For 23 often frustrating and always fruitless years, Pam Stence has loved the Los Angeles Kings. For her, being a Kings fan was like being a passenger on the Titanic — it was all good until they hit the ice.
"There's been a lot of ridicule over those 23 years," says the Redondo Beach native, who currently lives in Bellflower. "People always had something sarcastic to say when they heard I was a Kings fan."
But while she loves the Kings, she hates needles.
"They absolutely terrify me," she says.
So this spring, when her nephew kept bugging her to get a tattoo, she came up with what she thought was a clever, no-way-this-could-ever-happen response.
"I promised him I would get a tattoo when the Kings won the Stanley Cup," the 46-year-old Stence tells L.A. Weekly. "I said it so he would stop bugging me."
But when the Kings defied the odds and hockey history to become the first eighth-seeded team to win the coveted trophy last week, Stence says, "I was excited and scared at the same time. "But a promise is a promise."
On June 7, she used her Kings season tickets to get a seat inside Staples Center for the we-are-the-champions Stanley Cup celebration and party. The event put a delirious exclamation point on the Kings' triumphant parade past 250,000 mostly newfound fans lining the glass canyons of downtown Los Angeles.
"A lot of them were totally jumping on the bandwagon," Stence says. "But the Kings need all the fans they can get."
The moment she left Staples Center, Stence rushed down the 405 to Hermosa Ink, the upscale tattoo parlor that opened a year ago in the heart of the coastal strip where most of the Kings' players live during the season — the beach cities of Manhattan, Hermosa and Redondo.
"I was so emotional from the celebration that I felt I had to get it right then," she says.
In less than an hour, she was sporting a $125 tattoo featuring the Kings logo and the date 2012 under the Stanley Cup. "Gio, the artist, was so patient with me," she says. "He was very sensitive to my fear of needles."
Her original plan was to get the tattoo on her ankle, where it would be semi-discreet. After all, the Stanley Cup is not exactly graceful — it looks a lot like a steel garbage can — and she has a good job as a network operations technician with British Telecom in El Segundo, just across the street from the Kings training center.
"There were plenty of days I just walked into the training center to watch them practice. No one stopped me and I was the only one watching," she says. "Lately, though, there's been so much security you can't get near the rink."
At the last minute, she had a change of heart about where she wanted her Kings tattoo.
"I got it on my chest, on the left side by my heart, because that's where the emotions got me," she says. "I can cover it at work, but if I wear any short-sleeved shirt or wide-scooped blouse you're going to see it."
With a replica of the huge, 35-pound Stanley Cup sitting on the front counter surrounded by six big-screen TVs that were religiously tuned to every Kings game this year, Hermosa Ink has emerged as the unofficial Kings headquarters in the South Bay, along with the North End Bar (formerly known as Critters).
"Jonathan Bernier, the Kings' backup goalie, got a tattoo here before the playoffs began," Gio, the Hermosa Ink artist, notes.
Hermosa Ink teamed up with the Kings and Rocco's Old School, which makes healing balms, for the "Ink at the Rink" contest this spring to determine the coolest Kings tattoo. Out of hundreds of entries, Kings defenseman Matt Greene picked 10 finalists; fans then voted online and chose Steven Gulliver's image as the winner. (Gulliver won $1,000 cash from Rocco's and $2,000 in free tattoos from Hermosa Ink.)
Ever since the Kings completed their historic playoff run with a 6-1 rout of the New Jersey Devils, a hot rumor has swept the beach cities that every member of the Kings is coming to Hermosa Ink to get his own tattoo of the Stanley Cup.
Shop manager Michele Reynolds heard the rumor, but as of press time the Kings had been too busy celebrating — they spent the weekend in Las Vegas — to worry about getting matching tattoos.
But while the buzz kept building, plenty of other Kings fans were taking advantage of a special offer of a Kings tattoo at the neighborhood parlor, starting at $25.
Jim Harrington, 49, of Torrance and his 21-year-old son, Chris, came in Saturday night to get matching Stanley Cups. "We thought it would be a great thing to do for Father's day," the elder Harrington said.
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Like Stence, Harrington said he was fulfilling a pledge that seem incredibly far-fetched.
"I've been a Kings fan for 20 years. When they got to the finals, I said I would get a tattoo if they won the Stanley Cup," he tells the Weekly. "When I take a vow and say I'm going to do something, I do it."
Like Stence, Harrington got a tattoo on his chest showing the Stanley Cup with the team logo and 2012 underneath. His son got the same thing on his left bicep. "I guess I'll always be a Kings fan," the father says. "I can't change it now."
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