The LA Kings' final regular season game at the Forum wasn't much to write home about. Although it was the bookend to more than three decades on Manchester Avenue, it certainly didn't feel that way on April 18, 1999 when the Kings hosted the Blues.
After trailing St. Louis 3-0 for most of the contest, the Kings mustered two goals in the final frame, but it was too little, too late. When the buzzer sounded, the final score was 3-2.
However, it wouldn't be the last time they took the ice at the Forum.
The following season, the Kings first game in STAPLES Center was not scheduled until October 20, 1999, which meant that the team's preseason home games would be played in Inglewood.
While the Kings fizzled in their last regular season game at the Forum, the concluding contest would see them go out with a bang.
On September 20, 1999, the Kings hosted their regional rivals, the Mighty Ducks, for the final Freeway Faceoff in the fabulous Forum. In what turned out to be a game to remember, the Kings trounced the Ducks 8-1 in a fight-filled victory.
Although it might have been the preseason, the two teams had developed a fierce competition and neither club was going to take the matchup lightly.
Kings defenceman Jaroslav Modry remembers how tough both lineups were that night. "The game was a lot more physical, especially in the preseason when you tried to set the tone and lots of guys were trying to make the team. The physical factor of the game was much higher," he recalled.
Bringing an element of intimidation to the lineup was certainly not overlooked by the Kings' rookie head coach, Andy Muray. "They dressed some toughness and we dressed some toughness," he reflected.
Since it was the team's last game in the Forum, Murray wanted to ensure that the club was not going to be pushed around. "I just remember the emotion in the game and how both benches were fired up," he said.
Despite the intensity in the building, the first period was pretty quiet. The Kings scored late in the frame and adjourned to the dressing room with a 1-0 lead.
When the game resumed, the Kings scored two quick goals early into the second period, and then added four more, heading into the second intermission with a 7-0 advantage.
With the Ducks all but out of it, things, however, took a turn in the final period. After Mighty Ducks star Teemu Selanne went down in a heap by the boards with Kings blueliner Aki Berg, the Ducks' bench was incensed by what they felt was a bad hit. Modry believes that's what lit the fuse.
"They felt like it was a cheap shot on one of their better players and they went after one of our better players," he said.
While Selanne got stitched up for a cut he sustained near his mouth, his hardnosed teammate Stu Grimson retaliated by roughing up Ziggy Palffy. From there, things escalated. "It was still preseason but you tried to set the tone and protect your best players," Modry explained.
As a scuffle ensued on the ice, tempers flared on the bench.
"Craig Hartsburg and I started jawing back and forth a little bit," Murray recalled. "Between the benches at the Forum, there was nothing between them. Just the glass and you could walk behind them. So we were eye to eye at the benches. Just not a smart thing to be doing as a leader of a team, but it just kind of felt that we weren't necessarily going to accept that."
For the next faceoff, Murray remembers putting one of his tougher players, Steve McKenna, out onto the ice. "I think Steve took a shot at Selanne as payback," he reflected. "I coached Teemu in Winnipeg, and we're friends, but it's business. And then I think there was a bit of a scuffle again."
By the end of the third period, six separate fights erupted. Rob Blake was among those ejected, and Selanne received a game misconduct for swinging his stick at several Kings. When the dusted settled, the officials had dished out 149 penalty minutes.
Although the preseason game may have gotten out of control, Modry believes it helped set the tone for the club that campaign.
"We had a tight team and there was lots of character," he described. "We were still in that rebuilding process and finding our identity as a team. It was a good character builder for us coming into the season," he elaborated.
For the 12,559 faithful who attended the final game at the Forum, it was the end of an era but also a preview of things to come.
That high-scoring, physical contest wasn't simply an aberration, but it set the tone for the rest of the season, as the Kings finished the 1999-00 campaign among the top five in both goals for and hits.