rounded that first corner to start the parade, I was amazed and enthralled by the enthusiasm, the number of people, and the number of people wearing Kings jerseys, T-shirts and hats. The farther along the parade route [we got], and as we got closer to Staples Center, the more people I kept seeing. That totally shocked me, and we were warned, before we got on the buses that there might be a lot of people out there.”
“Sometimes you chalk that up to hype, but if there was hype, it lived up to its reputation,” he added. “I didn’t expect to see as many people as there were on that parade route. There were people in the crowd who I recognized as fans from all the years I’ve been there. You could tell that everyone was just having a wonderful time. Again, the number of people, and the sea of Kings colors that you saw was really overwhelming.”
Nickson said that the way the Kings won the Stanley Cup was befitting of a Hollywood ending.
“The way it all played out was perfect for a team that’s never won the Stanley Cup,” Nickson stressed. “They were able to win the deciding game at home, in a game that was decided early on, so people didn’t have to pull out their hair in the final seconds. Then you know the parade is going to be a couple of days after the game, along with the rally [at Staples Center, following the parade]. Everything just fell into place. I don’t know if you could’ve scripted it any better.”
Now, about three-and-a-half months after the Kings won the Stanley Cup, the fact that they finally reached the Promised Land has begun to sink in for everyone involved with the franchise, and for many, it has instilled a tremendous sense of pride, and has given them greater credibility.
“I’ve always been proud to be a member of the Kings organization, and to be able to see the reactions of so many people after winning a championship for the first time, it makes me even prouder,” Nickson beamed. “There’s a sense of pride that overrides a lot of other emotions that I could describe, for me, only because I’ve invested so much of my professional life with the Kings organization. The pride on the ‘Pride-O-Meter’ [has jumped dramatically].”
“I think it all just gets heightened [by winning the Stanley Cup], and let’s be honest,” added Nickson. “Whether you’re a fan of a team, or you’re a player, a writer, or a broadcaster, it feels good that there’s a sense of accomplishment, and I think, maybe, in a bigger picture, it brings a sense of credibility to your work, not that, for myself, broadcasting a championship team is going to make my work as a broadcaster more credible. [Rather], I use the word, ‘credibility’ in describing the whole organization.”
Just before his Stanley Cup party on September 9, Nickson was vacationing in Mexico. He described an incident at Los Angeles International Airport while on his way home that really sums everything up about as well as anything could.
“When we came back from my trip, two weeks ago, I was waiting at LAX for one of the shuttles to pick us up,” he recounted. “One of [them] went by, and it had a Kings advertisement on it with the big Kings crown. I just looked at it, and I smiled. I said to myself, ‘hey! We’re the Stanley Cup Champions!’”
“How good is that?!”
The jury is still out on that question. But for the Kings and their fans, it goes way, way beyond “good,” without a doubt.
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In The Booth With Nickson And Evans – Goal 2
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