Before I began working on Sharks broadcasts in 1991, I worked for the Los Angeles Kings. There, I’ve said it. I once worked for one of the Sharks biggest rivals. (Geography aside, I still believe that Detroit is “Rival #1".)
From 1988 through the 1990 season I was the host of Kings Korner, a 30-minute pregame show that aired before every game, home and away. It was in the early years of the Wayne Gretzky era. It was a very exciting time to be doing my first ever television work in the NHL, so it is with that backdrop that I get ready to watch Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals tonight at 5 PM Pacific on NBC Sports Network.
Will I be cheering for the Kings? Well, yes and no.
Like Sharks fans everywhere it’s difficult to watch a rival team like the Kings preparing to win their first Stanley Cup since the team came into the league in 1967. But on the other hand there are so many individuals both on and off the ice that I can’t help but be happy for.
At the top of that list is Darryl Sutter. Darryl and I were both born at the same hospital in Edmonton 63 days apart. That’s how far we go back. There are 6 Stanley Cups in the Sutter Family. Darryl’s brother Brent won the Cup in his first 4 seasons with the New York Islanders. Duane Sutter also won 2 during the Islanders dynasty.
Darryl Sutter has never won a Stanley Cup. The closest he ever came -- and boy was it ever close -- was in 2004 when, as head coach of the Calgary Flames, he took them to Game 7 only to lose to Dan Boyle and the Tampa Bay Lightning. If the Kings win tonight I will be very happy for my friend Darryl Sutter.
Then there’s Jarret Stoll. He’s also looking for his first ever Cup. He got just as close as Darryl when in 2006 as a member of the Edmonton Oilers, he too saw his “Cup Dreams” dashed in Game 7 of the finals by Bret Hedican and the Carolina Hurricanes. I don’t know Jarret personally, but my partner Drew Remenda does. Drew gushes about what a great guy Stoll is and now much time and effort he puts into raising money for children’s charities in his native Saskatchewan. How can you root against a guy like that.
And then there’s Dean Lombardi. The former Sharks GM who now holds that job with the Kings has had his nose to the grindstone for a few decades trying to figure out how to win it all. Dean was a member of the Sharks management staff from Day 1 of the franchise and eventually became General Manager in 1996.
Dean drafted Patrick Marleau, Scott Hannan, Brad Stuart, Marco Sturm, Marcel Goc, Jonathan Cheechoo, Mark Smith, Ryane Clowe and Christian Ehrhoff and he traded for Owen Nolan, Teemu Selanne, Adam Graves, Vincent Damphousse, Mike Ricci, Kyle McLaren, Mike Vernon, Todd Harvey, Bryan Marchment and Scott Thornton. Dean Lombardi did everything he could to bring the Stanley Cup to San Jose but it just didn’t work out. Now he’s on the brink. Yes, I will be happy for Dean Lombardi if the LA Kings win tonight.
And finally there are my friends in the LA broadcast booth, Bob Miller and Jim Fox on the TV side and Nick Nickson and Darryl Evans on the radio side. Miller, a Hockey Hall of Famer, has been the Voice of the Kings for 39 years. He and Nickson were my mentors when I broke in on the Kings Broadcasts back in the late 80’s. They showed me the ropes and helped my get through some early struggles in my career with plenty of support and even more laughter.
I will forever be grateful to them for that and I will be truly happy for them if the Kings win it all. And I’ll be looking forward to seeing their cherished Stanley Cup Rings next fall.
So you see it is with mixed emotions that I’ll be watching the rest of the Stanley Cup Final. On one hand it’ll be difficult seeing our SOCAL rivals celebrate, just as it was when the Ducks won the Cup. But at the same time it will be joyous to see some of the people I like and respect so much, reach the top of the mountain.