The year was 1986 when a trio of Kings rookies quickly became key components to the club’s offensive attack and won over the hearts of Kings fans.
Left wing Luc Robitaille, center Jimmy Carson and defenseman Steve Duchesne helped buoy the Kings attack despite their youth and inexperience. When the 1986-87 campaign concluded, Robitaille became the first Kings rookie to lead the team in scoring (84 points), Carson added 37 goals and 79 points and Duchesne chipped in with 13 goals and 38 points from the blue line.
Duche sne was the real question mark in 1986-87 because he had entered the organization as an undrafted defenseman the year before. “I remember I sent the Kings a letter two years earlier asking for a tryout,” recalled Duchesne. “It was the best 32 cents I ever spent. I remember at my first camp (1984) Kings GM Rogie Vachon told me he liked what he saw. I went back to juniors (Drummondville of the QMJHL) and had a great season and had that much more confidence in my game. I really felt like I could play and be comfortable at the pro level.”
Prior to making the Kings and the NHL for good, Duchesne spent the 1985-86 campaign with the Kings AHL affiliate in New Haven. The transition from junior hockey to the AHL and then the NHL appeared seamless for the Quebec native.
“It really helped me at the start in L.A. to have Luc and Jimmy as teammates,” said Duchesne. We all could relate to each other and the older players helped guide us through the year…especially Marcel Dionne. I remember as a rookie I didn’t play the season opener (a loss). Coach Pat Quinn told me after that game that I would play the next game. We beat the Islanders and I stayed in the lineup from that point on.”
As a 21-year old rookie Duchesne led the Kings defensemen in scoring, a distinction he would have for each of his first five seasons with the team.
“Steve’s biggest influence on our team was his ability to provide offense from the blue line,” recalled his fellow NHL rookie and teammate in 1986, Luc Robitaille. “He really helped change the way our team played with the puck. His movement and quickness was self evident from his first day with the team. Steve was always working on his quickness everyday in practice.”
Robitaille also credits Duchesne with giving the power play a different look.
“With Steve out on the power play, we could do a lot of things, especially when Wayne Gretzky arrived in 1988,” Robitaille added. “We had the ability to move the puck in and out and more importantly laterally with Steve on the point and Gretzky down low. It really caused havoc for the penalty killers.”
On the Kings all-time list for defensemen, Duchesne ranks second only to Rob Blake in points with 315. (Blake had 463 at the start of this season). He scored 98 goals and 216 assists during two stints in Los Angeles. Overall on the all-time Kings scoring list he ranks 14th.
Duchesne, retired since the 2001-02 season, now lives in Dallas with his wife Tracee and two children, daughter Dillon (12) and son Lake (11). He spends much of his time coaching youngsters in the Dallas Stars midget AAA program.
Originally printed in the Royal Reign.