Kalinowskis carry the cupAlexandria native and current LA Kings employee Mike Kalinowski invited his parents and more than 200 others to celebrate with the Stanley Cup.
By: Eric Morken, Alexandria Echo Press
Former Jefferson High School graduate Mike Kalinowski got his hands on the most prestigious trophy in the NHL during a recent 90-day Stanley Cup Tour for Los Angeles Kings players and staff members.
The Kings won the 2012 Stanley Cup finals over the New Jersey Devils in six games. Hockey fans know all about the magical run they made through the playoffs as an eighth seed in the Western Conference. Now imagine being along for the ride.
“This is my 41st year on earth and it might be the best year I’ve ever lived,” Kalinowski said. “I got engaged to my fiancée. Our team advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals and won it, and I was one of the very select few in our organization who was able to have some time with the cup and build a party around it.”
Kalinowski is in his eighth season working for the Kings organization and is currently the senior manager of communications. His primary responsibility with the team is to be the liaison between the Kings and the media members who want to cover the team. He covers most of their practices and is on the road with the organization at almost every stop.
“It was definitely a goal from the very beginning,” he said of his climb to working with an NHL franchise. “I originally wanted to work as a play-by-play guy in the NHL.”
Radio is where Kalinowski got his start in hockey. He graduated from St. Cloud State University in 1994 with a degree in communications and a minor in history. Kalinowski worked with the campus radio station at SCSU and fell in love with doing the play-by-play of the Huskies men’s hockey games.
That’s where his passion for the sport began to grow. Kalinowski never grew up playing competitive hockey in Alexandria before graduating from JHS in 1990. Now he can’t imagine working in any other sport.
He did play-by-play for then Mankato State University after college before getting his first job in professional hockey at a minor league level. That’s where he discovered the public relations and communications side of sports that would carry him to his start with the Kings in 2005.
The Los Angeles franchise went through some down seasons early in Kalinowski’s tenure with the team before making the playoffs in 2010. The Kings lost to a powerful Vancouver team in the opening round that year.
That’s exactly how most hockey fans thought things would play out this past season as the two teams met again in the first round. The Canucks came in with the league’s best record through the regular season, but the Kings stunned them with a series win in just five games.
The series clincher in the opening round was the start of an eight-game playoff winning streak for Los Angeles. The Kings would cruise past the St. Louis Blues and the Phoenix Coyotes before taking care of the Devils in the finals.
“It was awesome and surreal at the same time,” Kalinowski said. “We won the first game there [in Vancouver], and I think just winning that one game gave them a lot of confidence. It just kind of snowballed from there.”
Now the tour of the Stanley Cup could begin. Each individual player on the team got his chance to spend time with the cup before the organization decided others close to the team would get the same opportunity.
Kalinowski was thrilled to find out he would be included in that group. His tour stop with the Stanley Cup came on September 11 in Rolling Hills Estates, California where more than 200 friends and guests attended a private celebration at a friend’s house. The cup arrived and the cameras broke out.
Included in the group were Kalinowski’s parents, Jerry and Carol, of Alexandria. They couldn’t turn down a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fly to California and spend time with their son and the Stanley Cup.
“It was wonderful,” Jerry said. “Mike being close to the players and on all the [road trips], attends the practices. To share the cup that night with him, that was a great deal. To help him carry it, that was even better.”
The four hours spent with the cup is part of a memorable ride that no one in the organization will forget. Kalinowski called it a “dream come true;” one that will be culminated once a championship banner is hanging in the rafters at the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles.
“The next best thing to come will be when the banner goes up,” Kalinowski said. “The first one ever raised for the Kings organization.”