Vin Sylvia: Kings, Spurs New Hampshire's 'home' teams
We New Englanders are a famously provincial lot, not least of all when it comes to sports. So if the Bruins are no longer pursuing the Stanley Cup and the Celtics aren’t involved in the NBA playoffs, those seasons typically are of minimal interest around here.
Not this year, however. This year, New Hampshire has a dog in both those hunts, even though Boston’s boys of winter have long since called it a season.
For the second time in three years, the Los Angeles Kings, parent club of the Manchester Monarchs, are in the Stanley Cup Final. And just as they did when they won the Cup in 2012, the Kings have abundant New Hampshire ties, this time with 12 former Monarchs on the active roster, including captain Dustin Brown and starting goalie Jonathan Quick.
The rest of the Kings’ Manchester alumni: forwards Kyle Clifford, Dwight King, Trevor Lewis, Jordan Nolan, Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli; backup goalie Martin Jones; and defensemen Jake Muzzin, Slava Voynov, Jeff Schultz and Alec Martinez, whose goal in overtime won Game 7 of the Western Conference finals against the Blackhawks Sunday night.
The Manchester connections don’t end there. The Kings open the Final Wednesday night in Los Angeles against the New York Rangers, whose lineup includes yet another former Monarch, Brian Boyle.
Six years ago, Boyle was voted winner of the Union Leader Monarchs Fan Favorite Award. Now he’s an obstacle in the way of the Stanley Cup making a return visit to Manchester.
One night after the Cup Final gets under way, the NBA Finals open in San Antonio, professional home to Concord’s Matt Bonner since 2006. That first season in Texas ended with a championship for Bonner and the Spurs, who returned to the Finals after a six-year absence last season, only to lose in seven games to the Miami Heat.
Now San Antonio has another shot at the title, as well as an opportunity for revenge against the Heat, and Bonner, who back in the late 1990s led Concord High School to three straight state championships, has a chance for NBA ring No. 2.
Bonner — who, as anyone familiar with him knows, remains very much a Granite Stater — didn’t see much action in last year’s NBA Finals and subsequently logged his fewest regular-season minutes since his first year with the Spurs. But he started the last three games of the Western Conference Finals, during which he averaged 15.7 minutes, 4.7 points and 1.7 rebounds as San Antonio eliminated Oklahoma City.
There’s another New Hampshire tie to this year’s Finals, too, though this one’s a bit more obscure.
In 2007, not long after the Spurs beat LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers for the NBA title, Bonner and his brother, Luke, hosted their first Sneakers and Speakers concert to support their charitable nonprofit, the Rock on Foundation. Headlining the concert was the band Okkervil River, whose frontman, singer-songwriter Will Sheff, grew up in Plainfield.
Now the Spurs are set to face James in the Finals again, and the headliner for the next Sneakers and Speakers — July 12 at Redhook Brewery in Portsmouth, by the way — is, you guessed it, Okkervil River.
An omen? The Bonners, the Spurs and Greater San Antonio all hope so. Much of New Hampshire hopes so, too.
Vin Sylvia is a New Hampshire Union Leader deputy managing editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @vinsylvia.