SOUTHWEST GLENDALE — For about 30 minutes, the Pacific Community Center became the center of the hockey universe with a visit from the Stanley Cup on Wednesday morning.
Hundreds of fans from all over the greater Los Angeles area waited as long as four hours to file into the community center's packed gym to share in the Los Angeles Kings' first reign as the National Hockey League champions by getting the chance to view the 120-year old chalice.
"It's like traveling with a rock star except it doesn't talk," said Michael Altieri, the Kings vice president of communications and content. "People see it and they just light up, it's awesome to watch."
The Stanley Cup was on a nine-stop radio and TV studio tour Wednesday and brothers Tony and Robert Valladares were the first in line outside the Pacific Community Center at 7 a.m. to catch their first glimpse of it in person.
"It's indescribable, there's no words," said Tony of the Kings championship run. "With the way [the Kings] struggled and were very inconsistent [in the regular season], we always believed they could [win it] but we were never too sure. It's such a relief they won it."
Heading into the postseason the Kings certainly didn't seem poised to win their first Stanley Cup in 45 years. The Kings were seeded eighth — at the bottom of the Western Conference bracket — but still plowed through the playoffs with relative ease.
It only took the Kings 20 games to win the Stanley Cup, as they finished with a 16-4 postseason record, never losing more than two games in a series.
"I think the most meaningful component of it is sharing [the Cup] with the fans," Altieri said. "Just being in the market place for 45 years and never getting too close to winning it and going through the playoffs the way we did — 16-4 — was really a magical time, not only for the organization, but the city."
For Ben Patao, an Atwater Village resident, Wednesday wasn't the first time he'd seen the Stanley Cup, but it was definitely the most special.
"This is the first time I have seen it actually as a fan of the team who's won it," said Patao, a self-proclaimed 25-year, die-hard fan. "It's still unbelievable [we won] because we are so used to disappointment. It was kind of unreal to see it all unfold and all come together. When we finally had it, it was quite incredible, and still at times I don't think we have it yet."
It wasn't only the die-hard fans that took notice of the Kings' work. Maria Mangasarian, who described herself as a "first-year fan," began watching hockey when she heard about the Kings' playoff dominance.
"It was awesome hearing about the Kings and having another sport besides basketball [in Los Angeles]," Mangasarian said. "For me, as a first-timer, I always wondered why they were fighting for that black [puck]. I would always change the channel, but this time I sat and watched. … Now I'm a fan for life."
No playoffs series went more than six games for Los Angeles, as it knocked off the Presidents' Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks in five games, swept the second-seeded St. Louis Blues and dominated the No. 3 seed Phoenix Coyotes in five. The Kings capped their championship run with a 6-1 victory and 4-2 series win over the New Jersey Devils on June 11 at Staples Center.
"I never got the sense from the players there was any doubt," Altieri said. "There was a real good bond there and then there was a sentiment with all the players where they wanted to be the first group to win a Cup for Los Angeles, that's something that was always very motivating for them."
Wednesday was the beginning of a busy summer for the Stanley Cup, as it will make stops across the United States, Canada, Russia and Slovenia to spend a day with each of the Kings players, but for 30 minutes it called Glendale home.
"Seeing what hockey's done here in California, it's a great pleasure seeing the cup here," said Glendale Unified School District board member Greg Krikorian to the crowd of fans. "For all the fans that waited 45 years, you know what? Hail to the Kings."