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Kings kick off shortened NHL season with defeat

Defenceman Greene hails historic banner-raising and ring ceremony

Gulf News

Los Angeles: The Los Angeles Kings finally got to unfurl their first championship banner Saturday in a colourful ceremony after a labour dispute led to a three-month delay to the start of the NHL season.

The lockout-shortened season, originally set to begin in October, got underway with the Kings’ dropping a 5-2 afternoon game to the 2010 Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks on a day when 26 of the league’s 30 teams were in action.

The Kings pre-game ceremony featured the banner raising and a ring ceremony before the Stanley Cup was paraded around the Staples Center ice with each of the players taking a turn lifting it over his head.

“I was thinking this is great and now I would like to win another,” said Kings defenceman Matt Greene. “It was awesome to be part of the history.”

Kings’ play-by-play announcer Bob Miller served as master of ceremonies, calling out the names of each player as they skated up individually to receive their Tiffany and Company-made championship rings.

Captain Dustin Brown then brought out the Stanley Cup as the sold-out crowd of 18,545 cheered.

“I thought the Kings did a fantastic job with the ceremony,” said Los Angeles defenceman Rob Scuderi.

The black and white banner was raised to the rafters where it will hang permanently. That is a departure from the 11 Los Angeles Lakers NBA championship banners which sit on the south wall of the arena.

Also taking part in the ceremony was the family of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victim Ana Marquez-Greene.

Former Kings all-star Marcel Dionne was also on the ice for the ceremony. Hall of Famer Dionne played 18 seasons in the NHL and is considered the greatest player of all time never to win a Stanley Cup.

Because of the lockout, the Kings have had ample time to recover from any Stanley Cup hangover, but the Blackhawks spoiled the party by blowing the game open with four goals in the opening 21 minutes and then cruised to victory.

Kings coach Darryl Sutter said he didn’t think his team’s slow start was the result of being distracted by the ceremony but was critical of goaltender Jonathan Quick, who had off-season back surgery.

“We just couldn’t get any momentum,” Sutter said. “Tonight, [Quick] wasn’t very good.”

Scuderi stressed that getting off to a good start in a truncated 48-game season is crucial. “With all the added games against teams in your own conference it is a four-point swing every night,” he said. “It is going to be a fun ride.”

The Kings are trying to become the first team to capture back-to-back titles since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998, and they hope to do it with a roster that is almost fully intact from last year.

The first period on Saturday resembled an outdoor pond hockey game at times, with players making uncharacteristic giveaways. Greene said it is going to take some time for everyone to get up to speed.

“Training camp went by really quick,” Greene said of the one-week session. “Now we have to get up to date on our system play.”

In other key opening-day games, the Pittsburgh Penguins got goals from three different scorers to beat the Philadelphia Flyers 3-1. The Flyers beat the Penguins in six games in the first round of the post-season last year.

The lockout, which turned bitter at times as owners and players battled over financial issues, ended earlier this month after the sides agreed on a new collective-bargaining agreement.

The season ends with 13 games on April 27 and the Stanley Cup playoffs will begin three days later.