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50 Forgotten Stories: Bob Miller & Roy Storey

If it was not for Roy Storey, Bob Miller would have been the voice of the LA Kings for 45 years

by Sheng Peng @Sheng_Peng / LAKings.com

This was Bob Miller's 44th year as the LA Kings broadcaster, but it could have been his 45th.

In April 1972, Lakers announcer Chick Hearn, who was charged with finding a replacement for Jiggs McDonald by owner Jack Kent Cooke, recommended Miller for the job.

Shortly thereafter, Miller learned that Los Angeles was going with Roy Storey.

The Hall of Famer recounted in his memoir Tales from the Los Angeles Kings, "I later found out that Cooke always had to let you know he was in charge. If you came to him with three persons to hire and you picked one, he would pick another just to show you he was the boss. That was what happened to Chick." 

Storey lasted just one season in LA before he was fired.

So what was the story ... with Roy Storey? 

***

John Wolf, who passed away last December, wore many hats for the Kings in his four-plus decades with the organization.

"He just had trouble getting along with everybody," Wolf said of Storey.

"It was kind of a personality problem with coaches and players and other members of the broadcast crew. It just didn't work out.

"His personality just didn't fit."

Storey has also passed away. But Len Shapiro, Executive Director of the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame, was happy to speak on his long-time friend's behalf.

"It was a difficult time for him.

"There were some promises made that Bob Miller was going to get the job. And then they gave it to Roy.

"And then there was a lot of internal combustion, internal problems."

While Shapiro wasn't privy to any conflicts with coaches or players, Storey did not get along with his partner Dan Avey or Hearn, who had Cooke's ear.

"They were not friends, let's put it that way.

"They found out he was a little irritable and had his way of doing things. I think Dan Avey didn't like that.

"[Roy] sometimes would get on kicks and not be very flexible."

Bob Berry, who skated for the 1972-73 Kings, does not think there was any specific incident between Storey and the locker room. But regardless, it wasn't a smooth fit.

"He didn't seem to want to get into the group. Like if you're going out for dinner, [Roy wouldn't come out].

"Intentionally or unintentionally, he separated himself from the group. I don't know why.

"He wasn't a bad person or anything like that. He just didn't seem to get along with everybody.

"He wasn't personable, I guess."

While this discord didn't help, Berry doesn't believe it had much bearing with Storey's eventual release. But the future Kings coach also remembers that the front office wasn't happy either.

"I know he pissed [GM Larry Regan] off a few times with some of the things he said."

Perhaps most telling, Storey was maybe too close (but not close enough) to the unpopular Cooke.

"He once told me he took direction from Jack Kent Cooke," Shapiro recalls. "He got along with Cooke, but Cooke was getting so much pressure from the other guys, they had to make a change."

***

"But his broadcasts were always top-notch," asserts Shapiro, who originally worked with Storey in the '60s.

"Both guys deserved the job. It's unfortunate how it worked out. Bob is a great broadcaster. Roy was a great broadcaster."

At the time, Storey was more established locally than the Midwest-based Miller. He had previously called the San Francisco 49ers, 1960 Winter Olympics, and California Golden Seals.

"He sold the enthusiasm of hockey. That was his big passion, to sell the thrill of hockey.

"He knew what he was. He knew he was a salesman."

Storey is best-remembered for catchphrases like "Shot on goal!" and "Frozen puck!"

But few knew how much he suffered for his work. Perhaps even Avey and Hearn didn't realize the full extent. 

In 1957, the bespectacled broadcaster got into a car accident, injuring his head.

"Unbeknownst to me, a tumor started growing," said Storey in 1972. "It got so big it started pressing on the nerves that control the left side of my body.

"During the Western League playoffs in 1963, I had five attacks. All after games. I was driving across the Bay Bridge when I got the last one.

"I got home, somehow, and called my doctor. He called a neurosurgeon and 24 hours later they operated. They said if I'd waited another day I wouldn't have lived. As it was, they thought I'd be blind and paralyzed.

"I came out of it all right. My left side was numb but I could use it. Then, about three weeks later, it froze up again. They had to do another operation. Blood clot. They were racing to beat the clot to my head. If they didn't, I was dead.

"I beat that one, too, but two weeks later I froze up again. They found out I had a staph infection. Now they really thought I was gone.

"The San Francisco Chronicle had an obituary ready to run." (Maher, Charles. "New Announcer for Kings Used to Skating on Thin Ice." Los Angeles Times, July 22, 1972.)

Storey beat it all, which included re-learning how to walk. But his health problems persisted.

Shapiro guesses, "They kind of didn't know that Roy had a stroke and had problems with his body." The pain medication that Storey had to take probably didn't help his agreeability much.

"It probably affected his whole body. No question. It might have affected his mind too."

Shapiro, who enjoyed working with Storey, recalls, "There were some games, he just had to stop, and take a deep breath. He was probably in some kind of pain.

"And I knew that he was suffering. I saw him in pain. But he didn't let that stop him.

"That's the amazing part, that he would continue to broadcast. And he did a great job."

***

"I heard they weren't happy [with Storey]," says Miller, who was announcing for the University of Wisconsin. "I didn't know if they were going to make a change.

"I sent Chick more material, tapes and things, didn't say I hear you're unhappy with the choice. I just said, 'In case anything opens up, I'm still interested in the job.'"

In another turn, right before Miller was finally set to sign with the Kings that summer, the Pittsburgh Penguins offered him their play-by-play position:

"I decided to tell Chick about this development.

"'Bob, you've got to give the Penguins a call and listen to their offer,' he said calmly to my surprise. 'Don't ever ignore someone else's offer of a job. If it's better than the Kings' offer, take it, but if it's similar, I think you'll be happier here.'

"I called Pittsburgh and the offer was not nearly as good as the Kings.

"I signed my contract for $22,000 and basked in the Los Angeles sun."

***

After Los Angeles, Storey basked in the sun too, about 400 miles north.

"Everybody knew him as Uncle Roy," Shapiro says of the Bay Area hockey broadcasting legend.

Storey never worked the NHL again, concentrating on local sports.

"I don't think he wanted to move. His roots were here."

Storey passed away on April 17, 2011.

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Sheng Peng is a freelance hockey writer based out of Los Angeles, California. He covers the LA Kings and Ontario Reign for HockeyBuzz. His work has also appeared on VICE Sports, The Hockey News, and SB Nation's Jewels from the Crown.

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