Los Angeles Kings defenseman Matt Greene remembers the moment well. It was June 29, 2008, and he was in the Minneapolis Airport heading home to Michigan when he received a phone call that would change his life, and ultimately help shape the direction of the Kings franchise and help establish the foundation of a Stanley Cup winning team.
“I was flying home and I had a quick layover. I got a call from [former Edmonton Oilers General Manager] Kevin Lowe and as I was literally getting on the plane, he told me that they traded me to LA.”
Seconds later, with the plane about to take off, Greene’s phone lit up with a 310 number that had (now former) Kings Assistant General Manager Ron Hextall on the other end, officially telling him he was a King.
Over the course of his nearly two and a half hour flight, Greene ran through the gamut of emotions, thinking about all the details of the deal that sent him and good friend and teammate Jarret Stoll to Los Angeles in exchange for the talented defenseman, Lubomir Visnovsky.
“At first when it happened, obviously I was disappointed,” Greene said. “You go from something you know and are used to, to then being uprooted. But, now it is obvious that it is the best thing that ever happened to me in my career.”
Stoll, the other key member of the deal acquired by the Kings, was already ahead of the game. The native of Melville, Saskatchewan, had been spending his offseason in the Los Angeles area, working out and relaxing near the beach.
“I got the call from Kevin Lowe and he asked if I was in LA,” Stoll said. “I said yes and then he said that I could stay there – that the Oilers had traded me and Greener to LA.”
It was a bittersweet moment for Stoll, who along with Greene were a part of the 2005-06 Oilers club that reached the Stanley Cup Final and lost to Carolina in seven games.
“We had some good memories in Edmonton,” Stoll said. “We had some good seasons. It was a lot of fun. It was very close to family and friends and where I grew up, so that was a positive. But then I thought of all the positives of coming to LA and being a King, I was so excited. They had a great young core at the time, a lot of the guys that are still here today.”
That winning experience and mentality both Stoll and Greene possessed was a major factor in the Kings making the deal, adding two positive leadership voices to a dressing room full of young, talented players like Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty.
“You could see the pieces coming together,” Greene said. “Obviously, you could see the talent that was here, it was just a matter of when it would click and it was awesome that it did that fast. I was excited to be a big part of the program moving forward here and the opportunity to make it our own.”
Stoll has always been a leader both on the ice and off, and he knew that was expected to be a huge part of his job upon arrival in LA. It was a part of the job he has excelled at with the Kings for the past five-plus years.
“I’m not going to change who I am,” Stoll said. “I knew that when Greener and I got here, what the organization and us wanted to accomplish was just to change the culture and change the attitude and make this a place where we expected to win, where we didn’t just think about it, we went out and did it.”
Of course, both of them helped the Kings do that memorably in 2012, playing a key and dramatic role in returning to the Final and eventually securing the Stanley Cup for the Kings. Stoll scored the series-winning goal in overtime to clinch the Kings upset victory over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 5 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals, and his longtime friend and carpool buddy Greene fittingly closed out the Kings playoff scoring with the last goal in the Kings 6-1 Game 6 Stanley Cup clinching win.
The two have been able to experience it all—including helping to change the direction of an entire franchise together, something they both enjoy thinking about.
“It was huge – huge being here with Stolly,” Greene said. “From the start, he was already living in Hermosa Beach and knew the area. We were already good friends from Edmonton, so being here together has helped us out both a ton over the years. I think we have both leaned on each other a lot.”
Stoll agreed. “It is great. We were close in Edmonton, but obviously are really good friends now. We live 10 houses away from each other, we carpool to games together and we both spend the whole year here in the offseason. It has worked out well for us. We love the area where we live. We’ve got great support there and great friends. There is not one negative about it. LA is a great place to play, and I know we are both glad to be Kings.”
As Stoll and Greene (who is currently injured) help lead the way in an attempt to win another championship, every Kings fans feels the same way.