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From peasants to Kings – Five LA stories of perseverance and success

Jun 12, 2012, 12:38 AM EDT

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 11: Captain Dustin Brown #23 of the Los Angeles Kings kisses the Stanley Cup after his team defeated the New Jersey Devils 6-1 in Game Six of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final at the Staples Center on June 11, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Kings won the series 4-3. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images) Getty Images

Professional sports can be inspirational as much as they are entertaining. After all, they’re made up of people with the courage to follow their dreams and the will to work hard through the good and the bad.

The Stanley Cup-winning 2012 Los Angeles Kings are full of such players, but five in particular stand out for sticking it out through the tough times.

Here are their stories:

Willie Mitchell – The Kings are, for the most part, a young team. However, they do have a few veterans and Mitchell is the most prominent of them. The fact that he’s won his first Cup at the age of 35 is significant enough, but it wasn’t long ago when his career was in jeopardy.

His 2009-10 campaign ended on Jan. 16 because of a concussion and, at the age of 33, he had to find a new employer willing to accept the fact that he was coming off of a head injury. Under the circumstances, the Kings took a risk when they signed him to a two-year, $7 million deal back in the summer of 2010, but it’s one that has paid off handsomely.

Dustin Penner — Earlier this season, Penner was a joke. A punchline. The guy that got hurt while eating pancakes. The guy that, in February, was taken out of the lineup because, in the words of Sutter, he “was horse(crap).” He was arguably one of the most overpaid players in the sport.

He’s also now a two-time Stanley Cup champion and not just because he was on a good team. Penner found redemption — in fact, he called it “vindication” — in the 2012 playoffs and became one of the Kings most potent offensive weapons. As Kings GM Dean Lombardi colorfully put it, “I kid him now; he went from BP — like the oil spill — to BP — as in Big Play Penner.”

Darryl Sutter – When the 2011-12 campaign began, it looked like his days in the spotlight were behind him. In December of 2010, he resigned as the general manager of the Calgary Flames after making a number of questionable moves, including the trading of Dion Phaneuf to Toronto for what ultimately amounted to nothing.

A year later, however, Kings GM Dean Lombardi offered to put his friend in a position he’d found much more success in: behind the bench.

“Oh, seems like a long time ago, middle of December, whenever it was,” Sutter said. “But you know what, you look at the big picture now, and I was right on how I thought about what type of players these guys were.”

He proved to be the missing piece of the Kings’ puzzle, leading them to a 25-13-11 record in the regular season and, of course, their first Stanley Cup.

Dustin Brown — It’s hard to believe at this point, but the Kings captain was seen as something of a disappointment earlier this season. It got to the point where, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Brown was “absolutely” being shopped by Los Angeles.

It just goes to show that sometimes the best move is the one you don’t make. Brown caught fire in late February and was a big factor in the Kings’ playoff run.

He got three points in Game 6 of the finals and became just the second American captain to win the Stanley Cup.

Jeff Carter – His story is perhaps the most popular out of those on this list. He’s a guy who, as recently as last year, probably thought he’d be a life-long Flyer. After all, you don’t sign an 11-year contract if you don’t feel a sense of loyalty and comfort with a franchise.

All the same, Philadelphia decided to go in a different direction and suddenly Carter found himself playing for the last-place Columbus Blue Jackets. He battled through injuries as well as a significant amount of shock and disappointment before he was traded again. This time he found himself in Los Angeles where he was reunited with former Flyers teammate Mike Richards.

Carter went on to play a key role for the Kings, scoring a number of big goals during their run to the Cup.

  1. modogg42 - Jun 12, 2012 at 12:45 AM

    The Jeff Carter story is a good one. Heck of a roller coaster ride for that guy this year, and was glad to see him get some goals in the finals to contribute.

    Now, just hope that him and Richards don’t end up blacked out in some ditch for the next few days, and that they have some people to check in on them.

    • sewell1977 - Jun 12, 2012 at 8:46 AM

      As a Flyes fan, I’m happy to see Gagne and Richie hoist the cup. On the other hand, Carter can go suck a fat one. He is a little crybaby.

    • eigglesnosuperbowls - Jun 12, 2012 at 9:03 AM

      He was a bum in Columbus !

  2. norseman81 - Jun 12, 2012 at 1:18 AM

    The scary thing is they have a 2-3 year window where they could keep winning! Their core is intact. Solid organization: good drafting along with great Trades. Nice work LA.

  3. danphipps01 - Jun 12, 2012 at 1:28 AM

    So, yeah. Jeff Carter scored the Cup-winning goal and added insurance on top of it. I guess Philly fans were right in a sense when they insisted that he’d never win the Flyers a Cup.

  4. hannahsdaddy - Jun 12, 2012 at 1:42 AM

    Did you catch Dustin Brown getting an F-word out after the game? No delay for NBC or nobody on the button? Funny!

  5. norvturnersneck - Jun 12, 2012 at 1:54 AM

    Pancakes!!!!

  6. 11jlacy - Jun 12, 2012 at 2:01 AM

    Congrats to the kings frm new orleans ya dig.

  7. blindandhappy - Jun 12, 2012 at 2:16 AM

    NHL should be disgusted, kings were handed that win on a silver platter..I’m embarrassed as a hockey fan.

    • creasemasta41 - Jun 12, 2012 at 3:38 AM

      If you actually think that then youre not much of a hockey fan

    • manchestermiracle - Jun 13, 2012 at 2:08 PM

      Well, the “blind” part of your handle is correct.And you’re just embarrassing, period.

  8. rtrmusic - Jun 12, 2012 at 8:08 AM

    How much blow will Carter and Richards being doing off the cup?

    • sewell1977 - Jun 12, 2012 at 8:47 AM

      They’ll be doing it off each other’s hairy man backs and drinking zima’s out of the cup.

  9. rtrmusic - Jun 12, 2012 at 9:06 AM

    Do you think Carter and RIchards will take the cup on a tour of Philly and invite Hartnell’s wife with them?

    • rtrmusic - Jun 12, 2012 at 9:07 AM

      Maybe film a movie with her on the Cup? 2 ex-Flyers 1 Cup…

      • eigglesnosuperbowls - Jun 12, 2012 at 10:31 AM

        2ex FLYERS,1 Cup and your mom !

  10. hockeyfan763 - Jun 12, 2012 at 9:52 AM

    It just amazes me that Flyer fans can’t be happy for anybody. No cup since 1975, you’d think they would’ve gotten used to being upset this time of year. And if they truly love the GAME of hockey, would just watch the remaining teams demonstrate hockey being played at it’s highest level.

    • hrudey - Jun 12, 2012 at 9:58 AM

      They did win the coveted Pennsylvania Playoff Cup this offseason, which seems to be of utmost importance to them.

    • redmosquito16 - Jun 12, 2012 at 10:19 AM

      The 2 of you couldn’t be more wrong. I’m a HUGE Flyers fan and am extremely happy for all of the former Flyers currently with the Kings. Aside from Richards & Carter, there’s also Hextall, John Stevens and, of course, Gagne & Justin Williams.

      But thanks for generalizing Philadelphia fans. AGAIN.

    • sewell1977 - Jun 12, 2012 at 10:35 AM

      Did you not read what I said?

    • whlskey - Jun 12, 2012 at 12:10 PM

      Not sure where you’re getting your inside information on Flyers fans being upset about the Kings winning the cup and not being true hockey fans who love the game for what it is, but I can tell you it couldn’t be further from the truth. If you actually loved the game of hockey yourself, then you wouldn’t be generalizing an entire fan base on something that you have absolutely no clue of what you’re talking about.. As a Flyers fan, and many of my friends as well, we are all genuinely happy for guys like Richie and Gagne and Hextall, whom all deserve to be drinking whatever they so desire out of Lord Stanley’s Cup. I personally wish they had never traded Richie in the first place because the guy is just a born winner, who has won at every level of hockey he has ever played. Carter on the other hand is a completely different story.

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