Keeping Score: And all his horses
All hail the Kings, winners of two Stanley Cups in three years, patched up and sent back onto the ice by trainer Chris Kingsley, the kid who grew up on Elm Street in Greenfield and hung out with his buddies at Jimmy’s Market, now JC’s on the corner of Conway and Willow streets.
An exercise physiology major in college, Kingsley leapfrogged from Cushing Academy to the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs to becoming the Kings’ head trainer in 2006. The New Jersey Devils’ training job was also his for the asking, but he preferred surfboards to swampland.
“Our guys are warriors, there’s nothing that phases them,” said Kingsley, whose game-time job is to be the first-responder for players coming off the ice with missing teeth, lacerated scalps or blurred vision.
“At any given time we’ll have an orthopedic, internal, plastic surgeon, ophthalmologist, dentist ... dentist, very important,” said Kingsley.
More important, he gets them ready for 60-plus minutes of hard work over the course of a 108-game season. “The NHL likes to say it’s the “No Hungry League. Our games started at 5 p.m. (PDT) so we fed them at 11. They got naps and snacks, and we gave ’em stuff between periods, nutrition shakes and old school like orange slices. We made sure they were hydrated ... One thing we avoided in five overtime games was cramp issues.”
Darryl Sutter, the Kings’ deadpan coach, is one of six brothers who’ve played in the NHL. They live on a family farm in Alberta where Sutter was working the day the Kings came calling. “I think I was in the barn. I wasn’t shoveling shit, I remember that, but I had earlier.”
His wry wit and quiet demeanor are a counterpoint to the flashy L.A. lifestyle. During press conferences he takes no prisoners. When a reporter asked if he’d ever seen a puck slide to a stop dead over the goal line twice in one game he replied, “Yeah, probably. Several times.”
More revealing was his two-word response when a writer asked him to name the team’s MVP: “Next question.”
“I love Darryl Sutter, he’s probably the best coach I ever worked for,” said Kingsley. “Darryl fires ’em up or calms ’em down or does whatever he needs to. He doesn’t talk about players, he talks about team.”
The Kings finished seventh in the Western Conference in points this season. Nobody cracked the NHL’s top 20 in goals or assists and Jon Quick was 22nd in save percentage, yet 64 playoff games in three seasons gave them the resilience to win three Game 7s on the road.
“Those were really special to me,” said Kingsley. “The Sharks, we took it to ’em, the Ducks, we really took it to ’em, and the Blackhawks game was a heavyweight fight.”
Beating the Rangers in five games to win the Stanley Cup ended with an epic double-overtime win with Quick stopping 15 shots in sudden death and Alec Martinez potting the Cup clincher.
“Jonathan Quick hates to lose,” Kingsley said of the former UMass netminder. “He’s focussed, he trains hard, I see it every day in practice. He’s phenomenal.”
The Kings didn’t make the playoffs during Kingsley’s first three years while the Lakers were winning NBA titles. They lost in the conference quarterfinals the next two years, but in 2012 they came out of nowhere to win their first NHL championship in franchise history.
The city caught on and the Kings have sold out the last 119 regular season games at the Staples Center. “It’s our time now, the Lakers are down and the people are embracing us. Will Ferrell’s the diehard, a huge Kings fan and he’s not afraid to wear his Kings jersey. I was on the beach yesterday and the shirts are out. We’re going to embrace it.”
Two years ago, Kingsley used his day with the Cup to bring it to his father-in-law’s house in Westford, where several hundred friends and relatives posed with the world’s most recognized trophy. This year he’s not sure what he’ll do. “We haven’t really thought about it, but it’s a nice problem to have. Wherever, it’ll be with friends and family.”
After Ghana tied the U.S. late in Monday’s World Cup game, the TV camera panned to Ghana’s jubilant yellow clad fans, some dressed in tribal gowns and wearing paint face. In his clipped British accent, play-by-play announcer Ian Darke proclaimed, “The resistance is broken!”
Minutes later, Darke reversed course when U.S. defender John Brooks’ header tweaked the twine for a stunning 2-1 win. “Quite incredible! He couldn’t even have dreamt that! Payback for the USA! Revenge! Served piping hot in the heat and humidity of Natal, Brazil!”
Brooks indeed claimed to have dreamt he’d scored the game-winning goal, and only a cynic (who, me?) would think that he’d heard Darke’s riff and picked up on the yarn.
The World Cup is getting good ratings and the athleticism is outstanding, but there’s a contrived drama that’s not helping endear the sport to Americans. The flops and fake injuries won’t work in the U.S., where fans want their players to be stoic — to be warriors, as Chris Kingsley would say.
Squibbers: Jonathan Quick and Rangers’ forward Brian Boyle played six times against each other in Hockey East. Boyle’s from Hingham and played at Boston College. Against UMass he scored four goals and had five assists with Quick in the net, but managed only one goal and one assist against him in the playoffs. ... Kingsley said that in grammar school his favorite teacher was Lillian Brigham, and at GHS it was Jim Fotopolous. “And,” he added, “I loved to eat pizza at Village Pizza.” ... For what it’s worth, Tyler Seguin and Sidney Crosby both played 80 games this season and both scored 37 goals. ... The Orioles took a huge hit this week when catcher Matt Wieters (.308 average) was lost for the season to Tommy John surgery. Backup catcher Caleb Joseph is batting under .200 but has thrown out 44 percent of would-be base stealers. ... Detroit’s Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander gave up a combined 17 earned runs in back-to-back starts this week as the Royals plundered their way into first place. ... K.C. is in town for three games after the All-Star Break. ... Scherzer has different-colored eyes — one blue and one brown — prompting Keith Olberman to call him “Ole Blue Eye.” ... The good news is the Red Sox are East Division contenders, the bad news is the wild card winners are coming from either the Central or West or both. ... Happy summer solstice, only a pessimist would say it’s the first sign of winter.
Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley.