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50 KINGS - Mike Corrigan

by Jeff Moeller / Los Angeles Kings

In 1967-68, the Kings began play. On that club was Mike Corrigan who appeared in five games.

He did not record a point for the start-up Kings that season in limited action. Five seasons later however he tallied 37 goals for LA, leading the team in that category while finishing third overall in points with 67 (trailing only Juda Widing and Serge Bernier).

Corrigan recently chatted with as our 50 KINGS series continues.

Q: From your NHL standpoint Mike you’re clearly identified more with the Kings than any other team. Take us back to 1967- 68…where were you in terms of your hockey career and all of a sudden you’re on this expansion team probably 3,000 miles from where you grew up?

A: Yeah, well what happened was I was in Toronto with the Marlboros and at that time I was 20 and they sent me to Rochester. Then with the expansion draft L.A. picked me up and from there I went to Springfield because I had burnt my hand that summer. I went to Springfield then I got called up when they opened the Forum and then I played there and then I came back and they sent me back to the playoffs in Springfield. Then I played again in L.A. back and forth and then I ended up in Vancouver.

Q: And after some time with the Canucks, what was it like to return to LA few years later to re-join the Kings?

A: I started playing well and I went to Vancouver and then that was arbitration and I scored 21 goals there and then I went to arbitration again and got traded back to L.A. the next year. From then on I played in L.A. from ’75-’76 and I broke my ankle in Pittsburgh in Christmas of ’77. I scored 37 goals and I had a great year, I led the team in penalty minutes and everything and we were getting Marcel Dionne so I went for a little higher money and I didn’t get it and they traded me to Pittsburgh. With all of this said, I played for the greatest organization I’ve ever played with. I thought Toronto was outstanding but Jack Kent Cooke and his family put L.A. on the map. I do not care, and you can quote me on this, when we went out for that anniversary in the mid-1990s, I told Jack Kent Cooke that all we hear about is Wayne -- and I love Wayne Gretzky don’t get me wrong -- but Jack Kent Cooke put L.A. on the map in the NHL.

Q: What are your memories of Mr. Cooke?

A: He built the Forum, he put all that money in. When we went out there do you know what we drove around with? We drove around with these dancers. He got these cars for us and we used to stay in the hotel with these dancers then he would get so much money from everybody that went in there and that’s how he raised the money for the Forum.

Q: Obviously the Toronto hockey market is unique unto itself…the self-proclaimed “Mecca of Hockey.” Suddenly you’re out here at age 22 in the sunshine. What was that like?

A: Well I was expecting a lot more after I played the first game. When I was playing for the Marlboros I was the leading scorer and Jim McKinney and I were co-MVP’s one year and like I said I was always in the top scoring in my league. We had 10,000-12,000 fans on Friday night and we sold out on Sunday. We were on TV. We always played in front of a lot of people. So when I went to L.A. we would play on Wednesday nights and get 6,500-7,500 fans. The crowds started to seem to get larger then I turned around to Red Kelly our coach and I said ‘What’s going on here?’ and he said ‘Shut up kid and play.” That’s what he said. It took a few years to get going but Jack always backed us up because he wanted the National Hockey League in L.A. and he built us up. He could have gotten different players then but because it was an expansion he had to wait a couple of years. It takes a while to climb up the ladder. I’ll tell you one thing, he wanted us to be part of the community. He was one of the great owners.

Q: You played parts of seven seasons and more than 400 games with LA so you do you define your time here in terms of winning and losing?

A: Well, we had great players, but remember at the start we only finished out of first by a couple points and then it was a build-up. It was up and down and they couldn’t stay consistent with the players. After that, that year it was ’76, or ’74-’75 where we took Boston to seven games. That team was one of the great teams -- we had no stars on it but everybody came to play. The year that really hurt us was the year before when Dan Maloney got hurt. We had the most solid team, that’s when we had the best of three and we lost in the third in L.A. by a goal. That team, if we could have gone on, Danny lost his father so he didn’t play the last two games and that was some of our toughness. Besides that it started to pick up after that year and we had 105 points.

Q: Did you feel those teams were supported well?

A: I think we had 28 sellouts and that’s when it started to pick up. Then I’d say about ’77-’78 it started picking up again. Then Wayne came in and things really picked up. It picked up I want to say about ’75-’76 when it really started to pick up. People were starting to play where I lived in the neighborhood cul-de-sac, kids were playing and they were bringing sticks home and playing hockey and it really picked up after that maybe five or six years later.

Q: How did your friends and family back home follow your career?

A: No, that was the killer. You know, they’d see you play in Toronto a lot and Montreal, that’s when they came to the games. If Toronto played in L.A. they’d watch the late game and all that. That was the thing, the exposure, at that time of playing on the west coast. Then our road trips, they were so long because they didn’t have it like it is today. You go up to Oakland and then you go to Vancouver and then you go to Colorado and then Minnesota and then come back. We used to go for 17 days on the road. People don’t realize that and the same thing in Vancouver when I played there. It was really similar. I enjoyed it however. I never thought I’d play in the National Hockey League. I played against great, great players and that’s why I think I appreciated it more.

Q: Is it fun to look back?

A: There was one time that I was going to quit. I had a bad groin for about four weeks and I had a knee injury and Johnny Wilson talked to me but Jack Kent Cooke said to me ‘Look, we want you on this hockey team, but we don’t like quitters. We want people to come in here… You love L.A. you tell me, your family loves it, you got a good family -- I had two girls at the time. You love it here? We want you.” And I’ll tell you what, that summer I went home and I worked my tail off and I scored 37 the next year. That’s one of my great stories. And my last story is when Jack Kent Cooke went to the Washington Redskins he never used to sit in the box with his team in there and I sent him a letter congratulating him on how his team was doing and everything and like a month later I got this letter and he’s telling me of all the great times we had in L.A. and ‘Why don’t you come down to my box, I’ll pay for your trip and everything.’ Well, me being as stubborn as I was, I can’t do that. Overall I was very proud to play in L.A. -- I have to say that.

Special Thanks – Vanessa Atler

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