As of this writing, the National Hockey League appears to be headed down the road of their decennial custom to shorten or potentially eliminate their season because of labor strife. This is particularly grating this time around because of the league's newfound resurgence in visibility and popularity, to say nothing of its financial health. And if we as hockey fans have to endure a delayed or cancelled season, maybe the upside is the playoffs will get here sooner? The hockey postseason tends to reintroduce old heroes, wave goodbye to others, or in the case of the Los Angeles Kings, create new ones, as this disc showing the fruits of their 2012 Stanley Cup win help to illustrate.
The story that unfolds on the disc shows us the growing pains the Kings endured through the years, from the days when the franchise was awarded to Jack Kent Cooke, who later would build the Forum which would house the team along with basketball's Lakers team. The team struggled for many years but still had the occasional popular player (such as Rogie Vachon) or immensely talented one (such as Marcel Dionne and Dave Taylor). The 1989 trade of Wayne Gretzky helped provide the moribund franchise with a new sense of optimism and enthusiasm (hell, this DC boy even bought a Kings jersey!) with nightly sellouts and a Hollywood 'Who's Who' attending the home games regularly. Sadly the team could not capitalize on the popularity, with their sole Cup finals appearance in 1993 failing to the Montreal Canadiens.
The team struggled after Gretzky's departure and in recent years continued to underperform even after acquiring high-prized talent through the NHL draft such as Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty. And even after the major offseason acquisition of former Philadelphia Flyers captain Mike Richards helped to buoy the lineup, the team continued to struggle in the early months, and it resulted in coach Terry Murray's departure from the team. Darryl Sutter took over the coaching reigns and shortly after, the Kings made another move, acquiring Richards' ex-teammate Jeff Carter from the Columbus Blue Jackets at the end of February. The injection of offense helped provide the Kings with an additional surge, as they won 13 of their last 21 games to secure the 8th spot in the Western Conference playoffs. From there, the Kings went on a huge run, defeating the Western Conference champions Vancouver Canucks four games to one in a Best of Seven series. They swept the St. Louis Blues and beat the Phoenix Coyotes in five games, becoming the first team to beat the first, second and third seeded teams in their conference to get to the finals, where they met the New Jersey Devils. The Kings continued to storm out of the gate by winning the first three games. They then dropped the next two before returning to Los Angeles, where a silly penalty by the Devils' Steve Bernier resulted in a major power play by the Kings, who scored three goals in the first period to go onto a 6-1 win in the game and win the Cup for the Kings.
Running at just a hair under 90 minutes, the feature includes interviews with players from the team who were key parts of the success, along with recollections by some of the writers who covered the team's run. Longtime team broadcaster Bob Miller also was the focus of the interviews to boot, as they recall Dustin Brown hits, Dustin Penner's goals and Jonathan Quick's saves that helped launch the team further. Fans of the team such as Matthew Perry (yes, THAT Matthew Perry!) talk about the team from their perspective and their surreal stretch from April to June.
This film tends to take the same approach of last year's film that focused on the Cup winning Boston Bruins, with a mix of game footage, interviews and occasional on--ice audio from the players to help shine a newer light on the action. I liked how they did the 2011 film and was hoping they would do more of it, but the problem with this film is they simply repeated the formula rather than improving on it. Is it a disappointing film for Kings fans? No, but if the National Hockey League has aspirations about making their video library somewhere close to the one the National Football League has with their production values, I saw more of the same, rather than built-on experiences.
And that seems to be a problem with the National Hockey League in general. Some potential is shown, then it is followed by more of the same nonsense. Whether it is in video production or in collective bargaining negotiations, there needs to be some out of the box thinking employed in these things that would elevate them past their limitations. Otherwise, we'll get locked out in more than one way.
1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen for the feature with the result looking quite good. The film juggles vintage interviews and gameplay from the various eras of Kings hockey quite nicely, and the newer footage (a mix of additional gameplay plus interviews) looks sharp as can be, with nothing in the way of distracting edge enhancement or image haloing to note. The blacks of the Kings jerseys are as deep and solid as can be and do not include any noticeable bouts of crushing, and while there are some moments of image noise, those would appear to be inherent in the source material. An altogether decent presentation from Warner and the NHL Video department.
Two-channel Dolby stereo goodness. Honestly I was not expecting to be wowed, as the action is front heavy and without any real need for immersion or rear channel directional effects. Dialogue sounds clear and the soundtrack is free of hisses or chirps, and the on-ice player mics sound good and are easy to listen to, to say nothing of the broadcast audio and local radio of various in-game moments. This is a straightforward reproduction of the film that sounds as serviceable as you are likely to get.
There are a few extras here, though the Blu-ray release tends to pack a bit of a bigger punch. There are a series of TV spots (3:33) centered on the League's "Because It's The Cup" campaign for the 2012 playoffs. It was a decent campaign, though there is one commercial in the mix where the Cup 'turns men into boys' that is quite good in and of itself. Following that is a series of player interviews from the NHL Network (31:26) where the players touch about their run to the Cup mid-postseason. "Behind the Scenes with the Stanley Cup" (2:15) is a quick look at the Cup as it spends the night at a hotel room before Game 6, and the "Top 10 Los Angeles Kings Moments" (3:57) is just that, touching on the team's memorable moments in the regular season and playoffs, leading up to the Finals. An extended locker room celebration is next (3:02), mainly showing the players' excitement of and drinking from the trophy. There is something called a "NHL Network End of Season Rollout" (3:04) which closes out the disc, but is a look at the season's highlights in a nutshell.
The Los Angeles Kings' run to the Stanley Cup was fascinating, and that feeling is conveyed here. But if you are looking for a more memorable experience, this simply restates what occurred during the year for the Kings, and most people already know that. From a technical perspective it is solid though the bonus materials are a little lacking. If the Kings fan you know has a Blu-ray player I would go with that for the extended supplements, but otherwise this is likely a neat stocking stuffer idea for the fan of the silver and black.