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Golden Memories

by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings

Brian Golden | Special to LAKings.com

Long-time Southern California media personality Brian Golden this year enters his 30th
season covering the Kings.

Brian, the play-by-play voice of Penn State hockey from 1977-79, since 1982 has covered 17 Stanley Cup Finals and 20 NHL All-Star Games.

Currently a sports columnist and writer for the Antelope Valley Press, he recently discussed the following topics:

EARLIEST MEMORIES OF COVERING THE KINGS
:
When I graduated Penn State in 1980, I came out here to Ridgecrest (90 miles north of Lancaster) to work at a radio station. On weekends, I went to LA and San Diego, and covered several games that year.  Jim Fox and Larry Murphy were rookies. What I'll never forget is how gracious and approachable a superstar like Marcel Dionne was. I learned a lot of hockey from him.

CHARACTERS COVERED:
Tiger Williams has to be at the top of the list. He would say anything, about anybody, to anybody. Robbie Ftorek and Tom Webster were colorful coaches whose coach-speak became a joking part of our media lexicon.

LUC ROBITAILLE:
I used to fly to Seattle and drive to Port Angeles, Wash. in September to get to Kings training camp in Victoria, and get my fix of the changing colors along the way. In Luc's rookie camp in 1986, I'll never forget watching him skate gassers after practice so effortlessly while his teammates often gasped for air. The impact of Laura Stamm's power skating school was obvious.

On the way back from the NBA Finals in Boston in 1987, I stopped in Detroit to cover the NHL Draft. Luc, Jimmy Carson and Steve Duchesne all made the NHL's all-rookie team, and received beautiful watches from American Express at the luncheon. I was there when Luc asked David Courtney, "These are beautiful. Is there any way I can keep this? Can I buy it?"

David told Luc it was his to keep.

At the All-Star Game in St. Louis in 1988, when the fans voted Luc to start with Gretz and Jari Kurri, I took he, his Dad and Patrick out to lunch at the Adam's Mark  Hotel for the story in our paper. When the check came, I understood where Luc's wrist shot came from -- he nearly cut off the circulation in my hand insisting that he pay for lunch. I explained to him the paper picked it up on expenses. The blood flow returned to my hand.

I used to bring Luc a hat from the Super Bowl every year.

The night he broke Steve Shutt's NHL left wing goal scoring record, I had some local story I had to tend to, and couldn't be at the Forum. The next morning I'm driving to KMPC, listening to Ted Sobel's sports flash, and I hear Luc say, "I didn't even know about the record until Brian Golden told me about it." I felt honored to be involved in a small way in a milestone achievement for someone who was always a bigger Hall of Famer as a person than he ever was as a hockey player.

When Luc had his 1994 press conference at Ice-O-Plex about the trade to Pittsburgh, he invited about a dozen of us to stay and have lunch as he bolted to finalize preparations for Steve Duchesne's bachelor party.
 
When we later asked for the check, the waitress said, "Oh, Mr. Robitaille took care of it."

Class. Pure class.
 
GRETZKY TO LOS ANGELES:
The Saturday before The Trade, I was in San Francisco for a Los Angeles Raiders preseason game with the 49ers. The DeBartolo Family dedicated its gorgeous complex in Santa Clara that weekend, the Marie DeBartolo Center, and with typical class, Eddie D. also flew out any Pittsburgh Penguins players and their wives who wanted to attend the ceremony.

Just before halftime it was announced in the press box that NHL MVP Mario Lemieux would be available upstairs if anyone wanted to talk to him. I was the only one. Mario recognized me facially. I said, "Well, now that you've broken Gretz's eight-year stranglehold on the Hart Trophy, what's next?"

Mario had a mischievous look in his eye.

 "I've got a funny feeling Wayne is going to do something big, real soon," replied No. 66. Three days later, they made the trade. 
 
Overnight, hockey in L.A. was transformed. But the great thing was, Gretz remembered the foot soldiers like me and Rick Sadowski of the Herald Examiner, who had been covering him for the previous six years, too.

That relationship was the reason Wayne called in to my KMPC radio show from his car phone the day he returned from the herniated thoracic disc in January, 1993.

Covering Wayne Douglas Gretzky was one of the soaring highlights of my career. I was there in person when he broke both the points and goal-scoring records, and covered him with Edmonton in two Stanley Cup Finals, Rendezvous '87 and with the Kings in the 1993 Finals, in addition to 13 NHL All-Star Games. I have often told Gretz there should be a statue of him outside every NHL arena in the Sunbelt, because he made them all possible.

THE 1993 PLAYOFF RUN:
Hosting the midday show on SportsRadio 710 KMPC, I had a unique opportunity to steer the conversation to hockey. We had lots of Kings playoff tickets to give away, through our Golden West broadcasting promotions director, Patti Barrera. She was drop-dead gorgeous, but had no luck with men. I ended up sitting with her for two periods of one of the games in the Calgary series. She became hooked on hockey.

There was also a South Bay car dealer, who shall remain nameless, that I was madly in love with who I also arranged to attend every Kings home playoff game that spring.

After the Game 6 overtime victory over Toronto, I had to wait until nearly midnight to talk to Marty McSorley. We conducted the interview in the shower! Our crack KMPC production people put a Rock N' Roll Part II music bed under it, and it became an instant motivational classic. People were calling the station requesting to hear it, like all-hit music radio.

After Game 6, I went back to the Metropolitan Hotel across Sunset Blvd. from the radio station, where the manager had a broom closet-sized room he could never rent out. I worked out a deal with him to stay there two nights a week to save the drive back to Lancaster.

I got back there about 1 a.m. and was up at 6, did my four hours of show prep and then Paula Boivin and I did four hours of Kings Talk. I drove home, picked up my airline tickets at the travel agent, wrote two stories and a column for the paper about "Hockey Night in California," packed, drove back to LAX and caught the red-eye through Chicago to Toronto.  We went out to the morning skate at Maple Leaf Gardens, where someone related to Gretz how Bob McKenzie had hammered him that morning in the Toronto Star with the idea that "he's skating like he has a piano on his back."

 "Well," replied Gretzky, "the piano man has one more tune to play tonight." The Great One scored five points as the Kings won their only Clarence Campbell Bowl.

WHAT HAVE THE KINGS DONE RIGHT TO BUILD THE CURRENT CLUB:
Dean Lombardi has shut me and my criticism up with his five-year plan of building through the draft. The Kings have a solid young nucleus that has grown up together, taking their lumps together. That's so important to the group dynamics of taking the next step together as a team.  Drew Doughty will bring the Kings their first Norris Trophy since Rob Blake, and maybe another Hart, too. I was screaming for the Kings to go get Ilya Kovalchuk two summers back, because I felt they had reached their limit as a team, and all the noble one-goal losses were proof of that.

They needed someone, like Luc, who could take a harmless-looking play and turn it into a spectacular goal, to turn those one-goal losses into one-goal victories. With Mike Richards and Simon Gagne, I believe they now have that dimension. This is the best depth I've seen here since Luc was in his heyday.

THIS YEAR:
I've got a funny feeling that we're going to see more Frenzy on Figueroa next spring.

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