When former NHLer Daryl Evans looks back on his hockey career, he doesn't reminisce about the obvious game-winning goal during Miracle on Manchester, or any other game-winning goal for that matter.
What stands out for him are the moments where he was able to appreciate the journey of going from a small, slow Toronto kid to skating in the "greatest league in the world," as he calls it.
He specifically recalls the first time he returned to Toronto to play at Maple Leaf Gardens, the very place he watched the Leafs play as a young boy and dreamed of competing in the NHL. For Evans, Toronto will always be home home, but after being drafted to Los Angeles, he was able to create a secondary family in California.
"Coming to Los Angeles was incredible," Evans said. "It's just a whole different part of the world. Especially at a young age, it was a great experience."
What Los Angeles lacked in Evans' mind, however, was the advancement of hockey training in youth players compared to Canadian markets. "I promised myself that if I did stay out here that I would get involved in those programs," Evans said. And he would stay true to his word.
Though he knew he wanted to develop the game, Evans admits he didn't have a plan for when he would retire. He took things one day at a time, and thankfully, luck happened to be on his side.
"I think it's one of those things as you're playing, you think it's just going to last forever," he said.
Near the end of his playing career, Evans spent two years in Europe, acting mainly as a coach for the latter one. He was all set to return to Europe for a third year, but instead was invited to work at a Cadillac car dealership, where he essentially became a car salesman overnight.
If you've ever met Evans, you know he could sell ice to an eskimo. It was a perfect fit.
While selling cars, Evans stayed involved in the hockey world by coaching the UCLA club hockey team. He led the team to become Pac 8 Champions the first year and to the National Championships the second year and was named Coach of the Year for both years for his work.
After finding success in collegiate coaching and working in the car industry for eight years, nearly 362 days a year, Evans' career would come full-circle and land him back with the Kings.
It all started when the Cadillac dealership became a sponsor of the Kings, and the dealership received inventory to run a 30 second radio commercial. There was only one problem: they didn't have someone to read the spot.
Evans' boss shrugged the issue off and offered that Evans could take a shot at it. So, he obliged and headed to meet Nick Nickson, who was the play-by-play radio analyst at the time, alongside Mike Allison.
Upon arriving, Evans learned Allison wasn't in attendance and would have to miss the next game due to family matters. "Well, who's doing the game with you?" Evans asked Nickson, who hadn't considered a replacement yet. "I'll do it with you," he offered.
The successful car salesman, who had been listening to Nickson for years, was going to have his voice echoing through car speakers for the first time, instead of being on the receiving end.
And as they say… the rest is history.
That first radio gig snowballed into several other opportunities with the Kings. First, Evans joined the organization as the Director of Premiere Seat and Suite Sales. Then, he filled in part-time on the radio, and later was eventually offered the full-time radio gig.
All this, while he was still managing the car dealership.
"It was an extremely busy time of my life, but I think that was a period that really molded me into who I am," he explained. "Dealing with all the different kinds of people from all the different walks of life, it really helped me transition into this stage."
He eventually had to step away from the dealership and focus solely on the Kings, lending his time to his radio role and hockey development.
Though he left Cadillac, Evans still carries the valuable lessons and traditions he learned from that time in his life. One of them being the "Choppy Q barbecue," which he started as a way to draw customers on the 4th of July.
These days, on a summer Friday at the rink, you can find Evans shucking corn and grilling burgers in the rink parking lot, welcoming all staff members to grab a bite.
"I think when you see everybody together like that, it's just so rewarding," Evans said. "Everybody relaxes. The morale is high. We just like a good barbecue." He isn't wrong.
Countless camps and clinics later, Evans is proud to be part of a growing Kings organization that is setting the foundation for youth hockey in Southern California.
"Our youth teams are winning tournaments that we've only dreamed of going to, let alone winning it," he said, referring to the prestigious Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament that the Jr. Kings recently won. The same tournament that Evans once competed in with his minor hockey team from Toronto many years ago.
"It just puts a smile on your face," he said with a big grin.
Evans is not only passionate about growing the game of hockey, but he's inspired to leave a positive impact in the community on all fronts. He operates the Kings Fitness Club, a group that gathers in the South Bay every week to enjoy the sunshine (or rain) and walk, run or bike.
"The way exercise and fresh air has been able to impact my life, I just try to share that with other people. We've created a family," he said.
"Some days, everybody doesn't feel like they're 100%. But somebody pulls you along. Another day, you're pulling somebody along with you. It's that teamwork. I think it never leaves you, regardless of where you are in life," he said.
And Evans will continue preaching that message, whether he's leading the run club, or heading to the rink in his trusty Cadillac.