When a couple celebrates a 50th wedding anniversary, there are two primary subjects involved: each half of the couple. There may be secondary subjects like, children, extended family, and family friends, but most of the history is contained within two people who likely have endless factoids and innuendos on each other and their relationship.
An entire organization’s 50th anniversary is not nearly as contained – or really not contained at all – as there are literally thousands of primary subjects, and probably hundreds of thousands more secondary subjects.
READ: 50 Years Ago Today
As the LA Kings begin their 50th Anniversary Celebration, we’re reminded of just how much history there is, how rich a culture has been created over the last five decades, and how wonderfully overgrown this family has gotten. And where there’s family, there are secrets.
READ: 50 Years Of Building
The following is a tiny collection of ‘family secrets,’ things that probably wouldn’t be found in record books, on stat sheets, or using GOOGLE. They come from the personal collections of various parts of the Kings family that have spanned the entire 50 years, and are the threads that are woven together to create the fabric of the Kings’ existence, which now includes two Stanley Cup Championships.
* Former Kings Coach, Roger Neilson, would bring his dog, Mike, with him to The Forum, and Mike would hang out in the parking lot, unleashed, until Neilson came out. One game night, Mike, perhaps lonely, made his way down the tunnel ramp, past security, and showed up on the bench during the game, lying down behind Neilson. (Courtesy: Pete Demers, former head athletic trainer, 34 years with the Kings)
* The Kings were granted their franchise on February 9, 1966 – the first future Kings player to be born after this date was Luc Robitaille, who was born on February 17, 1966. (Bob Borgen, various roles in production/communications, 43 years)
* Mike Murphy’s wife, Yvonne, used to sing the national anthem before Kings home games in the 70s. (Ian Turnbull, former player, one year and active alumni member)
* In 1988 when Wayne Gretzky was traded to the Kings, the team had just changed over to the black and silver uniforms. A blank white jersey with an unattached crest was all the team had. After the trade, Harvey Boles, the director of merchandising, and Bob Halfacre, who creates all the Kings jerseys, put together the now famous Gretzky jersey for the press conference. The gray lettering, although difficult to read, was chosen because executives felt that black lettering would too much resemble the jerseys of the then Los Angeles Raiders. It was later changed. (Bob Halfacre, current equipment staff member, 29 years)
* When the Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2012, there were three people that had been part of both first Southern California Stanley Cup Championship teams – the Ducks in 2007 and the Kings in 2012: former Kings player, Dustin Penner; current Kings director of game presentation and events, Brooklyn Boyars; and former Kings Ice Crew member, Jennifer Edgar. All three were with the Ducks in 2007 and then the Kings in 2012. (Brooklyn Boyars, eight years)
* One night, former Kings coach, Pat Quinn, had a water balloon dropped on his head out of a hotel window by one of his players. The next day in a team meeting, Quinn told his players: “I hope I never find out who dropped that balloon because if I do, God help you.” (Pete Demers)
* During their playoff series on April 18, 2001, the Kings came back from a 3-0 deficit against the Red Wings when they scored in overtime to win 4-3. A play on the famous ‘Miracle on Manchester,’ the game was dubbed ‘The Frenzy on Figueroa’ by Bill Plunkett, a writer from the Orange County Register. (Elliott Teaford, Los Angeles News Group, five years covering the Kings)
* Steve Carlson, one of the famous Hanson Brothers from the movie ‘Slap Shot,’ played for the Kings during the 1979-80 season. (Pete Weber, former broadcaster, three years)
* The 1990-91 season was the first season recorded music was played during stoppages of play at Kings home games. The recorded music was played from cassette tapes. Prior to that, the only music heard at whistle breaks was played live on the organ. (Dieter Ruehle, current organist, 20 years)
* Prior to the first ever LA Kings practice in Southern California, the team arrived following a pre-season game in St. Louis the night before. The team was greeted by a high school marching band, and group of fans who called themselves the Kings Court. That first practice took place at the Long Beach Ice Arena – there were no pucks at first because the pucks were the first thing to arrive at the arena weeks before the team and were subsequently buried by the rest of the equipment that followed. When the pucks were finally retrieved, each shot turned aside by goalies Terry Sawchuk or Wayne Rutledge ended up in the seats and someone had to run to get it and throw it back on the ice. (Jiggs McDonald, former broadcaster, five years)
* Former Kings goalie, Glenn Healy played the Scottish bagpipes and once accompanied Paul McCartney during a concert in Toronto. (Bob Borgen)
* The old Kings alternate jersey, now commonly known amongst the fan base as ‘The Burger King jersey’ was originally black. It was changed to white when the owner at the time, Joseph Cohen, wanted the jerseys to be worn at home. The change led to a delay in production that caused the jerseys to be delivered the Friday morning before the Saturday debut. (Bob Halfacre)
* Nancy Ashworth was the first female to sit at the official scorer’s table for the Kings. She managed the arena’s message boards. (Nancy Ashworth, DAK board operator, still active)
* Former Kings goalie, Gary Simmons, was injured and was putting on some extra weight, much to the dismay of the GM at the time, George Maguire. Maguire ordered Simmons to ride the stationary bike for at least 50 miles each day and stay at the rink all day working out. Not big on fitness, Simmons spent most of his time each day in the engine room drinking coffee with Scotty, the engineer. Maguire would come down each day and check the mileage on the bike. When Simmons got worn out every day, Scotty would hook the electric drill up to the odometer to run the miles up. (Pete Demers)
* Former Kings players Dale Rolfe and Wayne Rutledge were teammates during the 1967-68 season and were also brothers-in-law. (Bob Borgen)
* An excerpt from Jack Kent Cooke’s letter to NHL Executives on June 25, 1979, declaring the end of his ownership of the Kings: “Twelve years ago I reached one of the peak’s of my life’s ambition: The ownership of a National Hockey League franchise. I was proud to be chosen, and through the years I have taken great pride in my association with the sportsmen who are, in essence, the NHL. My passion for hockey dates from the time I was about five years of age (a hell of a long time ago) and to this day it remains as strong as it was then. I believe it will comfort me for the rest of my days.” (Pete Weber)
* The 1991-92 season was the first season that there were video boards at The Forum. Before that, there was only a message board that allowed for two lines of text. (Dieter Ruehle)
* Hall of Famer Luc Robitaille never wore the number 20 growing up – he wore numbers 7 and 15. He was given the number 20 upon making the team – he happened to be 20 years old and it was the Kings’ 20th anniversary. (Luc Robitaille, former player, current president of business operations, 23 years)
* The puck Daryl Evans used to score the ‘Miracle on Manchester’ goal is currently in the possession of his parents. (Daryl Evans, former player, current radio analyst, 21 years)
* When the Kings uniforms were being redesigned to black and purple, current owner, Philip Anschutz, requested that the uniform say “Los Angeles” somewhere on it. At that time, the colors were very close to being black and bright cobalt blue, rather than purple. (Bob Halfacre)
* Former Kings player, Ted Irvine, had a son who became a famous WWF/WWE wrestler under the name of Chris Jericho. (Bob Borgen)
* Brad Sholl, the current general manager of Toyota Sports Center, the Kings practice facility, was used as a practice goalie for the Kings under former coach, Andy Murray. Sholl had minor league hockey experience, and due to illness and injuries, was on the Kings main training camp roster for two consecutive years at the age of 40. (Brad Sholl, 14 years)
* The custom acrylic case that was used to lower the Stanley Cup eight stories down from the rafters to the ice as part of the 2014-15 Opening Night festivities still resides mounted in a hidden place inside STAPLES Center in honor of the Kings second Stanley Cup Championship. (Brooklyn Boyars)
* Former Kings players Mike Murphy, Vic Venasky and Daryl Evans were all brothers-in-law in the 70s and early 80s when they married three sisters from Southern California. (Bob Borgen)
* When the Kings traded for Paul Coffey in 1992, the trade was happening on a day where the Kings would fly to Edmonton following practice. Jersey creator Bob Halfacre was asked to leave practice to go to his shop and make up a Coffey jersey to take to Edmonton. There was not enough time to get the jersey back to the equipment truck before it departed for the airport, so Halfacre had to bring it to the players’ bus, which traveled about 20 minutes behind the truck. Trainer Pete Demers, with the help of the coaches, tried to delay the bus without looking suspicious, as the trade had yet to be finalized, and the players couldn’t be tipped off. After driving like crazy through Culver City, Halfacre pulled up behind the bus, the Coffey jersey packed a paper grocery bag to avoid suspicion. Halfacre ran into the bus, handed the bag to Demers, and as he did so, saw Wayne Gretzky wink at him. Gretzky and Coffey were best friends…maybe he knew? (Bob Halfacre)
These mini-stories are barely the tip of the iceberg. The Kings have only just begun their 50th anniversary commemoration, so who knows what other secrets can be dug up in the coming year? Gear up for a golden celebration!