As we all watched the Kings defy the odds and the critics by bringing the Stanley Cup to Los Angeles for the first time in the 45-year history of the organization, I'm sure that the moment meant many things to many people.
But, as someone who was there from the start (I jumped on the bandwagon in 1967 at the Fabulous Forum), it brought a time of reflection.
I kept thinking back to those not-so-great early, formative years of the team and I started putting together a mental list of the pioneers that were not able to be a part of the 2012 celebration.
Yes, the Kings first Cup in franchise history meant so much to long-suffering fans, supporters and employees who thought they would never see it happen. But some weren't so fortunate.
These individuals, to varying degrees, helped put hockey on the map in Southern California, yet none ever got their traditional day with Lord Stanley's Cup.
GARNET “ACE” BAILEY AND MARK BAVIS ... Apparently one Kings fan in New York City had similar thoughts to mine. Identified in news stories as Dave Krasne, he decided to honor the memory of Bailey and Bavis, Kings scouts killed during the terrorist attacks of 9/11, by putting a Stanley Cup Champions cap on their names at the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero, where the World Trade Center used to stand. Krasne's fitting tribute was with a tweet that simply stated, “May Mark Bavis and Ace Bailey RIP.”
BILL LIBBY, STU NAHAN AND ALLAN MALAMUD ... In terms of establishing the sport in Los Angeles via the media, Libby, Nahan and Malamud led the way. Libby, a prolific writer of over 50 books who passed in 1984, was a mainstay on the pages of Kings programs and GOAL magazines that preceded Royal Reign. The Bill Libby Memorial Award is given annually to the Kings Most Valuable Player in a vote by the media. Nahan was a 30-year TV sports anchor with a minor league hockey background. Stu, who died in 2007, always featured NHL highlights on his sports casts even when it wasn't in vogue. Malamud, who started as a Kings beat writer, became the L.A. Herald Examiner Sports Editor and the man behind Notes On A Scorecard, the most widely read column in town, in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Allan left us in 1996.
TERRY SAWCHUK AND RON STEWART ... One of the strangest hockey stories ever has a unique twist with several ties to the Kings early years. The first player taken by the Kings in the June 1967 expansion draft was Terry Sawchuk, a Hall of Fame goaltender. Sawchuk played one season in Los Angeles before eventually heading to the New York Rangers. After the 1969-70 season ended, Sawchuk and his Rangers teammate Ron Stewart got in an argument over expenses on the Long Island house they rented together. During a scuffle, Sawchuk suffered severe internal injuries. Media reports described the incident as "horseplay" and Sawchuk told police he accepted full responsibility. But Terry never recovered and died shortly thereafter from a pulmonary embolism at the age of 40. A Nassau County grand jury exonerated Stewart and ruled accidental death. As for Ron, he coached the Kings in the 1977-78 season. But, ironically, Stewart died of cancer on March 22, 2012, shortly before the Kings won the Cup.
JACK KENT COOKE ... In the overall scheme of things, no one was more important than Jack Kent Cooke. A Canadian-born media mogul, Cooke brought the sport he loved to Los Angeles for the 1967-68 season. Cooke also built the state-of-the-art facility known as the Fabulous Forum that opened the same year. The quirky and flamboyant Cooke, who also owned the Los Angeles Lakers and Washington Redskins, demanded that the yellow and purple uniform colors be known as Forum Gold and Forum Blue. Jack had been told that in 1967, there were 300,000 former Canadians living within driving range of his Forum. When attendance lagged in the early years he was known for his famous quote, “Now I know why they left Canada ... They hate hockey!” Cooke loved to tag his players with nicknames, hoping to add to the Hollywood celebrity factor. Hence in the early years the roster was loaded with “The Jet,” “The Cowboy” and “Eddie The Entertainer.” Cooke, who passed in 1997, would have loved “Kopistar” and “Pancakes” Penner.
So while many of the Kings building blocks may not have witnessed the clinching game or the victory parade, Bruce Springsteen addresses the issue best in-concert when talking about the loss of Clarence Clemons and other prominent E Street band members: “If you're here, and we're here ... they're here.”