All right, we’ve explored how the Dodgers, Angels, Lakers and Clippers first came to exist in Los Angeles.
Now it’s time to describe how the second largest city in America’s two hockey teams began, so let’s not waste any more time.
Here’s how this team – who being the defending champions of the National Hockey League is the current possessor of the Stanley Cup and, as of this writing, is in the middle of the Western Conference finals against the Chicago Blackhawks – came to be, the…
LOS ANGELES KINGS
First Game/First Win: October 14, 1967, at the Long Beach (CA) Arena, vs. the Philadelphia Flyers. Kings won, 4-2.
Jack Kent Cooke, an entrepreneur from Canada, felt that Los Angeles, with all of its transplants from the northeast and north of the border that he was certain missed hockey, could support an NHL team after seeing the minor league L.A. Blades play, despite the skepticism from those who felt that hockey was a winter sport played on ice in a cold, snowy climate, which L.A. sorely lacked.
Convinced that the NHL could work in the Southland, Cooke attended the NHL expansion meetings and paid $2 million to put a new franchise on the west coast, one of six that would double the size of the league and join the “Original Six” teams: the Montreal Canadiens, the New York Rangers, the Boston Bruins, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks.
Led by coach Red Kelly, for that first season’s first two months the newborn Kings played in the Long Beach Arena and the Los Angeles Sports Arena, where like other owners before and since Cooke had problems with the L.A. Coliseum Commission, which ran the Sports Arena.
“I am going to build my own arena….I’ve had enough of this balderdash,” he said.
Which he did, the Forum in nearby Inglewood – which also housed a certain basketball team that Cooke also owned called the Lakers – opening on December 30, 1967, the Kings losing to the Flyers that night 2-0.
The Kings did extremely OK for a first year franchise in 1967-68, sporting a record of 31-33-10, which was good for 72 points and a second place finish in the Western Division behind Philadelphia. They were bounced in the first round of the playoffs by a fellow first year team, the Minnesota North Stars (now the Dallas Stars) in seven games, losing the 7th game in the Forum 9-4.
Cooke would own the Kings for the next 12 years, selling that team along with the Lakers and the Forum to Jerry Buss in 1979.
The team would stay in the Forum until 1999, when they joined their basketball brethren, the Lakers and the Clippers, in Staples Center.
Let’s now discuss the birth of a rival of the Kings, located 30 miles south on the I-5 freeway, the…
ORIGINAL NAME: THE MIGHTY DUCKS OF ANAHEIM
First Game/First Home Game: October 8, 1993, at Anaheim Arena (later the Arrowhead Pond, now the Honda Center), vs. the Detroit Red Wings. Ducks lost, 7-2.
First Win: October 13, 1993, vs. the Edmonton Oilers. Ducks won, 4-3.
This franchise was born in a very interesting way, the idea coming from a 1992 Walt Disney movie called The Mighty Ducks, which was essentially a hockey version of the baseball classic “The Bad News Bears”.
The Mighty Ducks was a box office hit, spanning a couple of sequels, and the Disney Company didn’t fail to notice that in deciding to capitalize on the film’s popularity by starting a real-life NHL team. The colors and logo were taken from the Mighty Ducks sequel, D2: The Mighty Ducks, and along with their mascot Wild Wing, from a subsequent Saturday morning cartoon that Disney produced called Mighty Ducks, were used until 2006.
Joining baseball’s Angels as Orange County’s representatives in major pro sports, under coach Ron Wilson the Mighty Ducks played like what they were, a first-year expansion team, finishing 4th in a five-team Pacific Division with a record of 33-46-5 and 71 points.
The Ducks’ first game against their L.A. neighbor Kings was played in the Forum on December 2, 1993, with the Kings winning 3-2. Their first win against them came three months later on March 16, 1994 in Anaheim, a 5-2 triumph.
Eventually called the Freeway Face-Off, the series between the two rivals is fairly even, the Kings holding a 51-48-12 advantage after 111 games to date.
During an NHL lockout which would ultimately wipe out the 2004-05 season, the only time that has happened in American sports, in 2005 the Disney Company saw the writing on the wall and sold the team to Henry Samueli for $75 million.
A year later, Samueli changed the team name to simply “Ducks”, changing the logo and the colors from purple and teal to black, orange and gold.
In 2007, Samueli’s second year as owner, the Ducks won their first Stanley Cup.
THERE WILL BE A PART FOUR OF THIS SERIES, BUT AS IT WILL COVER THE BIRTH OF LOS ANGELES’ TWO MAJOR COLLEGE FOOTBALL TEAMS, THE UCLA BRUINS AND THE USC TROJANS.
THAT ARTICLE WILL APPEAR ON MONDAY, AUGUST 26TH, TO COORDINATE WITH THE START OF FOOTBALL SEASON.
PLEASE WATCH FOR IT!