Stanley Cup Final: Kings vs. Rangers in L.A.-New York Championship Duel

Reggie Jackson (left) of the Yankees congratulated Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda after the 1981 World Series.
Reggie Jackson (left) of the Yankees congratulated Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda after the 1981 World Series.
 Associated Press

Los Angeles and New York are accustomed to battling over Hollywood stuff -- like which city will host the Grammys or which will land a TV show or film by offering the right mix of production incentives.

Now that rivalry takes to the ice this week when L.A. and NYC face off for the first time in the Stanley Cup Final, representing a rare sports duel between the cities when everything is on the line. Not since baseball's 1981 World Series between the Dodgers and Yankees have teams from the top two TV markets met for it all.

The Kings made it to the NHL championship series with a thrilling 5-4 overtime victory over the defending champion Blackhawks in Chicago on Sunday night. It was their third Game 7 triumph in as many playoff rounds; that has never happened in hockey before. And they won each decisive game on the road.

"We've tried to earn the respect of the league," Justin Williams of the Kings said. "L.A. is not just a place to come and play a hockey game and work on your tan. It's a tough loop in California right now to play. We want to put L.A. on the map, and put it significantly on the map with regards to hockey." 

On Thursday night, the Rangers eliminated the Montreal Canadiens in six games to advance.

Game 1 of the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final is scheduled for Wednesday at L.A.'s Staples Center. The Kings, who joined the league in 1967, are seeking their second title (and second in three seasons) while the Rangers -- who began NHL play in 1926 -- are in quest of their first crown since 1994 and fourth overall.

Only diehards will remember the other two times these teams have met in the playoffs. The Rangers defeated the Kings in the opening rounds of 1979 and 1981. 

The most memorable New York vs. Los Angeles sports matchups have come in baseball and basketball, with such legends as Sandy Koufax, Mickey Mantle, Jerry West, Walt Frazier, Steve Garvey, Reggie Jackson, Phil Jackson and Wilt Chamberlain all playing a part.

In 1981, a season shortened by a players strike, the Dodgers, with rookie phenom Fernando Valenzuela and sturdy first baseman Garvey, defeated the Yankees in six games after losing the first two. It was Los Angeles' first World Series title since 1965.

The teams had met in 1977 and 1978, with Jackson and the Bronx Bombers winning both times in six games.

In 1963, in their fifth season in L.A. after leaving Brooklyn, the Koufax-led Dodgers swept the two-time defending champion Yankees and Mantle in four straight games while allowing just four runs. The Yankees had won six of the seven previous Fall Classics when both teams played in New York.

The New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers met in the NBA Finals in 1970, 1972 and 1973, with the Knicks taking the first and third meetings. In the initial matchup, an injured Willis Reed limped on the court and scored the game's first two baskets, providing an emotional boost that carried the Knicks to a 113-99 victory in Game 7.

After winning a NBA-record 69 regular-season games, including 33 in a row, the Lakers, with Chamberlain, West and future coach Pat Riley, gained revenge in 1972 by spanking New York in five games.

But a year later, the Knicks -- with current team broadcaster Frazier and Jackson -- now the club's president after coaching the Lakers to five NBA titles -- turned things around, winning in five games. The Knicks haven't won the title since.

Twitter: @mikebarnes4
 
 
 
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