Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Kansas City - Loving Hockey since 1928

So you think you've had it rough as a long suffering Kings fans? I know, misery since 1967, with few bright spots along the way. Well, how about the fine folks of Kansas City - they were awarded their first pro team back in 1928. In January of that year the Pla-Mors of the American Hockey Association opened up their inaugural season. Nothing good has really happened in KC since, at least hockey wise. Teams have folded, been sold, skipped town, changed leagues and pretty much come and gone more like trade shows arriving for a weekend at the local Convention Center, rather than teams setting up shop for the long haul.

The NHL got into the action in 1974 with the debut of the KC Scouts. However, KC's link to the Kings began a few years earlier when the Kings and St Louis Blues were part of the NHL's "Expansion Six" in 1967. To help support the big club, the Blues put a CHL team in KC named...the Kansas City Blues.

Several players from the Kings inaugural run in '67-68 eventually ended up skating with the KC Blues. Guys like Bob Wall, Brent Hughes, Larry Johnston (all of 4 games) and Terry Gray all played in Los Angeles during that first season only to later end up in KC.

Later Kings teams featured players that had previously done time in KC - Doug Barrie (LA '71-72), Frank St. Marseille (LA '72-77), Sheldon Kannegiesser (LA '73-77), Darryl Edestrand (LA '77-79) and another "just four games" member - Bart Crashley ('75)

Then there was Rick Lapointe, having skated in KC earlier in his career, he ended up playing nearly 100 games with the Kings between '84-86 before calling it a career.

While the expansion teams in KC and Washington were certainly news back in 1974, the biggest change came with the league restructuring into four divisions. The Kings would now play in the Smythe Division. Nearly 20 years later, the Kings would win their lone division title, before newly appointed commissioner Bettman and the NHL changed things again - this time going with the (supposed) more fan friendly Pacific division.
Random Ramble - I'm usually not in the same camp as people clamoring for the "old days" of sports. I'm not a hard core traditionalist. I will say though, one thing I sure wish they would bring back are the traditional names of the divisions. I highly doubt one more fan follows hockey today because of the divisional name changes. Hockey - and most sports in general - have such a strong sense of history, I liked it better when the Kings played in the Smythe. Thankfully, they never changed the name of the Stanley Cup.
Keeping with the fine hockey tradition of KC, those Scouts didn't last long back in the mid-seventies. They played just two seasons in KC before packing up and heading to Colorado. Long before the baseball Rockies were hitting home runs in Denver, there were the Rockies on ice. Some of the KC "magic" must have come with them, as by 1982 the moving vans were in town again. The franchise was on its way to New Jersey and well, the rest is history...with three Stanley Cups to show for their troubles.

While success for the former KC team was being achieved in Jersey, KC hockey was back on the map again in 2004. The KC Outlaws of the UHL debuted with head coach Darryl Williams. Although the ties to the Kings weren't strong, they were there - with the coach having played a whopping TWO games in Los Angeles (coincidentally during the infamous 92-93 season). During 2004-05, their only season of operation, KC finished last in the Western Conference. Sound familiar?

In a footnote that Ron Hextall could appreciate, Michel Plasse of the KC Blues was the first professional goalie to record a goal on Feb 21, 1971. However, Plasse apparently doesn't share the gift of gab with Hextall. News reports after the game quoted Plasee as saying "I wasn't trying to score, I was just clearing the puck out of our zone." Come on guy, have some flare. At least say you were aiming for the net and got lucky it went in or something.

Kansas City's link to LA continued last year when the Kings arrived in town for an exhibition game in the area's new AEG arena. It was a memorable night for a few of the young Kings - Davis Drewiske scored the first goal in the new building, wunderkind Drew Doughty made his NHL debut and Jon Quick stopped all 19 shots he faced. And the Kings won.

What type of new links will be formed tonight?

The Mayor

photo courtesy of kcnhl.blogspot.com

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