Los Angeles Kings fans were so used to losing. So this chatter about a prospective dynasty—dynasty?!—is as startling as say, going from being a janitor to joining the Justice League.
We are basking in LA’s golden age. But it was with the preceding dark ages in mind, when I asked four generations of Kings devotees at Monday’s championship parade, “Which former King do you wish could have hoisted Stanley Cups with this team?”
Carrlyn Bathe, 2008
Carrlyn Bathe, LA Kings in-arena host, started with the team’s Ice Crew in 2008. So her point of view as a fan is made up exclusively of players who actually could have shared in the club’s current success—popular youngsters like Jack Johnson, Jonathan Bernier, Wayne Simmonds, and Patrick O’Sullivan.
So you’ll never guess her pick. “This is going to sound crazy, but I was the world’s biggest Oscar Moller fan. What he didn’t have in size, he made up for in tenacity.”
Bathe recalled when Bobby Ryan leveled the smallish Moller in 2010. “I remember just standing at the glass, screaming, ‘Don’t you touch Moller!'” This became a running Ice Crew joke for the rest of the season. Any time he would get hit, they would shout, “Don’t you touch him! Don’t touch Moller!”
Sparked by these memories, she compared the Swedish winger to a current King: “He kind of reminds me of Slava Voynov, his personality. They’re both timid because they’re not from America. English isn’t their first language. But what they can’t convey with words, they show on the ice.”
Sheng Peng, 1988
How did I, a seven-year-old Taiwanese kid from Monterey Park, the LA suburb known as “The Chinese Beverly Hills,” get into hockey of all things in 1988?
We’ll talk more about “The Great One” a little later. But for a number of fans, it was his running mate who was closest to the heart. After all, Luc Robitaille was truly ours: LA’s 171st pick in the 1984 NHL Draft, he became the only King to win the fan-voted Most Popular Player award in three different decades.
But in 2002, Robitaille, who had just fled Los Angeles after being lowballed in contract negotiations—the guy “who loved the LA Kings so much…he’d come back to them again in 2003, [retiring] in 2006 as the Kings’ all-time leading goal-scorer…and would eventually become the team’s president of business operations”—won a championship with the reviled Detroit Red Wings.
So while “Lucky” has indeed raised Cups as a club executive, the sting of the Dave Taylor of my generation grabbing his first chip with another franchise has never left me.
Gilbert Maese, 1978
It’s not everyday that you see somebody sporting a “Tiger” Williams Forum blue and gold sweater, as the noted pugilist only played two full seasons in LA.
However, Williams wasn’t Gilbert Maese’s pick. He recounted his first Kings game in 1978—$20 for a seat behind the net!—and the goaltender who shone brightest in a city that was still in the dark about the sport.
“Hockey wasn’t really accepted here in California. Nobody knew about it, nobody cared about it. Rogie Vachon gave it his all for this sport and the Kings organization during a time when hockey was in an introductory period in Los Angeles.”
Chris & Scott Egebjerg, 1967
Chris and Scott Egebjerg, best known to local broadcast viewers as the fist-pumping twins who celebrate after Los Angeles goals, have been going to games since the franchise’s inaugural 1967 campaign.
Chris was first up, nominating, “Marcel Dionne. And Dave Taylor.” Dionne and Taylor were two thirds of the Triple Crown Line, the first line in league history where each player scored 100 points or more in the same year (1980-81). Yet those teams never made it past the second round. “They didn’t have any defense back in those days,” Scott lamented. “The Triple Crown Line, none of those guys ever got [a ring anywhere].”
Scott selected a four-time Stanley Cup champion who he knew well in his role as a Forum stick boy from 1983 to 1989: “For what Wayne Gretzky did for hockey, not only in Los Angeles, but for California and in the United States, it’s a real shame he didn’t get a Cup with the Kings. I know that it was his goal to bring a Stanley Cup here. We got so close, just a curve of a stick away.”
But enough with the dusty memories. It’s kingdom come for Los Angeles—and perhaps not just for the Kings of today.
“To hear them afterwards, all those players [from before], our Stanley Cup victory here was a victory for them as well. Every one of them knows they had a part in this.”
Leave it to new fan Marion Egebjerg, who married Chris in 2012 (of course), to lend us that perspective. Long-gone names, still remembered faces: Mattias Norstrom. Bernie Nicholls. Butch Goring. In a way, they were all here.