Saturday, August 20, 2011

Look for LA Kings to add 'sandpaper' in next few days

Flyers West?

Nah, it may be time to resurrect 'Oliers South.'

Before Kings GM Dean Lombardi was accused of trying to bring a Philadelphia brand of hockey to Los Angeles, he was on the verge of repeating the cycle of team leaders from the early '90s.

After Wayne Gretzky arrived, the franchise eventually acquired nearly every one of his former Oiler teammates - with one notable exception, Mark Messier.

When guys like Jarret Stoll, Matt Greene and Ryan Smyth started to fill the Kings locker room, some wondered if 'Oilers South' was about to make a comeback.

That story had been pushed to the back burner a bit though as the collection of former Flyers started to increase, peaking with Mike Richards and Simon Gagne nearly two months ago.

Now...we don't deal with rumors much here on, this is more than a rumor.

In the next few days, look for another former Oiler to sign a one-year deal with the Kings (for around $1-million).

Friday, August 19, 2011

Original King bookened his HOF career with Fox and Toffoli

A Killer goodbye (photo by:
In October 1967, Brian Kilrea scored the first goal in Los Angeles Kings history.

He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003.

Make no mistake about it though, it had nothing to do with his time in the NHL, where he played a grand total of 26 games and scored three goals.

Killer, as he's affectionately known in hockey circles, has largely spent the past 35-plus years either behind the bench or in the front office of the Ottawa 67's, one of the OHL's most successful teams.

He began his coaching career in 1974-75 and three years later his roster included a short whippersnapper from Coniston, Ontario ...and knowing Foxy now, he probably had the best hair on the team, even back then.

Jim Fox honed his craft under the tutelage of Kilrea for three seasons, before being selected in the first round by the Kings in the 1980 NHL Draft.

When it was announced on Wednesday that Kilrea was stepping down from his day to day activities with the 67's, Fox was eager to speak out on the man who guided him early in his career.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Mike Richards on Corey Perry and not doing stupid things

Corey Perry and Mike Richards
Now, that may not be the best title for an article, but it will all make sense in just a few minutes...

Back in December, readers of MayorsManor voted Anaheim's Corey Perry as their least favorite NHL player, among guys still in the league.

Perry certainly didn't do anything to quell those feelings a few months later when the Kings and Ducks met up for the 100th time in their collective history. Tied 1-1 after three periods on Staples Center ice, Perry scored the game-winner in overtime.

On June 22nd Perry was named the league MVP at the annual NHL Awards in Las Vegas.

The very next day, Kings GM Dean Lombardi pulled off a huge trade, bringing center Mike Richards to LA.

It didn't take fans and media long to connect the dots on Richards and Perry. The two had several battles during their junior hockey days in the OHL, Richards in Kitchener and Perry in London.

Is there still a little bad blood left over?  Probably not.

Mark Hardy talks about his desire to coach in Ontario

Following up on yesterday's articles...

Reign President Justin Kemp said that former LA King Mark Hardy is on the short list of final candidates for the open head coaching position in Ontario (ECHL).

Here are some initial comments from a subsequent conversation I had with Hardy following my meeting with Kemp yesterday...

"I'd be honored to work for the Kemp family again," began Hardy. "Hopefully, I can help the Ontario Reign bring the Kelly Cup to Southern California."

- On the fact he never formally interviewed with Kemp, only spoke with him by phone: "Hopefully we can sit down and talk about things further. I hope it was a step in the right direction, that's for sure. Just to be considered for it is quite an honor to me. I do have a relationship with them from working in Long Beach (Ice Dogs). And when I coached the Los Angeles Blades under Jeanie Buss (pro roller hockey), Justin worked for us at the time. So, we've had a long relationship. I'm confident that he knows my qualifications fit the bill and I'd be honored to have the opportunity to work for them again."

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Reign President - 'Mark Hardy is on the short list of finalists'

Mark Hardy and Craig Johnson
Could former LA Kings Mark Hardy and Craig Johnson be on the verge of forming a coaching tandem in the ECHL?

According to Ontario Reign President Justin Kemp, Hardy is on the short list of finalists for the open head coaching slot - as he discusses in detail below.

Hardy, a former assistant coach with the Kings for more than 10 seasons, also is near the top in several statistical categories for LA defensemen - including third most games played (616), second most assists, third most points and fifth most penalty minutes. He was also part of the Kings run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1993.

Johnson, most recently, has been coaching youth hockey in Orange County. He originally arrived in Los Angles as part of the epic 1996 trade that saw Wayne Gretzky dealt to St. Louis. After playing more than seven seasons for the Kings, he was a Mighty Duck for one year (2003-04). After a few more NHL stops, he wrapped up his on-ice career by playing a few seasons in Europe.

Hardy was one of the Kings assistant coaches during most of Johnson's time with the Kings.

Following up on today's earlier interview, here's Kemp with an A to Z look at the coaching situation in Ontario, including specific comments about how Hardy and Johnson might fit in...

Many frustrations for Ontario Reign President Justin Kemp

The Ontario Reign, proud affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings (that's their slogan), have been in the news quite a bit lately.

First, there were grumblings they were looking to create an affiliation with a second NHL team. This wasn't completely shocking news, as their team President, Justin Kemp, gently voiced his desire to get more support from the Kings in his pre-season interview here on MayorsManor last October.

Like he acknowledged then though, the Kings' number one priority is winning a Stanley Cup in Los Angeles. Thus, they need to do what's right for the parent organization first (when it comes to player development). Unfortunately, that may mean they don't have many prospects available for the ECHL.

The second Reign news item was that coach Karl Taylor had left to become an assistant with Vancouver's AHL affiliate in Chicago.

Oh by the way, that hiring came out of discussions the Reign were having with the Canucks about becoming that second NHL affiliate.  Sound a little fishy?

Earlier today, I sat down with Kemp again to address the entire situation.

Rather than splice it all up and just use selected quotes for an article, here are some of his raw comments...

- On the idea of adding a second NHL affiliate - "It started at the end of this last season. I went to Karl and asked him, we had struggled to get some help from the LA Kings over our first three years. Missing the playoffs the last two seasons, obviously, we needed some sort of a jolt - something to get the fans excited about. So, we inquired about what other affiliations were out there as a possible secondary affiliate. Vancouver seemed to be the best choice. They were going deep into the playoffs at that time. So, those discussion initially began between Karl and the Canucks. I came into the picture a few weeks later. We thought we're about a phone call or so away from getting a deal done. Ultimately, what happened is, they pulled back because LA was not in favor of us having a secondary affiliate. I think Vancouver wanted to be respectful of that."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mike Richards talks leadership and wearing a letter in LA

Earlier today we posted comments from Kings coach Terry Murray regarding the leadership styles of Dustin Brown, Mike Richards and Simon Gagne.

Now, Richards is back to weigh in with some thoughts on the whole subject...

While other guys may have the letters on their jersey, how long will it take you to establish a leadership role in the locker room?

"Leadership is not just one person," Richards explained. "There's one guy with the 'C' on his jersey and (others) with the 'A's, but I've always felt that it was a team effort. You can't have enough experience in a dressing room. Everybody's been in that position at some point. You don't make it to the NHL without being some sort of leader. It might be somebody one night, Brownie the next night (or) Kopitar. It's not always the same person voicing their opinion. If something needs to be said, I'm sure they'll say it."

And the role he'll play in that process? "I just want to come in and focus on hockey. If something needs to be said or if somebody asks me a question, I'll definitely I'll answer," said Richards.

For those who like to look for something that isn't there, Richards made one thing perfectly clear - he doesn't have any expectations of wearing the 'C' in Los Angeles...this season or anytime in the near future.

"Dustin's done a great job of captaining this team for a couple of years now," Richards said with great enthusiasm and conviction. "I've talked with a lot of players and I know how hard how he plays - I played against him for (two) years in Kitchener, when he was in Guelph (OHL). I've played against him a bunch of times during the regular season and at the Olympics last year. So, I know what type of leader he is and how hard he plays the game. I have no plan on doing anything other than coming in here and playing hockey."

With or without a letter, does he feel pressure coming to Los Angeles with such a huge spotlight on him being shown on him this summer?

LA Kings coach on leadership of Brown, Richards, Gagne

Simon Gagne (photo:
The Kings may be one of the youngest teams in the league, yet leadership shouldn't be an issue in Los Angeles.

For the past three seasons, Dustin Brown has been the captain, with Matt Greene and Anze Kopitar serving as alternates over the same time period.

Additionally, numerous other players in the locker room have worn a letter prior, either in the NHL, internationally, or while developing as top prospects.

Plus, this summer, the team added two major components - Mike Richards, the former Philadelphia captain, and Simon Gagne - who, according to coach Terry Murray, was 'almost' the Flyers captain.

So, just how does Murray expect Richards to fit into the Kings' leadership group?

"In Philadelphia, he had those instinctive leadership skills that some players have and some players don't," Murray began by explaining. "He steps up - a big part of his leadership is doing it on the ice. He's a guy who wants to take over whenever it's needed. He sees and watches the game very closely. He jumps in, he'll fight, he battles, he's gritty. He can make plays, he can crank it up to the next level whenever necessary. We saw it in the Olympics last year with Team Canada. At the end of the day, when Canada needed to get their game going, it ended up being (Jonathan) Toews and Richards, and they moved a few guys around on the other wing. But, to me, those were the guys who stepped it up and showed the way for the rest of the team."

Late last season, Murray said Brown was perhaps the team's most impressive player when Kopitar went down with an injury (link here).

Does he see the two as having a complimentary leadership style?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Exclusive: Nick Shore on Team USA WJC camp experience

Nick Shore - LA Kings prospect
(photo by Cikiri)
Like it has been for some of you, summer has been filled with plenty of camping for many of the Los Angeles Kings top prospects.

First, there was the Kings Development Camp in early July. Then, a few of the elite were selected to attend evaluation camps for various countries preparing to participate in this winter's World Junior Championship.

Last week, Tyler Toffoli checked in from Team Canada's camp. And over the last few days, we heard from Kevin Gravel and Michael Mersch.

Next up is Nick Shore, a college player (University of Denver Pioneers) selected by LA in the third round of this year's draft.

Last summer, he was invited by Team USA to their summer camp as well. However, he didn't make the team that went on to the tournament this past January.

He arrived back home in Colorado yesterday and shared the following thoughts on his second go around at evaluation camp...

- Overall impression: "I thought I had a really good camp. Obviously, it was my second year there, so I felt a little more comfortable and more prepared. In the games that I played, I think I played pretty well too. So, now I'm focused on having a big first half to the season and hopefully I'll get invited to the (selection) camp in December."

- Changes to the structure of camp: "Last year, there wasn't necessarily workouts, but it was definitely a much more rigorous warm-up and cool down. We didn't have as much of that this year, so I think it made it a little bit easier."

- On his interactions with the coaches: "The way it worked was coach Dean Blais wasn't around as much during the first part of camp. We had our own coaches and stuff like that (note: the group of 40+ campers was split into two groups for the first few days, team blue and team white). So, we didn't interact much. But, yeah, some of the coaches were pretty funny and they were fun to be around."

- On Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma, who helped out during the early part of camp: "Any time there is an NHL coach there, you have to listen to everything he has to say. The main thing with him was the way he approached the game. He did everything in a very professional manner and I think even though this was a camp in the middle of summer, he was still very professional in all aspects. I think that really transferred over to my game and the rest of guys in camp."

Interview with pro wrestling legend Nick Bockwinkel

Marty O'Neill with Nick Bockwinkel
A sold out throng of fans packed Staples Center last night for the WWE's annual SummerSlam event. It was a glitzy affair, attended by many athletes and celebrities - including NHL defenseman Sheldon Souray sitting in the front row.

It wasn't that surprising really, as there's always been a loose link between hockey and wrestling - after all, they at the very least share the same arenas in most major markets.

One of the building's normal residents, the Los Angeles Kings, have their own ties to the squared circle as well. Ted Irvine, who helped set up the first goal in team history, is the father of former WWE champion Chris Jericho.

However, years before Jack Kent Cooke brought the NHL to Los Angeles - and a lifetime before AEG helped revitalize downtown - one of the hottest tickets in SoCal was for events held just a few blocks from the city's showpiece arena now located on Figueroa Street.

One man who helped make that much smaller venue an icon among sports buildings was Nick Bockwinkel. For those not familiar with the rich history of pro wrestling, he's a mulit-time world champion, Hall of Famer and had many classic matches with the fellow legends, such as Verne Gagne, Dick The Bruiser, Terry Funk, Larry Zbyszko, Andre The Giant and Hulk Hogan.

"Before I came back to the Midwest, Los Angeles was where I first started wrestling and that's where my father wrestled for a number of years," said Bockwinkel. "A lot of my early matches were at the old Olympic Auditorium, back in 1955. The dressing room there was like a dungeon."