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Joining the ranks of the National Hockey League during the 1967-1968 expansion, the Los Angeles Kings were one of two teams added to give the league a presence on the west coast. In the nearly 50 years that have followed, the Kings franchise has secured its place in NHL lore with Stanley Cup victories and by suiting up some of the most famous players ever to step foot on the ice.
Perhaps as important as its contributions to the league from a competition standpoint has been its ability to reach a California fan base largely unaware of the game and transfix them with the speed and finesse of this cold weather sport. While the California Golden Seals changed names and cities before leaving California altogether in 1976 (and ceasing to exist as a franchise after two unmemorable seasons in Cleveland following their departure), the Kings continued the California project and, as a direct result of their efforts to popularize hockey in warm climate areas, the league currently has three teams in California, one in Arizona, one team in Texas, two teams in Florida, and their newest franchise in Las Vegas.
The early years were a struggle, with their first winning season coming in 1974, but by that time the Kings had added tremendous talent to their roster in players like Butch Goring and goaltender Rogie Vachon. The late 70s saw the acquisitions of Marcel Dionne and Dave Taylor. Boasting nearly 1,200 career goals between these two, Kings fans were on their feet at every game.
The Los Angeles Kings continued to gain popularity throughout the 1980s with talented stars like Bernie Nicholls lighting the lamp. Taylor and Dionne were at their peak and the defense got a big boost with Larry Murphy on the blue line. Luc Robitaille would join the team in 1986 and quickly capture the hearts of the Los Angeles faithful.
However, in a move that shocked the hockey world, the Los Angeles Kings acquired Wayne Gretzky from the Edmonton Oilers. Adding the most dominant player ever to play the game gave the building a new feeling. Hollywood celebrities were lining up to see The Great One each night.
The roster loaded with talent in Wayne Gretzky, Luc Robitaille, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey, Dave Taylor, Rob Blake, Marty McSorley, Tony Granato, and Tomas Sandstrom brought Los Angeles to the brink of their first Stanley Cup in 1993, but the Kings fell to the Montreal Canadiens in five games.
The Kings would continue their pursuit of hockey’s ultimate prize, culminating in their first Stanley Cup Championship in 2012 under Captain Dustin Brown. Head Coach Darryl Sutter’s squad bested the New Jersey Devils in 6 games with amazing performances by notable players such as Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick, Matt Greene, Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty, Dustin Penner, and Justin Williams.
Los Angeles cemented their standing as an elite franchise by capturing another championship two seasons later over the New York Rangers. Alec Martinez’s game five overtime goal to clinch the Stanley Cup will live on forever in hockey lore, but will evoke its most intense emotions in two cities, with the thrill of victory in Los Angeles and the agony of defeat in New York.
Early in the 2018-2019 season, head coach John Stevens was replaced by Willie Desjardins. He is tasked with getting this team back to the finals after only two playoff appearances and one playoff win in the last four season. The coaching change will, undoubtedly, shake up the team and could lead to an improved performance.
The Los Angeles Kings take to the ice each night hungry for their third championship. Stellar play in net from Jonathan Quick and a mix of finesse and toughness from Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Alec Martinez, Alex Iafallo, Drew Doughty (who re-signed with an eight year deal with the team in the offseason), and Tyler Toffoili ensure that the Kings will be making teams nervous, not only in the Pacific Division, but throughout both the Western and Eastern Conferences. Ilya Kovalchuk has returned to the NHL after spending several seasons in the KHL. He has signed with LA and is a solid contributor for the Kings organization. For more information about the Los Angeles Kings click here.