Two years ago, I interviewed FOX Business Network’s Liz Claman on her beloved Kings’ run to the 2012 Stanley Cup championship. With the Kings on the verge of winning their second Cup in three years, I spoke with Claman again to get her thoughts on the club’s current postseason run, the performances of Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick, and more.
1. Two years ago I interviewed you about the Kings run to their first Stanley Cup. How does this year’s journey compare to that one?
For the first time in my life, the LA Kings aren’t the underdog. My ENTIRE LIFE I’ve been cheering for the little guy.. the underdog… the Bad News Bears of Hockey. People don’t laugh anymore when I say I root for the Kings. Their names are engraved on the Stanley Cup. That will never change until the end of time.
2. The Kings this year became the first team in NHL history to win three straight Game Sevens to advance to the Cup Final. They were also only the fourth team in NHL history to overcome a 3-0 series deficit to win a best-of-seven series. Was there ever a moment during those series when you thought they might not make it?
Absolutely. Countless times I thought they were dead. Right off the bat, the start of the playoffs. The first thing the Kings did was lose the first 3 games to San Jose Sharks. Not good. I was convinced they were done. They looked horrible, it was nice they made the playoffs, but my mom and I said…”Put them out of their misery.” HOWEVER…after their third loss, I saw an interview with Mike Richards of the Kings. When asked about their dismal predicament, he just calmly said, “No one is giving up here. We’re going to try to win the next one.” The WAY he conveyed the whole team’s confidence and equanimity was so impressive. There is a mentality in the successful athletes I’ve noticed that is very powerful; it often makes the lesser skilled come out winners. No panic, no excessive stress, just focus, concentration, and perseverance. After hearing Richards, I started to believe again that they could win. They have continued to pull themselves from the edge of the precipice countless times when it looks like all hope is lost.
3. Of the three series, which was your favorite? Which was the most intense for you?
The series against the Blackhawks was truly spectacular. Every game was sensational. Seeing the Kings come from behind 3 times against the Champions and then win the series in sudden death overtime of Game 7 was thrilling. My son (the Rangers fan) and I clung to each other like wet, shivering cats as we watched. It felt like my heart would stop on so many of the plays, think I could have used a defibrillator.
4. What factors do you attribute to the Kings phenomenal run so far?
Myriad. The top three are probably, goaltending, tremendous defense, and most of all; this is a true TEAM that plays as ONE. They are significantly greater than the sum their individual players. They do have outstanding individual talent but the way they play together is what’s phenomenal. These guys are ALL equally important with 100% contribution from each and every player. You can see they really like each other and have each other’s backs, on and off the ice.
5. You and your family are Kings fans living in the heart of Rangers Nation. What’s it like living in the “enemy camp”, as it were?
My family? My family has turned on me. Both my children are Ranger fans. During the playoffs, I kept asking my daughter, 12, and son, 10, “Ok, you’ll be all Kings all the way if they get to the finals, right?” They were noncommittal. When the Rangers won, my little one shyly came to me and said, “Mom, I’m going to be cheering for the Rangers.” When I said in mock horror, “But… WHY?” He said, “Because I was BORN HERE. You’re LA, I’m New York. Sorry.” My daughter was intransigent. Rangers all the way. My husband is a Bruins fan so he wants to move out of the house til the whole nightmare for him is over.
6. Are you surprised by how New Yorkers are embracing the Rangers playoff run?
Not at all. In fact, if the Kings weren’t in it, I’d be pulling for the Rangers. I LOVE THEM. I’ve been called out for double-dipping by people who say I can’t root for 2 teams but there’s nothing like Ranger fans. Okay, *maybe* Montreal Canadien fans rock it but Ranger games are epic. Larry the bald dude who dances in the nosebleed section every third period? Amazing.
7. Are there any Rangers players you respect, or any you believe could make life miserable for your Kings?
Yes. Lundqvist is superb, just brilliant. I was worried from the beginning that the Kings wouldn’t be able to score 1, let alone 8 goals against him in the first two games. He could still make life really miserable for the Kings for the remainder of the series. Although Rick Nash and Brad Richards haven’t been so effective lately, they are truly great players who can do some real damage if they heat up. I think I respect Martin St. Louis the most. Enough cannot be said about him being the consummate elite athlete. He’s small but tremendously skilled, and very smart as a player. He reminds me a lot of Marcel Dionne. A class act and consistently one of the top players in the world, year after year since the ’90s…love him.
8. What effect do you think this “East-West” match-up between North America’s largest media markets will have upon the NHL product?
It’s a godsend for the NHL, for sports. Commercially speaking, it’s already proving to be the most successful Stanley Cup Finals in NHL history The two biggest cities in America going head to head in the Finals of any sport is going to be spectacular for product sales. And I think it won’t end here…whoever wins this year will be vehemently challenged for years to come. It’s a dream come true from an NHL standpoint. You’ve got the two largest hockey markets with rabid fans on both sides, great players with amazing stories people want to follow, and a first-time ever matchup–the start of a new rivalry, perhaps? Plus a plethora of celebrities on both coasts to be in attendance for the cameras. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is in heaven.
9. Kings defenseman Drew Doughty is earning raves for his performance during the playoffs, yet he often seems to be overlooked for his regular season play. Why do you think this is happening.
Drew has came to the playoffs with his A-game. Think about it: are *you* the best you can be every single day? We all have win streaks and dry spells. He got over it. He’s making us all proud.
10. Trade deadline acquisition Marian Gaborik has been a tremendous addition to the Kings roster during the playoffs. Do you believe there’s a chance they can re-sign him? If they had to dump salary to do so, which player should be traded or bought out?
They better find every coin in every sofa cushion in the back offices to keep Gaborik. He’s been traded like a hot potato and I say hold on tight this time. Post-Rangers he helped the Columbus Bluejackets get some respect and suddenly he shows up on the Kings roster? I was doing a very embarrassing dance while jumping up and down on my bed when that news hit the tape. You can’t ask me who I’d trade. That’s like asking a mom, “Which of your children do you love the most?”
11. After seven seasons as the Kings leading scorer, Anze Kopitar is finally getting well-deserved recognition as one of the game’s best centers. He’s currently nominated for the Selke Trophy. How do you like his chances of winning?
He SHOULD win. He’s absolutely the most UNDERRATED player in the world. It’s understandable because he’s the type of player you have to really watch a lot to fully appreciate. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him lose a battle for the puck, he’s so strong that even two opponents will still lose most battles with him. Look what he did on the final play to help the Kings win game 2 in double OT; he set it all up, protected the puck so well in the Rangers zone and made the pass that won the game. He causes distraction and weakness in opponents more than any other player. Kopitar does it practically EVERY shift, every single night.
12. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick’s numbers this postseason aren’t anywhere close to those he posted during the 2012 Cup run. Are you at all concerned over Quick’s performance this spring?
Not at all. Quick is still the best goalie in the NHL. Yes, he’s struggled at times but if it weren’t for him, the Kings would have been eliminated early in the playoffs. Last night (Saturday), He made 2 unbelievable saves in the last minute of regulation that saved the game. One of these was with 1 second left. He comes up with huge saves when the Kings need him to, it’s astounding.
13. Assuming the Kings win their second Cup, what impact do you believe it’ll have on California hockey?
Think about it: this year there were feisty, lively, thoroughly exciting playoff rounds involving California teams. The San Jose Sharks and the Anaheim Ducks played valiantly against the Kings. To think that the hockey world was focused intently on California is stunning and thrilling to me. I can remember shlepping to the Fabulous Forum in 1970 with my Saskatchewan-born parents to sit with maybe 650 other ex-Pat Canadians and their sleeping children to watch Rogie Vachon and the Kings get killed on a nightly basis. But the city and the team never gave up. The Kings are a perfect example of how sometimes it does take years—DECADES— to win it all.
14. Who’s your pick to win the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP?
It’s not over yet but either Quick, Gaborik, or Kopitar should win it. Probably Kopy.