Jonathan Quick was the king who turned Stanley Cup dreams into reality

As the Kings rebuilt again in the early 2000s, it became clear that the goaltender of the future would be a guy named Jonathan. But which one?

Jonathan Bernier, a 2006 first-round pick, and Jonathan Quick, a third-round pick and 72nd overall. In 2005, they went for Bernier. He hailed from Quebec, the cradle of outstanding goaltending, and excelled in the high-scoring Quebec Junior Hockey League. Quick played high school hockey at Avon Old Farms in Connecticut. After being drafted, he spent two seasons at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

As a professional, Bernier had strong credentials. Quick had a bad habit of sleeping in and being late for minor league bus trips. Missing a meeting with a coach led to his demotion from the American Hockey League to the ECHL. It was a wake-up call he couldn’t ignore.

“Bernier was drafted in the first round, so…” Kings president Luc Robitaille said, his tone conveying respect for the top pick. “But Quickie came in and took the job. That’s what you always say: if you want to make the NHL, you have to take somebody’s job. He took it and ran with it.’

He has quickly learned to set various alarms. He practiced his craft, displaying the athleticism and unquenchable fire that have become his trademark as he stood out among the seven goaltenders who played for the Kings in 2007-08. He led them to two Stanley Cup championships in franchise history, in 2012 and 2014, and held off challengers until this season, when his reflexes slowed and his struggles became undeniable.

Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick handles the puck during Game 4 of the 2022 Western Conference quarterfinals against the Edmonton Oilers.

(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

The Kings could not win another Cup, carrying the burden. To continue without him seemed almost unthinkable.

It was part of the Kings’ brotherhood and history that everyone was shocked when general manager Rob Blake traded Quick to Columbus for tough defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov and goaltender Joonas Korpisalo, a deal announced Wednesday. On paper, the deal makes a lot of sense for a team that was short on defense and inconsistent in scoring. But people are not paper cuts.

“I thought Quickie was going to be king for life and we were going to play with him for the rest of our careers,” team captain Anze Kopitar said, referring to himself and defenseman Drew Doughty.

Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick looks at the scoreboard.

Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick looks at the scoreboard during halftime against the New York Islanders on Feb. 24.

(Mary Altaffer/Associated Press)

In an interesting twist, Columbus traded Quick a day later to the Vegas Golden Knights. His value lies in his playoff experience, not his recent performances, but his fire still burns — and it was ignited when he landed with a rival who could lock up the playoff run the Kings believe they can do without him.

“It’s motivating,” Quick told reporters in Las Vegas before making his Golden Knights debut Friday as Adin Hill’s backup. “I look forward to being a part of this team and doing what you want to do every year: you want to win your division, you want to win playoff series, you want to win 16 playoff games. So whatever I can do to help get there, that’s what I want to do.”

He may never reach his old level again, but it won’t be for lack of effort.

Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick tries to keep the puck in front of him during Game 4 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals.

Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick tries to keep the puck in front of him during Game 4 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals against the New Jersey Devils.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

“He’s had a great career and I know he’ll be ready today,” Darryl Sutter, the Kings’ Cup-winning coach who now leads the Flames, said last week. “His whole thing will be, ‘I want to show it to somebody.’ I can guarantee that.”

Quick’s excellence made a low-scoring, eighth-seeded team an unstoppable force in the 2012 playoffs. Yet in his postseason Most Valuable Player reign, none was more decisive than when his then-2-year-old daughter, Madison, choked him with candy during the post-victory press conference and sidelined him. patting him on the back. “Sorry, M&M crisis,” she said quietly.

He was the reason the Royals won again in 2014, despite losing the first three games of the first round against San Jose and falling behind in the next two rounds. “If you ask me who’s the first thing that comes to mind, he’s probably the toughest competitor I’ve ever seen,” Robitaille said. “You always hear that goalkeepers are different, but he was different in a way that his competitiveness was above anyone else’s.

“I know when we were 3-0 against San Jose, I don’t know when or how, but I know he told the team: ‘That’s it. We are closing the door. We are turning that around.” And we know what happened.”

Sutter called Quick “old style,” his ultimate compliment. “He played a lot of playoff games and got hurt and had major surgeries after a couple of them and still came back. He’s a warrior,” Sutter said. “He’s a great leader in the room. Great work ethic. Big personality Top contender, I’ll tell you that. A lot of those series were… hard series. Those teams also had good goalkeepers, and that was his challenge: he wanted to be better than the other goalkeeper.’

Unlike many of his peers, Quick never yelled at teammates who clouded his vision or made his job harder. He would shoot the puck past the ear of a scorer in practice and sometimes smash his stick against the post in frustration, but he never pointed fingers in games.

Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick accepts the Stanley Cup at LA Live on June 16, 2014 in Los Angeles.

Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick accepts the Stanley Cup at LA Live on June 16, 2014 in Los Angeles.

(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

“You see other guys in the league throw their hands up when their d-man is projecting and the puck goes in. You’ll never in a million years see Quickie do that,” Doughty told the Los Angeles Times in 2019. “And if there’s a handoff behind the net and it’s clearly the d-men’s fault, Quickie will pipe up and say it was his fault, when it wasn’t. That’s the guy.”

Robitaille also admired that. “That’s what the teammates loved so much. He was the last team player”, said Robitaille.

Quick left the Kings as the franchise leader in wins (370), shutouts (57), save percentage (.911), saves (18,188), games played (743) and minutes played (43,215). A two-time Cup winner, 2012 playoff MVP, two-time USA Olympian and two-time Jennings Trophy winner as the team’s goalie with the fewest goals allowed, he has a strong case for a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Besides the Fame of Fame, besides the honors that kings finally bestow.

According to Robitaille, Quick, Doughty, Kopitar and the recently retired Dustin Brown — the core of the Cup teams — will receive special recognition when it’s over. “And I don’t know when that will be. And good for Quickie. He will play as long as he can,” said Robitaille. “That’s what I told him: play while you can. There is nothing better.”

Quick moved from Southern California to his new job in Las Vegas. Somewhere after hitting Barstow and reaching the desert, he said, he became excited about the change in the career environment. An enthusiastic welcome upon his arrival helped shift his focus. “I’m already feeling really comfortable for my first new state in 16 years, and these guys have done a great job with it,” he said, “so I’m looking forward to working with them and winning some games.”

Kings goalie Jonathan Quick sits in his gear in December 2009 at the team's practice facility in El Segundo.

Kings goalie Jonathan Quick sits in his gear in December 2009 at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

It’s sad that the King didn’t get to leave on his own terms, but life doesn’t always end well. Salary cap restrictions prevented him from keeping out of pure sentiment, and he probably wouldn’t want that. Blake was tasked with building the best roster for now and the coming seasons. Quick’s decline in performance meant he couldn’t be a part of it, no matter how much his teammates and fans loved him.

Remember Quick as he was in his prime: a great teammate, a great pressure player, and the Jonathan who brought the Cup to Los Angeles twice as much as most fans dared to dream.

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