It’s been a long, hard slog to the Stanley Cup for the Vegas Golden Knights, who’ve been waiting for this moment for… checks notes… SIX WHOLE YEARS. All kidding aside: Vegas joined the league as an expansion team in 2017 with a promise from the owner to win a cup in six years, and I hope that Vegas man gambles elsewhere in his chosen town, because he’s got a gift. Vegas looked fantastic from top to toe in the playoffs, and snagged a 9 to 3 win in Game 5 that was so dominant, the Florida Panthers pulled the goalie with more than 6 minutes left to try and claw back into it. The only reason it was this close is that multiple face-off winners for Vegas sailed their long shots just wide of the open net.

It was another series where all the teams I hoped would take it went out early: First the L.A. Kings, then the Toronto Maple Leafs, as the lone Canadian team left not from Edmonton (as a Calgary fan, we can’t have that, and they knocked out the Kings two years in a row). Florida came in as the lowest seed in the East and rallied from 3-1 down to knock out the Boston Bruins, a team that broke the NHL records for wins this season. But that team sustained a laundry list of injuries in that series; seemingly everyone played busted, and it’s a miracle they made it this far. Manager Paul Maurice gave some great interviews — I really like him, I think??? Can the Flames please steal him away??? — although I take issue with the notion that all those men playing with broken feet and cracked bones is “a beautiful thing to see,” even though I know he’s trying to compliment their grit. Still, in the end, sports fans have their own petty logic for how they cheer when their pals are out, and I’m always going to root against the team from Florida — a hangover from briefly living there and rooting passionately against all its college football teams. And, former Kings heroes Alec Martinez and Jonathan Quick are both Golden Knights now, with Quick owing Los Angeles a thank-you note for unexpectedly punting him there this very season. I’m pleased for Las Vegas! It’s a thrill any time a new hockey town is born.

Congratulations, gents. As a side note, I need these photographers to REALLY chase down some grinning toothless close-ups, because I need more. MORE.

[Photos: Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images, Bruce Bennett, Christian Petersen/Getty Images]