Between periods, I sat exhausted. By game’s end, I had nothing more to give. Just as our boys left it all out on the ice and did their very best, we, as LA Kings’ fans, brought our best to Staples Center and left all we had in the arena.

The LA Kings should be proud of their fans. The team, coaches and management should relish that they have such uncompromising support. After decades of futility, this fan base, our fan base, has not faltered. We continue to sell out nearly every game. This playoffs, like the last, we were as loud as any hockey arena in the NHL. I went to the Shark Tank for game two. Their team may have been predicted to win this series due to their greater talent but our fan base against theirs, side by side, is a draw and do not forget they are proclaimed by many as the loudest in the NHL.

Though my heart ached by game’s end and I watched the San Jose Sharks celebrate at center ice, it occurred to me that their journey, like ours, has been a long one. This media and pundit favored franchise predicted to compete for and win the Stanley Cup for the past several seasons has felt bitter disappointment for many years. They built the franchise through the draft and made key trades when the time was right. That didn’t and doesn’t guarantee them a Cup anymore than it guaranteed the Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins, or Detroit Red wings theirs but each that has climbed to the NHL elite has taken the same path.

The LA Kings are on that path.

It started with drafting and building a young core, to learning through playoff losses what it takes to win, and will carry forward to key trades that lay ahead and which will complete our roster. It culminates with building a franchise designed to last. The Stanley Cup is the one championship trophy that cannot be bought. Unlike other sports, ours must be earned and to earn the right to compete for it requires time, patience, intelligence, resolve and luck. Let the Hockey Gods smile on us for we are earning our right to become the last team standing.

The next great step is the 2011-2012 season. Dean Lombardi proclaimed five years ago, nearly to the date, that he was a builder and he chose the LA Kings because he saw a foundation already put in place. Terry Murray is going into his fourth season as the LA Kings’ coach. The time for talk and promises of better days ahead is winding to a close.

Hockey emulates life. It is only lived properly if you move forward. Dean Lombardi and Terry Murray as well as the entire coaching staff should each learn from their past mistakes, those that preceded their arrival here and those they have made while heading the LA Kings. Our fans will enter next season mindful of the sacrifices we have made for our team and the emotional investment deposited for the LA Kings’ long term success. We expect to move forward. We have earned it.