Puck Daddy's Summer Series: The Los Angeles Kings from A to Z

Puck Daddy's Summer Series: The Los Angeles Kings from A to Z

(Ed. Note: August is known to be a very quiet month in the hockey world. As we wait for September to arrive and training camps to begin, let’s learn a little history about all 30 teams. Behold, our summer A-Z series, in which we ask fans of all 30 teams to drop some knowledge on us! Add your own choices in the comments!) 

By: Chanelle Berlin and Diane Phan of Thx Bud

A. Anze Kopitar

Starting off with perfection seems like a risky move, but we prefer to think of it as warming up with a quick love letter.

Kopitar was drafted by the Kings in 2005 and has been tearing it up for the Kings ever since. For the last eight seasons, he’s led the Kings in points, and prior to 2014-15, he had seven consecutive seasons breaking 70 points. He’s a phenomenal two-way player as evidenced by his 2014 and 2015 Selke nominations, and until he wins it, this will always be relevant:

He drives possession and makes his teammates better when he’s on the ice. He taught us all that Slovenia was a country and participated in their first ever appearance in the Olympics. Gretzky has said that he’s the third best player in the league behind Crosby and Toews. He’s also owner of the best dog around, Gustl.

See, He’s not even playing fair with this one.

Or this one. It really doesn’t get better than Kopitar.

B. Bob Miller

Bob Miller is super old (76). He’s the voice of the Los Angeles Kings, not just because that’s his job, but because he’s been doing this since 1973, aka Not the Dawn of Time But Pretty Close.

That is Bob (right) when he was still a pretty young thing in the early 1970s.

Bob Miller has been around so long that he called the games his broadcast partner Jim Fox played in for LA. Part of why it was continually heartbreaking that the Kings failed to win the Cup year after year was because it also meant Miller spent a lot of time not calling that kind of victory. In 2006, when Bob was presented with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, he said, “My greatest fear is that I retire and the Kings win a Stanley Cup the next year."

Thankfully the Kings only made Bob wait a completely reasonable six additional years before he finally, finally got to make the call most Kings fans can probably recite from memory.

Bob is also the reason why, deep down, every kid who grew up in the ‘90s is a little bit of a Kings fan, whether they like it or not. He was the announcer in 1992’s “The Mighty Ducks.” It’s slightly awkward that the Ducks became a Kings rival the very next year, but that’s not Bob Miller’s fault.

C. Cooke, Jack Kent

Jack Kent Cooke invested in the NFL and bought the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers first, but since he was a big ol’ Canadian, he always loved hockey. When the NHL announced plans to expand in 1966, Cooke thought, “Hell yeah,” (we’re guessing) and smacked the league with $2-million to bring the NHL to Los Angeles. That’s peanuts. That’s Dwight King plus a $50,000 tip.

It was a big deal for Southern California, and in 1967 the Kings began their journey through decades of disappointment and very recent triumph. Cooke had a whole new arena built -- The Forum -- to make sure the team had a place to play. The Kings and Lakers both moved there partway into the 1967-68 season, dressed in purple and yellow uniforms.

Look at these California boys, they’re undeniable.

Despite this clearly being purple and yellow, Cooke told everyone the colors were Forum blue and gold, and like some rich white men will, insisted until everyone with eyeballs said 'okay' just to shut him up. Crazy Jack Kent Cooke has been dead since 1997 and people still call those uniforms Forum blue and gold. Power is wild.

D. Dean Lombardi

Four days after the Kings failed to make the playoffs (again) at the end of the 2005-2006 season, Dean Lombardi was hired to right the ship. And right it he did.

Kings history is littered with young guys consistently getting traded away, but Lombardi put a stop to this and stressed the importance of drafting well and developing players young. The 2014 roster saw 12 players as Kings draft selections, so Lombardi may be onto something with that one. He’s also been pretty adept at acquiring effective free agents (hellooooo possession master Jake Muzzin) and essentially stealing from LA Kings Midwest, the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Lombardi is also the man who treats his job like he’s a grad student and introduced “the Yandle Manifesto” to our vocabulary. He’s brought PowerPoint presentations to breakfast with some season ticket holders. Most recently he’s been named USA Hockey’s GM for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey and reacted to this by giving a speech featuring the founding fathers. You do you, Dean.

He also really encourages team chemistry and wants the Kings to be a tight-knit family unit.

Instagram: willie_mitch33
Instagram: willie_mitch33

Hey, nothing says family like Christmas onesies.

Despite this, he’s also the same guy who “couldn’t function for four days” thanks to Jarret Stoll being arrested for drug possession, a victimless offense, but his “biggest concern” after defenseman Slava Voynov was charged with felony assault was whether it would “jeopardize Slava’s entire career.” (Voynov eventually pleaded no contest to misdemeanor corporal injury of a spouse.) He never spoke about Drew Doughty being investigated for sexual assault in 2012, otherwise we might’ve learned that his words can turn into horse emoji + poop emoji sooner.

Lombardi’s an interesting and important figure in Kings history, but stay woke about your dramatic uncle, too, Los Angeles.

E. Eighth Seed

The Kings snuck into the 2012 playoffs as the eighth seed with only a game to spare, so it was reasonable to think that their chances of making a deep run were a bit slim. Boy did they prove people wrong. The Kings steamrolled the first, second, and third seeds from the west. They did it with style, going up 3-0 in each of those rounds. They made winning their first Cup look so easy, yet it took them 45 freaking years to do so.

Started from the bottom, now we here:

F. Fraud

One fun way to cap off overseeing LA’s biggest hockey boom is to get convicted for fraud. Go big or go to jail. Or both, if you’re a real rockstar.

Bruce McNall is weirdly not that controversial a figure. The former Kings owner and president’s big spending is what brought Wayne Gretzky to LA, after all. LA then had some really exciting years… until McNall defaulted on a $90-million loan and bankrupted the team by 1995. He did manage to sell the Kings before they could be truly flushed down the toilet. Plus, he’s charming, so plenty of people wrote letters about what a dang great guy this liar and criminal is, ha ha, felonies! Aw, shucks.

McNall is on the Kings’ board of governors now (really!), remains friends with Gretzky, and in 2012, the team even made sure he got to hold the Cup.

This, friends, is how you rise, fall, and come back to do a Reddit AMA about it all.

G. Game 7s

The Kings 2012 road to the Stanley Cup was a relative cakewalk compared to 2014. They seemed to want to make it as difficult as possible to win, starting by going down three games in the first round to the Sharks and having to frantically claw their way back by winning four games in a row. They went into Game 7 with a vengeance, scoring five unanswered goals and moving to the next round.

The next series against the Ducks was little less lopsided, but still took seven games to resolve. In that seventh game the Kings dominated most of the play, once again scoring five unanswered goals and holding on to win 6-2.

The Kings had lost their last two playoff match-ups with the Blackhawks, but after going up in the Conference Final series 3-1, it was looking like maybe they would take this one and avoid another Game 7. Haha, psyche. The Kings let the Blackhawks linger and force yet ANOTHER Game 7, which the Kings eventually won in overtime off of a deflection.

No disrespect to the New York Rangers, but this might the most satisfying goal of that 2014 run:

The Kings just really love playing postseason hockey and wanted to draw it out as much as humanly possible. They succeeded, because the 26 games needed to win the Stanley Cup set an NHL record. After all that, all you can really do is celebrate wildly and then fall over from exhaustion and loopiness.

Exactly.

H. High Stick

Leafs fans will never get over Kerry Fraser not calling Wayne Gretzky for high-sticking Doug Gilmour in Game 6 of the 1993 Conference Final.

The rules called for an automatic major penalty and ejection for the high stick, but it didn’t happen. Gretzky continued to play and eventually scored the game-winning goal for the Kings. Leafs nation is forever pressed about this for a few reasons: 1) The Kings could have been eliminated had the Leafs won, and taking out the team’s best player would have been a huge advantage. 2) Gretzky went on to score a hat trick in a 5-4 win in Game 7, putting the Kings through to the Final and denying the hockey world (but especially Canada) a Montreal Canadiens vs Toronto Maple Leafs series.  3) The Leafs have yet to make it back to the Stanley Cup Final.

At the time, Don Cherry implied that he agreed with conspiracy theorists that Fraser made this non-call on purpose. This series continues to be replayed on the NHL Network at least in part every year. Kerry Fraser even calls it the worst moment of his career. It’s delicious for Kings fans, and what’s even better is that it’s probably now the second-best instance of the Kings  devastating a team that was just one win away from advancing.

I. Inglewood

Before the Kings moved to downtown LA, they spent 32 years calling The Forum home.

The Forum
The Forum

(All that money and yet Jack Kent Cooke couldn’t hook himself up with some sunglasses.)

The Forum’s located in Inglewood, CA, best known these days for being third in a list of Southern California neighborhoods Dr. Dre shouts out in the 2000 seminal classic “The Next Episode.” During the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, celebrities sometimes wanted to hang out there specifically for hockey, even though The “Fabulous” Forum spent plenty of years looking like a gigantic, sweaty high school gym. The Kings and Lakers moved downtown to Staples Center in 1999, but The Forum is where Gretzky played, so it’ll always be special.

J. Jazz Hands

Also known as the most charming Stanley Cup-clinching goal celebration ever.

Alec Martinez scores, but after a 26-game war -- and this one being pushed to double overtime -- he’s only got them little excited hand shakes in him to celebrate. This also made way for a slightly disturbing bobblehands giveaway.

K. Kilrea, Brian

Brian Kilrea scored the first goal in Los Angeles Kings history. File that away to help your bar trivia team on a Wednesday night. Kilrea’s retired from hockey completely now, but in 2013 he recalled this lovely milestone.

Another fun fact: it happened before the Kings moved into The Forum in December of 1967, so the first goal for the LA team was actually scored in Long Beach.

L. Larry Murphy

The Larry Murphy trade was a disaster, now held up as one of the worst trades in Kings history. Kings fans are spoiled in a number of ways lately. That includes being able to frequently throw our heads back and laugh about getting Marian Gaborik at the trade deadline for Matt Frattin (who? exactly) and picks. That includes getting Jeff Carter for Incurable Head Fake Enthusiast Jack Johnson. Before these fun days the Kings did things like trade Larry Murphy, a future Hall of Famer, after messy arbitration proceedings and siding with executives who he reportedly had tensions with and who ended up fired before the season’s finish anyway.

(Ahh, yes, Larry Murphy before looking at him started instinctively making Kings fans sob.)

In return for Murphy, the Kings acquired Brian Engblom and Ken Houston from the Washington Capitals. Houston only played 33 games for the Kings. Engblom was mediocre for two and a half seasons. Poor player moves like this were common for the Kings for a long time. This is a franchise that began by giving away first-round picks so often that they didn’t see a first-round draft pick play in a Kings uniform until the team was 12 YEARS INTO ITS EXISTENCE.

M. Miracle On Manchester

You knew this one was coming. It’s touted as one of the greatest comebacks in hockey history, and it’s an early instance of how the Kings love being the scrappy, come-from-behind underdog.

Peep this video summary of everything, because it’s so, so, so ‘80s.

The scene: The Forum (on Manchester Blvd, natch). It’s 1982, Game 3 of a postseason series against the favored Edmonton Oilers. The Kings are down 5 at the end of the second, and the Oilers are straight up laughing at them. What’s a team to do?

Oh, yeah, rally and score five goals in the third period with the tying one squeaking in just five seconds before the period ends. What makes this all the more impressive is that all these goals weren’t scored by the superstars on the team but by character guys and rookies. One of those rookies was current Kings radio color commentator Daryl Evans. He scored the game-winning overtime goal, winning the Kings the game. They later won the series.

N. NHL Awards

Despite a reputation as one of the NHL teams who focus on drafting, grooming, and emphasizing defense, only one Kings defenseman has ever gotten the league’s top award for the position. Rob Blake won the Norris in 1998 after a 23-goal, 50-point season. This past year, his jersey number 4 was retired at Staples Center, the first Kings defenseman to receive that honor.

Blake’s Norris trophy was also the last time any Kings player has actually won a regular season trophy for on-ice performance and production. The Kings have had a lot of recent team success, but individuals tend to come up short on awards when compared to other NHLers. Current Kings captain Dustin Brown winning Mark Messier’s award for being Mark Messier’s favorite (pretty sure that’s what that award is about) doesn’t count the same way. Anze Kopitar has been nominated for the Selke twice, Drew Doughty for the Norris twice, and Jonathan Quick lost the Vezina to Henrik Lundqvist the year the Kings won their first cup.

(Love this segment. Jim Fox is supposed to be talking about Quick but just craps all over Brian Elliott at a certain point.)

That’s sort of the rub with the modern era of the Kings. Though successful and interesting on the ice, they never quite offer up the offensive flash other teams do, at least not consistently. It’s pretty easy to point at the on-ice numbers of yesteryear Kings players and see why they were great, but players now might not get the same individual praise outside of LA in the history books.

O. Outdoor Games

The first outdoor game between two NHL teams didn’t happen in Canada, didn’t happen in the cold. The year was 1991, and the LA Kings owned the New York Rangers in a 5-2 win in the Las Vegas desert, the way god intended hockey to be played. The Kings vs the Anaheim Ducks Stadium Series game in 2014 was easily the most unique of the outdoor lineup that year. And not to make it about baseball for a second, but no other outdoor intro can top Vin Scully introducing the Kings at Dodgers Stadium.

Then in 2015, the Kings-Sharks Stadium Series game… happened, but the Kings won that one, so it’s also great.

P. Pulford, Bob

Before Darryl Sutter, Bob Pulford was arguably the most consistently successful LA Kings coach in franchise history. The Kings made the postseason four consecutive times with him (‘74, ‘75, ‘76, ‘77) and they set the franchise record for standings points in 74-75, finishing the season with 105 points. He’s also Dean Lombardi’s father-in-law!!! How wild is that?!

Q. Quick, Jonathan

It has been approximately 93 days since hockey fandom’s last “Is Jonathan Quick elite?” incident, which means that here, in the dead of summer, we can take a break and say it doesn’t really matter. In 48 seasons the LA Kings have played 64 different goaltenders, and the season that Quick made his NHL debut, the Kings rotated through seven guys in net. Quick was never supposed to be the number one guy for this Kings era. Dean Lombardi drafted Jonathan Bernier to be LA’s next great hope, but timing and effort saw Quick get a real shot at starting first and  he just never really let it go.

In 2009, after Kings management and fans started to realize goaltending might not be a tire fire every night, Quick told LA Times writer Helene Elliott, "I am aware of the history, and it does mean a lot to think that maybe I could be the difference in how the history has played out."

Fast forward to 2011-12:

Quick
Quick

It’s fair to say by now that Quick is a good goaltender who has had one elite year, but what a year. He helped drag a very low-scoring team into the playoffs, stayed exciting and impressive through to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup win, and then revealed yet another talent: giving drunken, televised speeches!

He’s not putting up Henrik Lundqvist-type save percentages each season, but this foul-mouthed, hothead is now the Kings’ winningest goaltender and he brought stability to a team that was desperate for it.

R. Robitaille, Luc

LUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUC! He probably doesn’t need too much explaining, everyone already knows him from his role in (the amazing) film “Sudden Death,” right?

(Also featuring his glorious mullet.)

Or maybe from “D2: The Mighty Ducks”? “Bones”? “How I Met Your Mother”? That one San Manuel Casino commercial? For being dapper as all get out? He’s a regular pop culture icon.

Or, he might be known as a spectacular hockey player. He had 14 seasons with the Kings, holds the franchise record for goals with 557, holds the NHL record in goals and points for a left winger (668 and 1394 respectively), and has won two Stanley Cup championships with the team as President of Operations. His achievements have not gone unnoticed. His number has been retired by the Kings, he’s been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, and he’s forever immortalized in bronze thanks to a statue that sits outside of Staples Center.

LUC
LUC

Not too shabby for a ninth round pick.

S. Steve Bernier

Thanks for boarding Rob Scuderi and making him bleed in Game 6, Steve.

This definitely made up for the time Sean O’Donnell’s five-minute major allowed the Blues to score four goals and win game 3 in 1998. Well, this and the Kings sweeping the Blues on the road to the 2012 Final.

T. Triple Crown Line

Charlie Simmer, Marcel Dionne, and Dave Taylor first came together as a line in 1979. The combination was a mid-season decision by head coach Bob Berry that worked out way better than anyone predicted. At the end of the ‘79-80 season, Dionne won the Art Ross with 137-points. Simmer came in seventh among the league’s points leaders and Taylor ranked seventeenth. During 1980-81, the trio became the first line to have all three players score more than 100 points in the same season. The “Triple Crown Line” stayed one of the most fun, productive lines until 1984.

Injury-plagued seasons for Simmer and Taylor saw them take steps back, and eventually Simmer was traded to the Boston Bruins, ending the run.

At its height, the Triple Crown Line was beautiful. They managed to leave their mark on the NHL forever --

-- by recording the song “Forgive My Misconduct” under the name Marcel Dionne and the Puck-Tones in 1979, of course. Dionne, Taylor, and Simmer during a Kings event in 2009, but they failed to resurrect this masterpiece.

U. Uniform

When you’re based in LA, you’ve gotta look sharp. The Kings have been through a few fashion phases, but these are the notable ones.

Jack Kent Cooke wanted to elicit an air of royalty (and to match the Lakers colors), so the Kings burst out onto the scene in purple and gold. Cooke called it “Forum Blue” and “Forum Gold,” but again we all have eyeballs, and we all know that’s purple.

A new fresh face in 1988 means new threads for the Kings, and the silver and black era begins. If you think of this jersey and immediately and only picture Wayne Gretzky in it, you are not alone.

Wayne Gretzky
Wayne Gretzky

In 2008, the Kings changed it up to their current look. We don’t talk about the Burger King Jersey.

V. Vachon, Rogie

The Kings were still the new guys on the hockey scene in the 1970s, barely a blip on anyone’s radar, but the acquisition of Rogie Vachon changed all that.

Coming from the Montreal Canadiens, he had already won two Stanley Cup championships and a Vezina trophy. That was just the winning experience that the Kings needed to shake things up. He, along with coach Bob Pulford, led the Kings back into the playoffs, and to their most successful season to date. Their efforts that season were eventually squandered because Jack Kent Cooke is stubborn as hell and forced them all to play a back-to-back after a flight from Toronto. Trying to play a game while jet-lagged isn’t going to do anyone any good, and the Kings lost that series.

Vachon set countless Kings records (though Jonathan Quick has now swiped the title on quite a few of them), had his number retired with the Kings, and has flitted around in the Kings franchise for some time after retiring. He was general manager from 1984 to 1992, head coach for 10 games here and there, and is now serving as something the Kings call a royal ambassador. If this doesn’t involve crowns and limos and some sort of diplomatic hockey immunity, then Rogie, you’ve been had.

W. Wayne Gretzky Trade

People in Edmonton remember August 9, 1988 with anger and sadness, but Los Angeles fans felt pretty great about watching Wayne Gretzky cry as he said goodbye to the Oilers and hello to the Kings.

“The Trade” did not over well in Canada, to say the least. Gretzky was deemed a defector, effigies of Oilers owner Peter Pocklington were burned in front of the Coliseum, and there was a demand by a House Leader to block the trade. Dramatic much??? Can you just imagine President Obama ringing up Bowman in Chicago like, “Stan, my man, I’m going to have to veto this Sharp trade. It makes me unhappy. You understand.” We know hockey is very much a religion in Canada, but some separation of church and state, please.

Gretzky’s arrival in LA really inspired a city that wasn’t very hockey-oriented to pay attention, and hockey found a hold in a non-traditional market.

X. XVII

Speaking of hockey in Las Vegas, while everyone is worried about it happening there regularly, the Kings have been holding a preseason weekend game there since 1997. This year’s event, Frozen Fury XVII, might be one of the last with the NHL attempting to expand to that market. It’ll be weird since Kings players and fans have come to love making that trip and have gotten comfortable at the MGM Grand, though not as comfortable as Jarret Stoll.

Y. “Your heart doesn’t get tired.”

It was the quote that was heard throughout the Kings hockey community. Problematic Drew Doughty uttered this when describing the difference between physical and emotional fatigue after a grueling postseason game against the Chicago Blackhawks where he clocked 30+ minutes. We have a feeling he had flipped through a Chicken Soup For the Soul at some point and tucked that phrase away for the perfect moment, but maybe he came up with it on his own.

After all he is the wordsmith who trash talks like this:

Poetry?

Honestly, it’s really only worth discussing Doughty for us when we can simultaneously make fun of him. Good thing even people who work for the Kings agree that he’s a dummy.

Z. Zero to Three.

We would be remiss not to mention one of the Kings’ current rivals, the San Jose Sharks. They’re of course one of the teams that LA plays most during the season, and they’ve met in the postseason three times. Let’s go on a journey and recount the most special of those times:

Going into the 2014 postseason, it was really anyone’s guess as to who was going to come out of the first round between the Kings and Sharks. After the first two games of the series, the Sharks had outscored the Kings 13 to 5, and it was beginning to look like the Sharks were the favorites. When the Sharks won Game 3 in overtime, it really seemed that this might be the Sharks’ year crush LA and go far.

The Kings had something to say about that.

In the last 4 games, the Kings scored 18 goals to the Sharks 5. And with that, the Kings became the fourth team in NHL playoff history to come back from a 3-0 deficit and win the series. What an exciting and wonderful ride don’t you think?

Thornton
Thornton

Go. Kings. Go.

Meet the authors: Chanelle Berlin and Diane Phan created the THX BUD blog and podcast, focused on the LA Kings. They were both less than a year old when Wayne Gretzky came to Los Angeles, but everyone has flaws. Love on Anze Kopitar and Tyler Toffoli with them on Twitter: @thxbud.

Previous A to Z Guides: Anaheim | Arizona | Boston | Buffalo | Calgary | Carolina | Chicago | Colorado | Columbus | Dallas | Detroit | Edmonton | Florida