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From a Miracle to the Radio Booth: Part One

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings

Editor's Note: This is part one of a two-part feature on Daryl Evans, the next Kings player to be enshrined as part of the franchise's Legends Night Series. Evans will be honored on January 2nd.

Kings winger Daryl Evans had just received a 10-minute misconduct penalty, the Kings trailed 5-2 and less than 10 minutes remained in the third period of the playoff game. Time to unlace the skates, right?

"When we got tossed out the game, a couple guys and I, it was, 'Should we get undressed?'" Evans recalled this week. "We decided, 'No, let’s hang out. You never know.' I remember just undressing to the waist and just kind of kicking back and relaxing."

Then, the miraculous happened. That night at the Forum, April 10, 1982, the Kings scored a third goal against the Edmonton Oilers. Then a fourth. Then a game-tying fifth. At the start of overtime, in Game 3 of that first-round series, Evans was free to return, and created one of the best moments in franchise history.

Two minutes, 35 seconds, into that overtime, Evans scored. The Kings had rallied from a 5-0 deficit to win 6-5 in a game that would be tagged as the 'Miracle on Manchester." The Kings won the series in five games, and the clip of Evans scoring on a slap shot, then racing to the far end of the ice in celebration, would become one of the league’s most iconic highlights over the next three decades.

On Jan. 2, the Kings will honor Evans, as part of their "Legends Night" series, with a pregame ceremony. Evans is remembered mostly for the "Miracle" game, but his life has been a series of successes.

After a six-year NHL career, Evans played briefly in Italy and England. He became a record-setting car salesman. He oversaw sales of premier seats when STAPLES Center opened. He was the first general manager of the Kings’ practice rink in El Segundo. Then, Evans’ quixotic journey brought him back to hockey. For the past 13 years, he has served as Nick Nickson’s partner on the Kings’ radio broadcasts.

What’s less known about Evans is the work he puts in away from his job. A tireless ambassador for the Kings and the sport, Evans can be found, on a near-daily basis, running clinics or participating in charity events. His wrist is filled with silicone bands in honor of various charities. He’s been known to get home from a road trip at 2 a.m., speak at a school at 8 a.m. and do interviews at Kings practice around noon.

"I enjoy reaching out to the community," Evans said. "There are so many people who are in need, in different ways. Time is something that we can all afford to give. I’ve been fortunate in the relationships I’ve made. There’s never a day that goes by when I think, 'I haven’t got anything to do today.' I never look at it as, 'I’ve got to do this today.' I work seven days a week, and I feel like I’ve never worked a day in my life."

Somewhere, there’s a Canadian who made all this possible by hitting Evans in the head with a shot.

A native of Toronto, Evans started playing hockey at age 8, but had limited skating ability, so he put on the goalie equipment. That didn’t last long. During a game, Evans was hit by a puck and came home with two black eyes. Evans' father didn’t exactly like the sight of that, and Evans' goalie career promptly ended.

"He said, 'How was the game today, son?' I said, 'Fine,'" Evans said. "Of course, he was looking at the two little shiners that I had around my eyes. He said, 'Next summer, you learn to skate or you don't play.'"

Not only did Evans learn to skate -- he became a quality defenseman -- but he became a skating instructor for younger children before his 11th birthday. There would soon be another transition, after Evans joined the junior-level Niagara Falls Flyers for his first season under coach Bert Templeton.

"After one day in training camp, he said, 'Have you ever played forward before?' I said, 'No,'" Evans said. "He said, 'Well, you better learn by tomorrow, because I’ve got no room for you on defense.'"

Not only did Evans move to forward, but he scored 38 goals in his first season in junior and, in his final season, scored 58 goals. Along the way, Evans was drafted in the ninth round by the Kings in 1980, and in his first pro season, 1981-82, Evans spent the bulk of the year in the American Hockey League.

With 14 games remaining in the 1981-82 season, Evans got the call to join the Kings from their American Hockey League affiliate in New Haven, Conn. Evans played his first NHL game in Denver, against the now-defunct Colorado Rockies, and scored his first goal a few nights later at the Forum.

Evans was the new kid, though, so when the playoffs started, coach Don Perry essentially gave Evans a pat on the back and told him to start preparing himself for the start of training camp. The Kings’ roster had returned to full health, and it was unlikely that Evans would see any ice time during the playoffs.

Then, two fortuitous things happened. One, the NHL expanded its playoff rosters from 19 players to 20. That, at least, got Evans a spot on the bench. Then, in Game 1 of the series against Edmonton, Perry, unhappy with the play of several players, gave Evans a chance. He had two goals and two assists.

Evans was named "first star" on Hockey Night in Canada, a thrill for the 21-year-old rookie and his family watching back home. More importantly, Evans made it impossible for Perry to keep him out of the lineup.

The Kings, who finished 48 points behind Edmonton in the regular season, stunned the Oilers 10-8 in Game 1, but the Oilers evened the best-of-five series with a 3-2 overtime victory in Game 2.

Then came Game 3 in Inglewood. From the start, everything that could go wrong for the Kings did. They trailed 5-0 at the end of the second period, and midway through the third period, Evans got a 10-minute misconduct penalty for his role in a fight. Evans and a couple teammates retreated to the locker room and listened to Bob Miller and Nickson call the game, and hoped, somehow, that the Kings would rally.

"All I was looking for was just to get on the ice once and get a shot," Evans said.

The Kings rallied, with help from goalie Mario Lessard, who stopped a couple Edmonton breakaway chances in the third period. Charlie Simmer scored with 5:22 minutes left. Mark Hardy scored with four minutes left. Steve Bozek scored with five seconds left to send the game to overtime. Less than three minutes into overtime, Evans found himself on the ice for an offensive-zone faceoff, and made history.

"I remember the puck getting dumped in on Grant Fuhr," Evans said. "It was one of those situations where there was a little bit of a delay, like he was pondering if he should put the puck down or put it back in play or get rid of it. He elected to hang onto it, which forced a faceoff in their zone. That’s when Don Perry completed the line change, and he put out Steve Bozek on the left side, Dougie Smith in the middle and myself on the right wing. I remember lining up. I was actually right along the boards, and I believe it was Kevin Lowe that I was lined up against. At that time, they only had the one hash mark, so you were kind of skate-to-skate, right beside each other. He was latching onto me pretty good. I had the presence of mind to back off about three feet or so, so he couldn’t touch me, just to be able to free myself up.

"All through the years, since I had been transferred to play forward, in the offensive zone I was always kind of primarily the shooter, because I always had a good shot. So I backed off about three feet away from him. Doug Smith just pulled the puck right between his legs, but it didn’t come all the way back. It just kind of laid in behind him. Because I had that little bit of space between myself and Kevin Lowe, I was able to get to that puck and just close my eyes and just hammer it. It all happened so quick. In two seconds, the puck is in the net and I’m heading back the other way, just kind of going crazy with the noise in the building, and your teammates are chasing you down. It was just unbelievable."

Never before had an NHL team rallied from a five-goal deficit to win a playoff game.

"I think it’s been in the years after that you really learn to appreciate what was accomplished in the game," Evans said. "The NHL has been around 100 years and it has never happened before."

The Kings went on to win that series but lost to Vancouver in the next round.

Evans returned for a solid second season -- he had 18 goals in 80 games -- but went to arbitration after his second season and, "It wasn’t a positive experience, let’s say," Evans recalled with a laugh.

Over the next two seasons, Evans went back and forth between the Kings and the AHL before he was traded to Washington after the 1984-85 season. Evans later signed with Toronto in 1986 but played only two games. Wanting to extend his playing career, hopped the ocean and played in Europe.

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