The Stanley Cup has once again been raised in Los Angeles after the Kings tore down the Rangers in five games. And Lord Stanley’s chalice will soon start it’s storied tour around the Southland.
When the 1967-68 season kicked off, the Forum wasn’t quite finished yet. So the team scrambled to find an alternate venue, so they made their NHL debut at the Long Beach Arena on Saturday, Oct. 14 against the Philadelphia Flyers.
In front of 7,035 people, the Kings found themselves down 2-0 to the Flyers when center scored early in the second round for the club’s first goal, with assists going to Jacques Lemieux and Ted Irvine.
This sparked the team in the third period, when Bob Wall, Gord Labossiere and Kilrea’s second of the game lifted the Long Beach Kings over the fellow expansion team Flyers for their first NHL victory.
In goal for that inaugural win was Wayne Rutledge, who was admittedly a little jittery in the beginning of the game. He got the call just 24 hours before the game, thanks to an arm injury to Terry Sawchuk.
“I thought everyone could hear my knees knocking,” Rutledge told the Long Beach Independant. “But the nervousness is now over. I’ll be better tomorrow night.”
Sunday, Oct. 15th, another expansion team came into the comfy confines of L.B. Arena, the Minnesota North Stars.
The Kings got two goals from Ted Irvine (you know his son, WWE star Chris Jericho) and tallies from Lowell MacDonald, Gord Labossiere and Howie Hughes, as Los Angeles played a sloppy game.
Said coach Red Kelly after the game: “The guys all know they didn’t play that well. I wasn’t too happy with my defense.”
The team then went on a six-game road trip, then proceeded to play their next 8 home games at the Los Angeles Arena, where they went 3-5.
Then on Dec. 6, the Kings returned to Long Beach to greet the St. Louis Blues. Defenseman Dave Amadio, Brian Smith and Ted Irvine all scored for L.A. and Wayne Rutledge pushed his record to 10-3-2 and helped the Kings grab hold of first place in the Western Conference.
The next game found the Flyers returning to the LBC just a point behind the Kings in the standings. But despite outshooting Philly 24-19, L.A. was blanked by netminder Doug Favell. The Kings’ efforts didn’t sit too well with coach Kelly.
“Nobody was hitting anybody, I guess,” he said. “I don’t mind losing 3-0 if we’re playing that well, but when we don’t put out [the effort]…”
Dec. 15 brought the North Stars back in the L.B. Arena, but the Kings’ scoring woes continued. They were shut out for the third time out of four games, as their efforts (or lack therein) continued to anger Kelly.
“There’s not much I can do before tomorrow night,” he lamented. “But there’s something I can do the next few days. They’ll wish they had three pairs of legs.”
The Kings’ final game in Long Beach brought out 6,510 people, but that’s probably in part to the Boston Bruins coming in. Legendary Bruins defenseman Bobby Orr didn’t play, but fellow Hall Of Famer Phil Esposito scored in the first 28 seconds. That pretty much set the stage for the rest of the game, going on to lose, 5-2. That not only left their season record at .500 (13-13-3) but also left them at 3-3 in the Long Beach Arena.
The Kings went on to open the Forum on Dec. 30, where they continued to play until 1999. Professional hockey didn’t return to Long Beach until the Los Angeles Ice Dogs moved area codes in 1996.
Many people point to the Wayne Gretzky trade that brought the Great One to L.A. as the defining point in the franchise. But it was Jack Kent Cooke who introduced hockey to the Left Coast, and he chose Long Beach for his Hockeywood debut. Now it’s time for the team to bring Lord Stanley for a spin around their first home.