Like most of the hockey world, Davis Payne watched the Los Angeles Kings storm to their first Stanley Cup in franchise history in 2012 and came away impressed.
“You could tell they were all on the same page,” Payne said about the Kings title run. “They really came together and were playing with each other and fighting for each other. It was fun to see and when teams do that, good things usually happen.”
While Payne was forced to view the Kings winning ways from afar, just a few months later he found himself on the inside, helping Kings head coach Darryl Sutter prepare for the 2012-13 season as a member of the coaching staff. He was hired as an assistant coach on July 27, 2012.
“Davis was clearly the guy at the top of our list,” Sutter said when Payne was hired. “We wanted somebody with NHL head coaching experience, and preferably a younger guy who communicates well with players and fits in well with our staff.”
Payne fits all of Sutter’s criteria to perfection. The 43-year old native of Kamloops, British Columbia came to the Kings after an extensive professional playing career that saw him drafted in the seventh round of the 1989 NHL Entry Draft by the Edmonton Oilers, and he appeared in 22 games with the Boston Bruins from 1995-1997.
“There are so many things I take with me as a coach that I obviously learned from my playing career,” Payne said about his time as a winger that included stops in the ECHL (Greensboro, Greenville), AHL (Rochester, Providence), IHL (Phoenix, San Antonio) and the NHL (Bruins). “I had a lot of great coaches along the way, and I won’t name any names but I also had a lot of coaches who did things that I told myself I would never do as a coach.”
And immediately following the end of his playing career with the Greenville (South Carolina) Grrrowl, Payne began his coaching career with the Grrrowl in 2000-01 as an assistant. He made the jump later that same season to head coach as a midseason replacement for the ECHL’s Pee Dee Pride in Florence, South Carolina. In seven seasons as an ECHL head coach with the Pride (2000-03) and Alaska Aces (2003-07), Payne compiled an impressive 289-142-45 record and a league championship with Alaska in 2005-06.
“I just try to work with the players to get everything from them that they can give,” Payne said. “I want my teams to be aggressive, to relentlessly go after the puck. That is what we are trying to re-establish here [with the Kings].”
Payne then moved on to the AHL’s Peoria Rivermen – first as an assistant and later as a head coach – putting together a 62-44-9 record in two seasons as a head coach before being elevated to the top position in St. Louis midway through the 2009-10 season (January 2, 2010). In 137 games as head man with the Blues from 2009-12, Payne was 67-55-15.
“Throughout my career as a coach, it is clearly the big wins or the championships that stick in your mind when you look back on things,” Payne said. “But for me, the greatest moments, the best moments are when you can see a player get it. When you work over and over in practice with the team or a player and then when that player comes through and everything just clicks in a game and helps the team win – that is what makes it worthwhile and memorable for me.”
Now in his second season with the Kings, Payne is working closely with the Kings coaching staff and the team to make sure there are many more memorable moments in Los Angeles.