Sunday, August 30, 2009

LA Kings HockeyFest 2009: Saving the Best for Last

In the Rick Knickle spot (#1) - Growing Up Kings with Hardy, Nicholls & Robitaille

Come on people, if you don't know about Rick Knickle, you clearly weren't paying attention yesterday during my rant about the goaltending situation during the winter of '92-93.

Which #1 were you expecting me to reference...Mario Lessard?

Jim Fox (the host) started the session talking about how he and Harpo (Mark Hardy) had been out late the night before dancing at the Bullpen in Redondo Beach. Why we were supposed to care, I still don't know. In the 90s Harry O's in Manhattan Beach was where lots of the players used to hang out. Maybe once you retire you move over to the Bullpen. Or...given Dean's love for baseball, perhaps they thought "the Bullpen" would score some bonus points with the boss.

This session was great, although you always felt they were holding back a bit on some of the stories. One guy would be talking and then just look at another guy like "remember what else happened? (wink wink)"

Highlights included:

* Bernie Nicholls discussed his love of the fans, especially kids. One time he tossed a puck into the stands for an elderly gentleman after the pre-skate shoot around. When he came back out for the game the fan was holding a big towel on his head and was acting like he was nursing an injury. A few days later Bernie gets a letter stating he is being sued for $20k for the injury...and ANOTHER $20k because the guy could no longer perform his manly duties. Luc chimed in with the perfect solution. To save the $20k Bernie just offered to do it for him.

* Bernie and those damn pucks. Looks like another time he was fined by a minor league team for giving away all of the practice pucks after a shoot around. Can you imagine a team fining a player for interacting with the fans? I know things run on a shoe sting budget in the minors, yet this takes it to a whole new level.

* The PumperNicholl - there really isn't some great story behind the origin of this legendary move (or moves). Bernie simply says he loves scoring goals - "it's exciting" - and that Bob Miller can claim the naming rights. Apparently it didn't retire with him though. He says he still does it when he plays in charity games and such. Wonder if the opposing teams appreciate that a little less than the fans in the crowd.

* Harpo was reminded that none of his former teammates ever would have selected him as the guy "most likely to end up in coaching." To which he replied, "Why because I showed up to camp drunk one year?" Being traded to New York was a "devastating day in my life" he added, an event that started his awakening into maturity. He "learned how to win" from Mark Messier.
Quick side note - when people in the 90s would talk about the Kings being the Oilers South they were partially right. There were so many former Oilers here it was crazy - Gretzky, Huddy, McSorley, Kurri, Coffey, etc. However, the ONE guy they missed out on was Messier. Sure, the Kings had the best player in the game in #99, just think about what could have been if they had the best leader in all of pro sports!
Harpo also credited Rick Dudley (then of Phoenix, more recently the just appointed assistant GM in Atlanta) for getting him started in coaching when he made him a player/coach. He said he took to it right away.

* Following up on the Luc fighting at his 2nd training camp story I wrote about in the recap from Saturday...Luc says it was Dan Brennan he tried to scrap with. The scuffle ended when Bernie started yelling at Dan "STOP - you're going to kill him!" Yes, that was the end of Luc's fighting career, over before it ever really started.

* Apparently, Bernie liked the puck as much as Marcel. Well that and he says he always preferred the sure thing. Which is probably what led to him telling Ken Baumgartner "If I ever give you the puck, it was a mistake. Give it back!" Somebody call JR and tell him his t-shirt company needs to add that to their line.

* Memory lane - Luc says the hit Harpo laid on Mike Keane in game 3 of the '93 playoffs was the best hit he ever saw on the ice.
File under useless trivia - Mike Keane has the Stanley Cup tattooed on his leg three for each cup he has won. Sorry, no link available.
They lost that game in overtime, but the hit lives on...or at least the story of the hit. Harpo says after the glass was shattered he looked in and saw Michelle Pfeiffer, so he winked at her before skating off. Click here to relive one of Harpo's finest moments via YouTube.

* Bernie sure wasn't shy with his opinions. He claims that Gretzky should have been called for a penalty in the '93 series with Toronto...better yet, he says he should have been ejected from the game! Watch the video and decide for yourself by clicking here.

* An interesting fact was brought up about tough travel schedules. Dallas plays all of their division games two time zones away.

* Bernie went on to say that teams in the West (mainly California teams) claiming "travel" is the reason they haven't won a cup are just making excuses. He then walked off the stage doing the PumperNicholl.
OK, so he didn't walk off the stage doing the PumperNicholl. Fine. He should have. How's that - better?

* All four guys on stage claimed that Patrick Roy was the toughest goalie they ever faced. A few other names were thrown around as tough too - like, Brodeur and Fuhr. However, it was Roy by overwhelming consensus.

* Back to Bernie - he says the Islanders practiced harder than the Kings played in games most nights. Luc added when he was first breaking in with the Kings (or was that Growing up a King to keep with the theme?) he was given more grief for his softball skills than his hockey skills. The Kings were the defending softball champions and they took their title serious...seriously.

* Who else, but Bernie - He is working on a 13 week hunting show for Versus. You can see it by ordering DirecTV now...oh, never mind. It's somewhat of an extension of a hunting piece he did for the NHL Network awhile back. Once a sniper, always a sniper.

* Superstitions - Luc used to use sticks with white tape on the blade in the first and third periods, alternating to black tape in the second. Harpo's only superstition was dressing his left side first. FASCINATING! Bernie takes the cake though. On game days he didn't want to be separated from his stick. So, he would take it home with him, to lunch, even to bed. I kept waiting for a series of one liners after that little tidbit, they never came.

Great way to end the day - and the weekend - with such a fun session. Overall, I would say this session tied for "best overall" with Saturday's expert panel.

Now that we know what it's like growing up a King, next year I'll be hosting "Growing Up a Kings Fan!" I'm already gathering my stories, photos and videos.

The Mayor

1 comment:

  1. I think that if you did a session, it would be hilarious - the Smyth comment on TO radio, Ron Wilson's cards, Hannon stories, JR, Tanguay's comment in the Hockey News, Tugnutt, the Blake incidents, Fedorov trying to get at you, etc. I mean there are probably tons of quirps that you forgot too. It would be funny b/c you have artifacts to show with your stories too! LOL