1967, 1988, 1993 and 2012: Key dates in the life and times of the Los Angeles Kings
When the Los Angeles Kings Franchise came into being in 1967, there was great anticipation of success. Jack Kent Cooke, the owner of the Kings built a new arena called the Forum in Inglewood California where the Kings played for 32 years until the team moved to the Staples Center in Downtown Los Angeles for the 1999 – 2000 season. 45 years later, June 11, 2012, the Kings won their first Stanley Cup before a sellout crowd of 18,858 screaming fans. The outcome: Kings beat the New Jersey Devils to win the Cup in game 6 of the 2011 / 2012 Stanley Cup Finals.
There were high expectations going into this season for the Kings however the Kings struggled offensively and barely made the playoffs finishing in the 8th seed. With highly skilled forwards such as Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Dustin Brown, Simon Gagne and Dustin Penner, management started scratching their heads wondering why the offense was anemic. This lead to a coaching change during the season when Darryl Sutter replaced Terry Murray. Murray’s record was 13-12-4. Sutter’s record 25-13-11. John Stevens was the interim coach for four games until Sutter took over on December 20, 2011. The Kings played much better under Sutter, although they still were not scoring. General Manager Dean Lombardi acquired talented forward Jeff Carter right before the trade deadline for an upgrade offensively. The Kings overall record for the 2011 / 2012 season was 40-27-15 for 95 points which was 3rd in the Pacific Division behind the San Jose Sharks and first place and 3rd seed, Phoenix Coyotes. Although this years Kings team finished as the 8th seed, they could have easily been the 1 seed. The Kings had talent in all phases of the game. Excellent Goal tending, Strong offensive potential and great defense. The 2011 – 2012 Kings team was a great team that peaked at the right time finishing the playoffs with an amazing 16-4 record. The last time the Kings were in the Stanley Cup finales was in 1993. The 1993 Kings team was a better than average team that also peaked at the right time however lost to Montreal in 5 games. The Kings season record that year was 39–35–10 record (88 points). When comparing the 1993 team with the 2012 team, it was the 1993 team that had the bigger names such as Wayne Gretzky, Luc Robitaille, Jari Kurri, Tony Granato and Tomas Sandstrom. However, it was the 2012 team that had more depth, better goal tending, great defense along with potential offensive explosive power. This translated into a better TEAM from top to bottom.
Yet none of this would have happened without the “Great One” who was acquired on August 9, 1988 from the Edmonton Oilers. Of course the “Great One” is Wayne Gretzky. With Gretzky playing in LA, the team seemed to make an overnight magical transformation both in attendance and culture. LA now had the greatest player that every lived, and turned a pre-Gretzky low attendance into full houses. The Kings before Gretzky averaged only 11,667 fans per game. In Gretzky’s first year, the attendance went up 27% to 14,667 fans per game. In the six consecutive playoff appearances for the Kings after Gretzky arrived, every game was sold out. The attendance peaked in 1991-92 when the Kings sold out every game during the season. This seemed to have changed the landscape of hockey on the West Coast where three other teams made their entrance. The San Jose Sharks came into being in 1991, the Anaheim Ducks made their debut in 1993, and the Phoenix Coyotes moved from Winnipeg in 1996.
Yet, when people remember the key dates of 1967, 1988, 1993 and 2012, somehow, I believe that 2012 will be the year that people remember most. A year that took all the frustration of 45 years and wrapped it up in a bow and presented a gift to the City of Los Angeles. A gift to the fans from long ago to the new fans of today. Yes, 2012 will be remembered for eternity yet it all started in 1967 followed by a day in 1988 that changed hockey forever. 1993 could have brought home the CUP yet 2012 is the year that the Los Angeles Kings lived up to their name.