By Mike Tenay | Special to LAKings.com
Great sports franchises are often defined strictly in terms of wins and losses. And while that alone is certainly the overriding factor, the other constant when ranking the best sports organizations is their long-term history and tradition.
Embracing tradition comes in all forms. The New York Yankees created Monument Park at the old Yankee Stadium, and moved the granite blocks honoring the likes of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle to the new ballpark in 2009.
The Dallas Cowboys started their Ring of Honor at Texas Stadium and now the names of Tom Landry, Roger Staubach, Emmitt Smith and others now circle Cowboys Stadium.
The Los Angeles Kings unveiled their Legends Night Series presented by McDonald’s last year when they recognized Rogie Vachon, Bob Berry and Bob Pulford.
This season the Kings will honor Bernie Nicholls (December 10), Daryl Evans (January 2) and Charlie Simmer (February 18).
According to Kings President, Business Operations Luc Robitaille: "Our initial Legends Series last year was a tremendous success and we are very pleased to continue the tradition this year. The opportunity to recognize and honor individuals who helped establish a foothold for our franchise during our 45 years in Los Angeles is something we and our fans take great pride in. These will be three very special nights."
December's honoree Bernie Nicholls spent the first nine seasons of his 17 year career in a Kings uniform.
Nicholls established himself as a key offensive presence shortly after being selected in the fourth round (pick 73 overall) in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft. Shortly after L.A. acquired Wayne Gretzky, Bernie broke out with a career-high 70 goals in the 1988-89 season. The 70 goals represent a record that still stands as a Kings season high. That same year, Nicholls added 80 assists to total 150 points. He is one of only eight players in NHL history to score 70 goals in a season, and one of just five to score 150 points.
Nicholls was way ahead of the curve in terms of goal celebrations. For those who think the Jersey Shore Fist Pump is cutting edge, you never saw the "Pumper Nicholl.”
In January, the Kings will celebrate the man who was responsible for the most memorable goal in Los Angeles' Stanley Cup playoff history, Daryl Evans.
On April 10, 1982, the Kings trailed the Gretzky-led Edmonton Oilers 5-0 in the third period. After steadily narrowing the lead, the Kings tied the game with five seconds left in regulation. 2:35 into overtime, Evans, then a rookie, beat Oilers goalie Grant Fuhr to ensure the victory that forever will be known as "The Miracle On Manchester," a tribute to the Inglewood street that housed the Great Western Forum.
Evans, a left winger, played for the Kings, Capitals and Maple Leafs in a 10-year career that spanned 1981-91. Evans is currently in his 13th season as the color commentator on Kings radio broadcasts, partnering with Nick Nickson.
The February honors go to a man who was part of one of the most famous forward lines in NHL history. Charlie Simmer joined Marcel Dionne and Dave Taylor in forming the Triple Crown Line in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The left winger, who recorded back-to-back 56-goal seasons, was noted for his potency on the power play. The big goal-scoring years saw Simmer named a first team NHL All-Star both seasons. Most memorably, the Triple Crown Line took center stage before the hometown fans at the 1981 NHL All-Star Game that was played at the Forum.
In the 1981 season, Simmer almost accomplished one of hockey's most difficult feats: scoring 50 goals in 50 games, when he netted 50 in 51 games.
Simmer today serves as a TV color commentator for the Calgary Flames.
Longtime Kings fans will have the opportunity to break out the purple and gold on the three Legends Nights since the team will wear their vintage jerseys on these special evenings at STAPLES Center.
Kings fans can follow Mike Tenay on Twitter (@RealMikeTenay