On Feb. 9, 1966, the National Hockey League’s Board of Governors announced it would expand. Six new teams were added, including the Los Angeles Kings. Over the next 50 years, a pair of palaces were built, the team brought in hockey royalty, and the Kings were eventually crowned twice as the best in all the land.
This season, the L.A. Kings will celebrate their semi-centennial anniversary with a special logo and jersey, a reunion of the original 1967-68 team, along with Legends Nights, 50th Anniversary Heritage Nights, and the unveiling of a new Kings monument outside STAPLES Center.
In honor of the franchise's 50th anniversary, here are nine of the greatest moments in Los Angeles Kings history.
During their first-ever season, the Kings christened their new home, The Forum, with a game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Dec. 30, 1967. Affectionately known as the "Fabulous" Forum, the arena would be home to the Kings for 32 seasons.
The Kings finished their inaugural season in second place in the expansion West Division. In the first round of the playoffs, the Kings lost in Game 7. The next season, the Kings would win Game 7 of the opening round before being swept by the St. Louis Blues.
It took seven years before the Kings would win another playoff series. In back-to-back seasons, L.A. defeated the Atlanta Flames in the preliminary round, setting up matchups with the powerful Boston Bruins.
“The Bruins were heavily favored,” says broadcaster Bob Miller, who has been with the team since 1973. “[In] '76 it went seven games and most people thought that would never happen.”
It was a step towards legitimacy. The next season, Boston won again, but the two series showcased the Kings’ first stars — center Marcel Dionne and goalie Rogie Vachon. Two players that built the fan base may have even kept the team alive in Los Angeles.
“I think having Rogie Vachon and Marcel Dionne early on saved the franchise,” says Luc Robitaille, the Kings President of Business Operations and Hall of Fame winger. “If it weren't for these two guys, the franchise would have disappeared just like the California Golden Seals and a few other franchises over time.”
“Both Rogie and Marcel were both big favorites here in L.A,” adds Miller. “With those two guys you thought, finally we've got players that can lift this team into respectability.”
The famed Triple Crown Line of Dionne, Dave Taylor and Charlie Simmer became the first trio on the same line with more than 100 points each. They combined for 161 goals. “That was unbelievable,” says Miller. “I said to people, you could watch them come down the ice together and just about bet anything you have they're going to score a goal.”
On April 10, 1982, the Kings produced the most famous comeback in NHL playoff history, a game dubbed the Miracle On Manchester. Led by Wayne Gretzky, the mighty Edmonton Oilers had a 5-0 lead going into the third period. The Kings stormed back to tie the game with just five seconds left in regulation. The Kings won 6-5 in overtime on a slapshot from rookie Darryl Evans to complete the biggest single-game comeback in Stanley Cup playoffs history. The heavily-favored Oilers were eliminated by the Kings, 3-2, in the first-round series.
A year after Dionne was traded away, the Kings made another trade - a blockbuster that netted them “The Great One,” Wayne Gretzky. On Aug. 9, 1988, the Oilers traded Gretzky, Marty McSorley and Mike Krushelnyski to the Kings. "The Trade" altered the NHL forever.
“He literally, by himself, changed the game by showing that hockey could have huge success on the West Coast,” says Robitaille, Gretzky's former teammate. The team used to go on preseason tours to showcase the game. Robitaille remembers stops in Miami, Tampa Bay, Houston, Dallas and Phoenix. Soon many of those cities had teams.
The trade also elevated the Kings’ profile. “All the Hollywood stars wanted to come out and be there and see him,” says Miller. “Even on the road, [there were] hundreds, if not thousands, of people around our bus after the game just to get an autograph or get a look at Wayne Gretzky.”
A year after being traded to L.A., Gretzky returned to Edmonton on Oct. 15, 1989 and broke Gordie Howe’s points record, surpassing his childhood idol with his 1,851th point. On March 23, 1994, L.A. fans were able to celebrate another record, when Gretzky scored his 802nd goal to break Howe’s NHL record for most goals scored in a career.
“I don't think those records will ever be broken,” says Miller. “He piled up so many goals that a player would have to almost score 50 goals a year for 20 years to even get close to him. To score as many points as he did...I don't think players will be playing that long.”
Gretzky finished his career with 894 goals and 1,963 assists for 2,857 points. The 18-time All-Star and nine-time MVP was inducted into the Hall of Fame the same year he retired, in 1999.
When Marcel Dionne retired in 1989, his 731 career goals, 1,040 assists and 1,771 points were second only to Gordie Howe. In 1992, Dionne became the first player to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as an L.A. King.
Miller says, “I think that validifies what he did and what he meant to the NHL and what Marcel meant to the Kings as far as bringing attention to the team.”
The Kings made an unlikely run to the Stanley Cup in 2012. The team had fired their head coach and hired Darryl Sutter in the first half of the season. The team made the playoffs as an eight seed, but rolled through the postseason, going 16-4. The Kings became only the second team to eliminate the first, second and thirds seeds from the playoffs in the same postseason (and the first team to do so in that order). In addition, the Kings went a perfect 8–0 on the road in the playoffs, the first team to go undefeated while en route to the Final.
In the first period of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals, the New Jersey Devils were called for a five-minute major penalty. The Kings scored three times during the power play and glided to a 6-1 victory, earning the first Stanley Cup title in franchise history.
Miller recalls the final moments: “My thought was, 'Wow. I'm finally going to see this after so many years.’”
Two years later, the Kings won the Stanley Cup again, but this time it was a much more difficult path to the title.
The Kings became the first team in NHL history to win Game 7 three times en route to a Stanley Cup Finals berth. All of the Game 7 victories came on the other team’s home ice. L.A.’s championship run had a record 26 playoff games, with the Kings facing elimination a record seven times.
The Kings won their second Stanley Cup in three years with a 3-2 double-overtime victory over the New York Rangers at STAPLES Center, in Game 5 of the Finals.
“Winning the two Stanley Cups in ’12 and ’14 has kind of propelled the L.A. Kings to another level, where now we're seeing ourselves compete with the Lakers at their prime,” says Robitaille. “We're the only team that's sold out the last five years in a row in the city.”