LOS ANGELES - To get a sense of what winning the Stanley Cup meant to a franchise that waited 45 years for this moment, you only had to see former Kings great Luc Robitaille Monday night.
In the hours after the Kings' 6-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils, Robitaille appeared, along with Kings general manager Dean Lombardi, assistant general manager Ron Hextall and friends and family, at a post-game reception for the media in one of the lounges at Staples Center.
Robitaille's joy at helping the Kings get to this moment lit up his face.
"I need some cigars for my players," he asked of some of the Staples Center staff and, of course, a few minutes later, the cigars appeared.
He wore a "Los Angeles Kings Stanley Cup Champions" ball cap along with his dark suit and a cigar poked out from between his fingers. At one point, he good-naturedly went behind the bar and playfully served beer to some media types.
He tossed some cigars across the bar.
"When you've waited this long to win the Stanley Cup," he said, "you've got to enjoy it."
Robitaille won the Cup in 2002 as a player with the Detroit Red Wings, but in talking with him during this playoff run, he made it clear how much it would mean to win the Cup as a member of the Kings, the team that drafted him when nobody else would and with whom he would crafted most of his Hall of Fame resume.
He has been there through the lean times with the Kings when they made the decision to build with their youngsters like Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick, three players who filled such important roles for the Kings during this spring's playoff run.
Trades were made to bring in guys in the prime of their careers, like Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.
"I didn't get discouraged, you know? You always want things to happen a little quicker, but seeing the guys coming up. When we got Drew, it seemed like Anze was growing up every year and definitely Quicker has made the biggest difference. Keep in mind the last few years we made the playoffs, the first year was a hard-learned lesson right away. You go, wow, this is a different game for our guys," Robitaille recalled the other day.
"Last year was a different lesson. We lose Anze Kopitar before the playoffs and then it was like the entire world said, 'These guys are out' and you kind of believed it. We were up 4-0 one game and we still lost that game. We scored enough goals. We thought we should have won. That's why adding Mike Richards was such a key to our team this year. It stabilized our entire team. Bringing in Jeff Carter to play with him, suddenly we had those two scoring lines, that can never hurt you defensively. It changed the structure of our team, but we had a great base to start with."
The Kings learned their lessons.
The Kings earned their celebration Monday night.
A little later in the night, Kings captain Dustin Brown appeared with the Stanley Cup, sitting on a couch just inside the door of the lounge, the tower of silver tilted and resting on his legs, his arm resting on the top of it. Hextall stopped by, put his arm around him and they shared a moment both will probably remember for the rest of their hockey lives.
It was another special moment for a franchise that had waited a long time for a night like this.