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The Jersey that Cemented Colin Hanks' Loyalty to the LA Kings

Arrival of The Great One and a new uniform took Hanks' fandom to next level

by Mike Commito @mikecommito /

Just before his 10th birthday, Colin Hanks caught his first LA Kings game at the Great Western Forum, and it left quite the impression on him.

That night, November 14, 1987, the Kings hosted the Quebec Nordiques in a high-flying affair. The two teams collectively lit the lamp 15 times, with the Kings getting the slight edge in an 8-7 victory. 

Nearly every Kings player factored into the scoring, with Steve Duchesne recording a four-point performance and Bernie Nicholls and Luc Robitaille each racking up three points.

From that moment on, Hanks was hooked.

Soon enough, he had his own Kings jersey. As he continued watching the team that season in his Forum Blue and Gold threads, he gravitated towards players like Jimmy Carson and Wayne McBean. According to Hanks, he was all in.

Although the Kings were eliminated by the Flames in the first-round of the post-season, he continued watching the playoffs, which culminated with Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers defeating the Boston Bruins to win their fourth Stanley Cup. 

When the playoffs ended, Hanks' attention turned to other things that occupy the mind of a 10-year-old boy. That is until he remembers getting a phone call from his father on the morning of August 10, 1988, telling him to check the newspaper because something really special happened to the LA Kings.

The news, of course, was that the club had acquired Gretzky, the greatest player on the planet, from the Oilers in the biggest trade in hockey history. 

Outlined in the broadsheets that day were the details of the transaction and what it meant for hockey in southern California, but seemingly lost in all that excitement was that the club had new uniforms. Photographs from the press conference at the Sheraton La Reina Hotel in Los Angeles showed Gretzky modeling the team's new, resplendent white jersey complete with a revamped logo. 

By this point, Hanks was already obsessed with Kings hockey, but the arrival of the Great One and a new uniform took it to the next level. When his birthday came around that November, all he wanted was Kings gear.

"I didn't want anything else. Kings shirts, hats, sweatshirts, socks. Anything with the new Kings logo and the silver and black. It just sort of took over my 11-year-old wardrobe," the actor and director chuckled. "The Forum Blue and Gold went into the closet and wasn't seen for many, many years."

Instagram from @colinhanks: #GKG (cc: @baileylakings)

When Hanks thinks back to when he first caught a glimpse of the new Kings jersey, it was a life-changing experience for him, but for many others as well.

"Those particular uniforms really changed hockey. Obviously Gretzky coming to LA had absolutely revolutionized the sport for a lot of people and introduced a lot of people to the sport, but those jerseys really were the genesis for a lot of non-hockey fans all of a sudden wearing hockey gear," he reminisced. 

Borrowing the silver and black from the LA Raiders, the Kings' new color palette drew in a new wave of fans. Suddenly, everybody wanted, and was wearing, Kings gear.

"Gretzky coming in was the big story, and deservedly so, but those uniforms really gave the Kings a completely new identity. It really sort of changed the league," Hanks reflected. 

When Gretzky made his Hollywood debut on October 6th, 1988, the popularity of hockey in Los Angeles reached a fever pitch. It was the first time the Kings had sold out their season-opening game. 

That contest marked the first chapter for many new Kings fans. Although Hanks and father were not among the Forum faithful that night, going to games together had already become ritual for them. After falling in love with the Kings the season before, Hanks recalls that they had purchased season tickets. 

But those games were more than about hockey. For Hanks, who was splitting time between his mother's place in Sacramento and his father's in LA, Kings games were an opportunity to bond.

"I would come down to LA to visit my dad and that was how we bonded, going to Kings games. That was our thing," Hanks revealed. "Every Saturday or seemingly every Saturday, we would be at the Forum and we had season tickets all the way up until 1998-99."

As Hanks got older, he remained a steadfast Kings fan. Although there were some lean years following the departure of Gretzky, and some questionable changes to the uniform in 1998, his commitment to the team was unwavering. Even when he was living in New York, and attending Rangers games to get his hockey fix, he kept a close eye on what the Kings were building.

"They had drafted [Brown], [Kopitar], Doughty and [Quick], and it soon became obvious that something really special was happening there," he said. 

Right around the time Hanks moved back to Los Angeles, the team returned to the black and white scheme for their home and away primary jerseys.

"I just moved back to LA and I'm like 'I'm going to get back into the Kings and go to as many games as I can.' Shortly thereafter we were winning the Stanley Cup," Hanks exclaimed. 

When the Kings won their first championship in 2012, it transported Hanks back to that wondrous feeling when he first saw them play as a boy.

"I was a grown man. At that point I was a father, but I really felt like, after spending so much time in your life supporting this franchise, a kid again. It was really special," he described. 

Three decades after catching his first Kings game with his father, Hanks is carrying on the tradition with his daughters.

"They're definitely hockey fans. I love taking them to games. They've got their jerseys and their favourite players. The first game of the season, if it's a home game or an away game, we put on our jerseys and we watch the game together," he said. 

When the Kings announced the return of the '90s era heritage jersey for the upcoming season, Hanks was elated.

"They're really special uniforms," he declared. "I'm still very adamant that the home team should still be playing in white. The idea of them playing at home in those white uniforms like I remember, I'm very excited to see that in person."

Tweet from @ColinHanks: Am I excited? Does this make me insanely happy? The answers are: all right, alright, very well, of course, by all means, sure, certainly, absolutely, indeed, affirmative, agreed, rogeraye aye; yeah, yah, yep, yup, uh-huh. So, yes I am excited.

The excited father didn't have to give his daughters much of a history lesson about the significance of the jersey. They were already well aware of his affinity for it. 

Last year, in advance of Hanks' appearance on Hockey Night in LA, he pulled some strings with the organization to make sure they had a white Igor Liba jersey for him. Hanks knew that by sporting a no. 23 Liba, a player who suited up for just 27 games for the Kings in the 1988-89 campaign, he would have some material for the broadcast booth. 

Video: ANA@LAK: Colin Hanks talks Kings fandom, Igor Liba

But when he came home with it on, he didn't quite get the reaction he had hoped for. "I came home supremely excited and said 'check out this jersey' and my kids were so confused because they were like 'wait a minute, that's Brown's number. Who's Liba? What is that?" Hanks laughed. 

Although the Liba jersey may not have resonated with the girls, they share their father's enthusiasm about the return of the heritage sweaters. "I told them that they're going to be playing in those jerseys twice this year and they want to come and see those games," he said. 

It won't be their first Kings game, but it will be the first time they will get to see the team play in the same kind of jerseys that their father idolized when he was growing up as a hockey fan in Los Angeles.

The Kings don the '90s era heritage jerseys for the first time this season on February 22th, 2020, when they host the Colorado Avalanche. 


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