ANAHEIM, Calif. – Nobody left the building.
Though there could be nothing instinctual telling them what to do here in hockey's farthest outpost, they stayed and stood and cheered as the horn sounded and the streamers fell and the music played.
Even as every fiber of their Southern California beings told them to hit the road – "first to the parking lot is first home" are words to live by here – they waited as the players hugged and cried and anticipated the arrival of the reason everyone was here in the first place.
The Anaheim Ducks had defeated the Ottawa Senators 6-2. Hockey's ultimate prize would be presented to the home team on West Coast ice for the first time. Sitting in traffic for a while would be OK on this night.
Say what you want about hockey fans in this region, but include one thing.
They get the Stanley Cup.
So they stood and cheered as Scott Niedermayer lifted the Cup, and they applauded even louder when they realized his time with the trophy would amount to nothing more than a touch pass.
Had he decided to savor the moment, Niedermayer would have found his own name already engraved three times on the chalice. But his alternate captain was by his side and Niedermayer knew the man had been on the losing end the last time his name was etched in history. He knew just how special the moment would be for his teammate.
So Niedermayer handed the trophy to his brother Rob.
A captain to the very end.
"You can only dream of passing it to your brother," Niedermayer said later. "To be able to do that is definitely a highlight of my career.
"I figured I could use my rank as captain to make that decision."
They were still standing when the fourth man was handed the Cup and the crowd responded with its loudest ovation of the night. Teemu Selanne was Anaheim's first superstar. With 1,041 regular-season games under his belt, he was this year's Glen Wesley.
Selanne had left Anaheim in 2001 and was on the verge of becoming a journeyman before the lockout revived his body and his old franchise restored his spirit. He had come close to winning gold medals and world championships before, but at 36 he was beginning to feel that his dreams of a title of any kind would never come true.
"What a great feeling to hold that Cup in my arms," Selanne said. "It was heavier than I thought.
"I've been waiting and dreaming about that moment for so many times and years, and finally it's in my hands. It's an unbelievable feeling."
Selanne had a hard time fighting back tears, and he eventually quit trying. After scoring 48 goals and winning the Stanley Cup, he's not sure if he'll return for a 16th season.
"There's some big decisions coming," Selanne said. "But now it's time to play."
So everyone stayed. They stayed as the Cup was handed to Travis Moen, who after scoring the winning goal in Game 1 joked about how important this series would be to the 75 residents in his hometown of Stewart Valley, Saskatchewan.
"It's huge," he said several times that night. How proud they must be now in Stewart Valley. Moen was Wednesday's first star as Anaheim's blue-collar checking line again accounted for three goals.
They still were standing and cheering when the Cup got to George Parros. The Princeton-educated enforcer didn't even play in this series. To get his name on the Stanley Cup, the Ducks will have to petition for his inclusion.
Petition or not, he got his moment in the spotlight Wednesday. Parros kissed the prize, skated several strides and did a few knee pumps. It was almost like he had rehearsed it a thousand times before.
They cheered loudly when Randy Carlyle lifted the Cup. He was one of the last players in the league to skate without a helmet and as coach has instilled toughness and accountability into these Ducks.
After 30 years in professional hockey, he'll get his day with the Stanley Cup.
"I think that we've been holding back our emotions for the last couple of days," Carlyle said. "It's one of those things that it's kind of surreal at this point.
"You can't really fathom that we've got it done."
They got it done, all right.
In the most important game in franchise history, the Ducks held a desperate Ottawa team to 13 shots. As it did this entire series, Anaheim imposed its will on its opponents.
They won the puck battles along the boards and in the corners. When there was a rare breakdown, there was support. Three times Wednesday the Senators had sure goals turned away by a Ducks stick or skate.
It was another total team effort, with three lines accounting for goals for the second time this series.
By the time Corey Perry scored to put Anaheim up by four goals with three minutes remaining, the party had begun. And it wouldn't end until everyone had touched the Cup – from captain to coaches, scorers to scratches.
They slowly left, yes, but even more than an hour after the game, the ice now littered with confetti, several thousand fans remained. Players and coaches chatted with family and friends. There wasn't much to see. But the Stanley Cup remained on the ice, so the fans remained in the stands.
If you don't understand why, think of Russell Williams. The 99-year-old Senators fan was there in 1927 when Ottawa won its last Stanley Cup and was wearing Sens colors at Game 3 of this series.
Think of how desperately he must have wanted the series to make it back to Ottawa. How desperately he must have wanted to see his beloved Senators skate the Cup around the ice this season. One last time for the most loyal of fans. Think of the odds of that happening now.
Then you'll get it.