Hint No. 1 that this was something big.
Text messages. "It's one of those signs you've done something unusual," he said.
Hint No. 2 that this was something extra big.
An outpouring of fan support, post-midnight, adjacent to LAX after the Kings' flight had landed.
"It was like driving down a hallway lined with human flesh," he said. "You couldn't see anything except people screaming and Kings jerseys. It was a feeling that not anyone will forget ever, I think on the Kings team. It's one of those things you only get to experience when you make it to the Cup Final."
This was the Kings' Dustin Penner talking about his series-clinching goal against Phoenix. Penner, the man with the outsized beard, was the one who scored the outsized overtime goal in Game 5 to put the Kings back in the Stanley Cup Final for the time in 19 years.
Penner was told that about 4,000 fans were on hand to greet the Kings. He spoke with the media on a conference call Wednesday afternoon and was his usual dry, witty self. He was humble too.
"It was a goal, I guess to sound really cliche, that was bigger than me," said Penner, who scored his third of the playoffs to give the Kings a 4-3 victory Tuesday night.
Afterward, Kings Coach Darryl Sutter touched on sticking with Penner when things weren't going well for him early in Game 5. But he was hardly the only struggling forward.
"I don't think I was referring specifically to him," Sutter said, also on a conference call. "We had a lot of guys that had a tough start last night. When we talk about trust — between us and the players — I stuck with guys early in the game that were struggling a bit. He was one of them."
Shane Doan … sounds like the name of a guy straight out of a Western, doesn't it?
This Doan, the Coyotes' captain, took sharp aim at the officiating after Phoenix was eliminated. Earlier, he had some angry words for his Kings counterpart, Dustin Brown, in the handshake line, as did some of his Coyotes teammates.
(In fact, there is some history between the captains, including a fight between them during the regular season at Staples Center.)
To recap, this is what Doan said to reporters after the loss:
"I know they always try their best and I know they are going to make mistakes," Doan said. "It's just tough when you are on the short end of it I don't know how many times. You watch the last three games and you try to tell me where I got my penalties. The last three penalties I got, you tell me where I got them."
Sutter addressed Doan's words and actions in the handshake line on the conference call. He went on to call him "awesome," which, of course, is high Sutter praise.
"It's an emotional time for everybody," Sutter said. "Lots of times, there's handshakes behind closed doors. ... You leave it at that. Shane Doan is an awesome player, an awesome captain. And I wish he was still playing, but just not at our expense."
The Kings will play the New Jersey Devils or the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Final, and the series won't start until Wednesday. It appears as though the Kings could travel east on Monday.
Sutter said that former Kings coach Terry Murray is scouting the Rangers-Devils series for them. He replaced Murray in mid-December and is renting Murray's house in Manhattan Beach. They spoke fairly soon after Sutter was hired by the Kings and Sutter has repeatedly pointed out the lasting contributions of Murray, including his impact on the playoff run this spring.