As the tension built inside Staples Center on Wednesday night with Kings fans expecting a Stanley Cup coronation, the rumblings outside the arena provided an almost equal amount of intrigue.

There was legitimate reason for concern. A riot erupted in Vancouver last year after the decisive game of the Cup Final. Lakers championships have resulted in violence outside Staples Center, mostly recently in 2010. And the near fatal beating of Giants fan Bryan Stow in the parking lot at Dodger Stadium last year is still fresh in the local psyche.

Before the game, Los Angeles police chief Charlie Beck encouraged fans to celebrate if the Kings won, but warned them about flooding into the downtown area by the arena.

"Do it at an appropriate venue," Beck said. "You're not going to do it on the streets in front of Staples Center."

Obviously not everyone pays attention what the chief of police happens to advise.

Even though the Kings fell short of clinching their first Stanley Cup as the Devils pulled out a 3-1 win, and thus squelching any sort of massive eruption of celebration, the potential was evident.

As the Kings and Devils skated through two scoreless periods before both teams broke through in the third, the Twitter feed dedicated to dispatches on the local emergency frequency -- @LAPDScanner -- provided compelling, if not ghoulish, updates on the developments outside the rink.

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The label is easy. Jonathon Blum, Beau Bennett and Emerson Etem were first-round NHL draft picks born, bred and developed in Southern California after The Trade. So clearly these puck revolutionaries are the Sons of Wayne Gretzky.

Right? Sort of.

While it's true that they were products of the Gretzky effect, that description might be too simplistic. With the Kings on the verge of winning their first Stanley Cup, it is worth revisiting the growth of the game in the Golden State since Gretzky arrived from Edmonton in 1988 and took the team to the finals in 1993. As the saying goes: If Gretzky doesn't get traded to L.A, there wouldn't be a team in San Jose.

So there's no dispute Gretzky was the ambassador/guiding light/missionary, but the game at the grassroots level still needed to be cultivated so the likes of Blum, Bennett and Etem could hone their skills on the ice. There had to be a bridge between cheering from the stands and watching on TV to skating with sticks and pucks at the rink.

"Those players might not have attained the heights they have, and will, if there were not outstanding youth hockey organizations filled with first-class coaches throughout the state," says Chris Bayee, who is literally writing the book on the history of California hockey in a forthcoming project titled "Palm Trees and Frozen Ponds."

"All three NHL teams have excellent youth hockey programs affiliated with them, and there are many other outstanding clubs, including Orange County Hockey Club, San Diego Jr. Gulls, Santa Clara Blackhawks, Tri-Valley Blue Devils, California Cougars, Anaheim Wildcats, California Titans and the former LA Hockey Club among them. Many of those coaches were lured to California in the aftermath of the Gretzky years with the Kings because more rinks were available to play youth hockey. The building of many of those rinks either occurred shortly before the trade or shortly thereafter."

Blum, a defenseman from Rancho Santa Margarita, became the first California native who went through the local youth circuit to be selected in the first round when the Predators took him at 23rd overall in 2007. Then in 2010, with the draft being held in Los Angeles for the first time, wingers Beau Bennett of Gardena and Emerson Etem of Long Beach both went in the first round. The Penguins took Bennett at 20th overall while Etem went 29th to the Ducks.

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In a town where it's all about having the right look or the famous face -- or both -- the leading man of this Hollywood hockey story is the one person whose face isn't visible at all during the action.

Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick was already on pace to register Stanley Cup records for goals-against average and save percentage when the scene shifted from New Jersey to Los Angeles. Then in a madhouse packed with diehards plus celebs making face time at the hottest club in town, Quick continued to author one of hockey's most amazing post-season runs Monday by blanking the Devils in Game 3 of the Finals.

His third shutout of the playoffs has the Kings on the verge on their first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history. His name will be up in lights, but aside from the deep-purple Kings cognescenti who know actually the difference between Miracle On Ice and the Miracle on Manchester, how many Angelinos can pick him out of a lineup?

"He's been our rock," winger Justin Williams said.

The Kings created a suitably dramatic scenario to allow their masked man to be their superhero. They giftwrapped six power plays for the Devils, including 59 seconds worth of a two-man advantage late in the first period. Quick then made some difficult short-range stops early in the second period, establishing himself again as the difference maker.

And the difference in the series has been miniscule. Two overtime games, and Game 3 was a one-goal affair until late in the second period. The Kings eventually broke through to enjoy breathing room for the first time in this series. While the Kings doled out the expected platitudes of team work and focus and effort, nobody was wasting their breath about Quick's latest exploits.

"He is the backbone of our team," captain Dustin Brown said.

But the puck insanity that has gripped the LA sports scene hasn't really had an effect on Quick. NHL players in markets where puck is not king understand the dynamic of being able to float under the radar, to do grocery shopping in relative peace. Quick said the recognition factor hasn't jumped as far as he can notice.

"Time to time, nothing too big," he said, and sounding not the least bit insulted considering how often the do-you-know-who-I-am-card is played in this town. "I'm in my house a lot of the time. Maybe the other guys get it. But not me."

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Brown might get more attention than most in Los Angeles, as he is a homegrown draft pick who is team captain and has played for the U.S. in the Olympics. But he isn't much for the star-power factor either.

As expected with the Cup Finals in Los Angeles for the first time since Wayne Gretzky's magical ride in 1993, the celebrity wattage was dialed up. Alyssa Milano, Matthew Perry, David Boreanaz, LL Cool J, David Beckham, Tom Arnold and self-help guru Tony Robbins were among those spotted. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol repped the Lakers. And perhaps thematically appropriate, Al (Do You Believe In Miracles?) Michaels was there as well.

"I'm not really concerned whether those guys are here or not," Brown said. "As a player, I'm focused on the game on the ice. Considering the town we play for, you're going to see people like that come out. That's part of playing in LA. This town -- you gotta win to be anybody in this town. Right now the hockey team is winning so it's a hockey town."

And there was plenty of hockey glitterati on hand as well with Gretzky dropping the ceremonial first puck and hanging out Mark Messier, and Sidney Crosby spotted in the stands. And those are the types of names the Kings are interested in.

Here are a few more: Tim Thomas, Mike Richter and Tom Barrasso. Quick can join that the list of American goaltenders to anchor a Stanley Cup championship. But you'll pardon him, if he's not ready to appreciate the broader picture. Shift-by-shift focus has gotten the Kings to the point, so they'll stick with that mentality.

"We came in today looking to win one game and we were able to do that," Quick said. "We are just looking to win one game on Wednesday."

That would be the Hollywood ending, and maybe Quick can soak in the spotlight ... without his head gear.

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Lance Armstrong last made headlines for dominating a race when he won his seventh Tour de France in 2005. In the time since he's endured a polarizing celebrity life and continuously denied accusations of performance enhancement during his improbable run at the top of the cycling world.

Now, quietly, when you think he'll become a footnote, he's on a path to Ironman dominance by using his cycling skills to get a jump on the field.

Armstrong won his second Ironman half triathlon in as many weeks when he won on the Kohala Coast in Hawai'i over the weekend. He broke the course record by six minutes, and finished two and a half minutes ahead of his closest competitor by covering 70.3 miles in 3 hours, 50 minutes and 55 seconds. This comes after a May 20 performance in Florida in which he won by 11 minutes, and is the fifth triathlon Armstrong has competed in. This win in Hawai'i gets him closer to the ultimate qualification for the world championship in Hawai'i on Oct. 13.

According to Newsweek, Armstrong, who competed as a professional triathlete at age 18 before focusing on cycling, completed the 1.2-mile swim in 23:22, placing him third. He moved into the lead after covering the 56-mile bike ride in 2:01:46 and sealed the win by running 13.1 miles in 1:22:30.

"I'm having fun," Armstrong said. "That tells me I'm doing the right thing. It's good for a lot of things. I think it's good for the sport. I think it's good for the other pros. It's good for my foundation, it's good for the other business ventures I have."

It's not so good for the people he's leaving in the dust, though.

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The first woman professional boxing judge in the world, Carol Polis has had a life personal triumph against long odds. In 1971, Polis married a part-time professional boxing referee. Within two years, she went from being a squeamish spectator to a professional boxing judge -- the first woman ever to do so. From cutting her teeth on three-round undercard fights at the gritty Blue Horizon in Philadelphia to finding herself at the center of a riot at Madison Square Garden, Polis has worked a staggering 27 title fights in nine countries. Here is an excerpt from her new book, The Lady Is A Champ.

When the phone rang at 6:50 AM, I knew from the ring it was my father. There were people who claimed that was impossible, that a ring was a ring no matter who was calling. But they didn't know my father. My father was a good guy and a great tennis player, but very strict and self-disciplined. My brother, sister, and I were supposed to make honor roll every time, and if there was a B mixed in with the A's, Dad wanted to know what the B was all about.

Dad was originally from New York and had come to Philadelphia to open a store with his brother. They named the store Consolidated Home Furnishings, but my mother, the easygoing one, nicknamed it Constipated Home Furnishings. Judging from how well the store did, however, it couldn't have been too constipated. TVs, dish sets, dining room sets, linens, and anything you could think of for the home came in and went out. My father was the first retailer in the area to sell things on an installment plan. He sent his men out every day to make the rounds and collect the weekly payments.

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With four hours of driving left to reach his destination, Ryan Sawyers was dutifully following the purple line on the GPS of his rental car when his conscience abruptly adjusted the route.

The Purdue baseball assistant had just spent six straight 12-hour days on the road scouting high school prospects on the East Coast, and now he was feeling guilty for not spending a seventh. It was Monday morning on June 22, 2009, and he had left his hotel in Cherry Hill, N.J., for the five-hour-plus drive to Albany, N.Y., where he was scheduled to catch a flight back to Indiana early the following morning.

About an hour into the drive, he yanked the wheel into a Dunkin' Donuts parking lot in Flemington, N.J., went in and grabbed an iced tea, and decided to turn the car around. He punched the address of the University of Pennsylvania's Meiklejohn Stadium in Philadelphia into his GPS and headed back in the direction he had just come from. He would assuage his guilt over not maximizing his recruiting time by watching a 10 a.m. game in the Carpenter Cup, a 16-team tournament featuring regional all-star squads of unsigned seniors and talented underclassmen from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

"I just thought, 'I'm being lazy,'" said Sawyers, who is now the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at his alma mater, West Virginia Wesleyan College. "I had a guilty conscience. Purdue sent me there to work and paid for me to be out there, so I thought that if I can see a game, I should see a game."

The night before Sawyers pulled his U-turn, Freehold Township (N.J.) High senior outfielder Stephen Talbott was on the phone with one of his Jersey Shore Carpenter Cup teammates, mulling over whether to play in the game the next morning. The game had been postponed twice because of rain, and now the makeup date conflicted with Talbott's final exams on the day before he was scheduled to graduate. Talbott called his high school coach, Todd Smith, wondering what he should do.

"Smitty said, 'You have to go to this game,'" Talbott said. "That's ultimately one of the things that changed my life forever."

***

Nearly three years after that day in Philadelphia, Talbott was mugging for the cameras with his Purdue teammates on May 12 after helping the Boilermakers end a Chicago Cubs-like streak of 103 years of futility. Purdue beat Michigan to 14-3 to capture its first regular-season Big Ten title since 1909.

On May 27, the Boilermakers beat Indiana to win their first Big Ten Tournament championship. This weekend, they are one of 16 programs nationally that will serve as the site of an opening-weekend regional in the beginning of the road to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., on June 15.

The starting leftfielder, Talbott is a primary contributor on the best Purdue team ever when he easily could be with another program or just a regular college student on an intramural softball team right now. A junior who was a third-team All-Big Ten selection as a sophomore, Talbott also met with scouts from the Indians, Yankees, Cardinals, Tigers and Orioles during the fall. Purdue head coach Doug Schreiber called him a fringe prospect for this year's draft but said he has a good shot at being selected in 2013.

Sawyers had never seen or heard of Stephen Talbott until that day in 2009. Just a week earlier, Talbott only had interest from Division III schools, and his plan was to attend James Madison University as a regular student in hopes of walking on the team.

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