Jimmy Peters played for the Kings from 1968-74 after initially breaking into the League with the Detroit Red Wings.
The former forward played in more than 300 career NHL games and, ironically, wore three different jersey numbers with the Kings – 8, 18 and 12 – and thee different numbers with the Wings – 21, 25 and 11.
Peters recently answered these questions as part of our 50 KINGS series – in honor of our 50th Anniversary -- at LAKings.com:
LAKings.com: You played parts of nine seasons in the NHL with two different teams. The second year of the LA Kings, you joined this expansion team. First and foremost, talk a little but about how you ended up in LA with the Kings.
Peters: Well, going back, I played junior in Hamilton, Ontario – that was Detroit’s junior team in the OHL – and I turned pro in Detroit. That year, before I got traded to the Kings, I was a forward and I got off to a really good start individually. They brought me up and I played the rest of the year in Detroit. Then the next year at training camp, I could see that I wasn’t going to play with the parent team. Even in the training camp, I wasn’t really even practicing with them. So I went in and talked to Sid Abel, who was the coach and GM of the Red Wings, and asked him if he would consider trading me. He said, “I’ll see what I can do.” So I went home. We were training in Port Huron, Michigan, and I only lived about an hour from there. Anyways, low and behold I got traded to the Kings for Terry Sawchuk. Ironically, Terry played with my dad with the Red Wings years before.
LAKings.com: Was it tough to leave Detroit on a personal level?
Peters: We lived outside of Detroit, my dad finished his career in Detroit, and we settled in Detroit. I actually played a lot of my minor hockey there. Terry and I both lived north of Detroit on a lake, out of District 10. Terry lived on the next lake over. Frequently, Terry would come to our house when I was a teenager, so it’s kind of ironic that I got traded for him. That’s basically what happened. I could tell you I heard I was supposed to go to Springfield. When I got traded at the end of October – it was near the end of training camp – I met the team, LA, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Red Kelly was the coach. They were playing an exhibition game against the Canadian National Team, and I played that night. Anyway, they ended up keeping me thanks to Red Kelly, who I had great respect for as a coach and as a person. He was a wonderful guy. Anyways, that’s how I got to the team.
LAKings.com: You mentioned your dad, what was his career like in the NHL?
Peters: His name was Jimmy Peters as well. My dad was a much, much better player than I was. He played nine years in the NHL from the mid-40s to the mid-50s, and actually played on three Stanley Cup teams: one with Montreal and two with Detroit. He also played with Boston. This was in the Original Six. He played with Montreal, Boston, Detroit, and Chicago, and ended up his career in Detroit.
LAKings.com: And you aren’t the only member of your family to play for the Kings, right?
Peters: Yes, my cousin, his name was Glen Currie. Glen is younger than I am, he’s from Montreal, and he was actually Mike Bossy’s center in junior. I think Glen was a second-round draft pick, and he had some years with the Washington Capitals. His career was actually very similar to mine. Glen ended up getting traded to the Kings near the end of his career. I think he only played about 12 games for the Kings as he was injured. But he did play for the Kings, yes.
LAKings.com: Hearing the news that the league was expanding from six teams to 12 teams must have been great news for you. How excited were you?
Peters: Thrilled. I think I played four or five games for Detroit when it was still six teams. Without question, if it hadn’t been for the league expanding to 12 teams, I probably would have never had played much in the NHL. Not that I had a long career anyways but it gave a lot of players like me, who were very average players with very average ability, the opportunity to play in the NHL. In fact, guys who played on the Kings like Billy White -- Billy White, for example, went on to have a very long and very, very good career in the NHL – it was ideal. I remember playing pre-expansion in the Old Central Professional League, which was really a development league, and we would be playing the Houston Apollos – that was Montreal’s farm team – and they had numerous players on that team who ended up playing in the NHL and had long and very, very good careers. For example, Jacques Lemaire is one who comes to mind, and Serge Savard. All these guys were tremendous players who were in the minors. Certainly, it gave guys like me the opportunity to play in the NHL, and I was really grateful for that, so I was really happy that the league was expanding.
LAKings.com: You were born in Montreal, your father played in the NHL, you break in with an Original Six team, the famous Detroit Red Wings, and then suddenly you’re in Los Angeles, California of all places. As an NHL player – I don’t want to say culture shock – what was it like when you joined the Kings as you look back now?
Peters: It was really different. I can tell you now, being older, I really had a difficult time in Detroit because I was awe-struck. I had grown up in Detroit, I played with players who had played with my dad and they knew me from being a little kid. I couldn’t handle it. It was emotionally really tough for me, playing in Detroit. So it was a welcome change going to LA. It was a culture shock, being in sunny Southern California. In Detroit everything was hockey. Those first few years with the Kings, we were in the sports pages, but we were on page five. I remember that first year we were there, we were at practice out in Burbank, and we would jump in cars and go out there and practice and come back. Then later on, we would practice in Culver City. Rarely did we practice in the Forum. It was a culture shock, for sure, coming to LA, but it was a really great thing for me. I met my wife in LA, and we are still married after all of these years. I met her when I was playing for the Kings. It was very different.
LAKings.com: What about the atmosphere playing at the Forum?
Peters: There was a really hard-core fan support. We probably averaged nine or 10 thousand people a game. I think the Forum seated around 16,000, so there were a lot of empty seats. Of course, when Boston and Montreal would come into town, the crowds would be bigger. But there were some really devoted fans. A lot of people from Canada, or places like Minnesota, who had moved out to California and were hockey people. So there were some really good fans in the Forum. It was a beautiful building in those days. They called it “The Fabulous Forum.”
LAKings.com: How great was Rogie Vachon?
Peters: I played a couple of years with Rogie. He was a tremendous goaltender. He didn’t really have the exposure of some other top goalies from around the NHL. The top guys in those first few years with the Kings were Eddie Joyal and Billy Flett -- they were kind of the top guns -- and Juha Widing was a really great player who came from the Rangers. One of the things that was really difficult in LA was in those days you had California Golden Seals, and then you had the Kings. Then while I was still playing there Vancouver came into the league. That was before Calgary or Edmonton. The next closest place was Minnesota, the North Stars, so we used to go on long trips. We went on some awful trips where we would be gone for two weeks, and then come back and play. I’ll tell you what was tough: to be on a road trip for two weeks, get in at nine at night, and then play the next day at the Forum. That was tough. We did not have a great schedule. Oakland suffered as well, having to go back East all the time. It was very difficult those first few years.
LAKings.com: You played with Butch Goring too. Can you talk about him?
Peters: I can tell you a story about Butch, and you can correct me if I’m wrong, but Butch was not a high draft pick. Butch was a little guy as you know. We used to train in Barrie, Ontario, and then after those first couple of years we went to British Columbia and trained. I think I played my first year in LA and we were in Barrie. Then Butch came along, and I may be wrong here, but I remember they had all the rookies playing in training camp. I was sitting there and watching, and I saw Butch Goring and I said, “Wow, this kid is going to be a really good player.” He was an outstanding player. I actually sat next to him in the locker room. I was in the corner and right next to me was Butch. Anyway, he was a terrific player with a lot of heart, and could do everything. He checked well and could score goals, and really had a lot of heart to go along with his tremendous ability. He wanted to win. He was a very good player.
LAKings.com: Obviously your career ultimately comes to an end at the NHL level with the Kings. You came up a Red Wing, but you played about 80 percent of your career with the Kings, so you obviously must have great pride in watching the success of the team in recent years in grabbing that elusive Stanley Cup, right?
Peters: Yeah, absolutely. We didn’t even come close. The one year I played there – it used to be the West would play the East for the Finals – we played Oakland and beat them. Then we played St. Louis and they beat us four straight. Had we beaten St. Louis we would have played for the Stanley Cup against Boston, but Boston beat St. Louis four straight. So we weren’t even close. So, yeah, it was really great to see the success that the Kings have had in recent years. I think hockey has gotten bigger anyway. When I first started, 97 percent of the players were Canadian. Eventually more Americans came in and then I remember the Europeans coming. When I first started, it was mostly Canadians, so it really has taken off. It was great. I loved to see the Kings win the Cup.
LAKings.com: Can you let us know what you have done since retiring from hockey?
Peters: I can tell you after I retired in ‘75-’76, I played on a Calder Cup team in ’74-’75, and that was my last year playing with the Kings. I didn’t think I was ever going to come back. I got sent down around Christmas one year, and I went to Portland. Bobby Pulford was the coach, and I knew it was coming. I’m going off on a bit of a tangent here, but I’ll get back to your question. We were practicing in Culver City, and I hadn’t played much at all, and I kind of knew it was coming, and the assistant trainer was in the room. Bobby Pulford and I were the only ones in the dressing room and the assistant trainer, Danny Wood came in and told me.
LAKings.com: Danny passed a few months ago.
Peters: Did he really? That’s too bad. Danny and I were actually roommates in an apartment for a while. Anyway, he told Danny to scram, and I knew it was coming. He was really hurting when he told me that they had to send me down. I really believed him. He told me it was one of the hardest things he has ever had to do. He was genuinely emotional about it. So I got sent down, and I thought that was the last of it, and for the most part it was. Anyway, we had Springfield and they brought me up for three games. I just killed some penalties, and then I went back. We won the Calder Cup, which was really a thrill. I was the oldest guy on the team other than the goalie. Then I ended my career in Fort Worth. We went out to Flagstaff, Arizona. At that time we didn’t have any children. To make a long story short, through a contact I coached at a club team there and got tuition and finished my degree. Now I am retired, but I have a part-time job dealing with auto parts just for something to do and to make a few bucks, but I’m basically retired. We have bought a home in New Hampshire, not very far from the prep school I worked at. Both our boys work up in the Burlington, Vermont area, so that pretty much brings you up to where I’m at.
Special Thanks: Julie Takakjian
More pieces on former Kings players as we celebrate our 50th Anniversary: