Monday, May 21, 2012

The Los Angeles Kings, Long Beach Arena and the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena


There have been a few occasions in NHL history where a team has been forced to play in a temporary home because of a problem with their regular home arena. For example on March 1, 1968 the roof of the Spectrum in Philly was damaged in a wind storm. The Flyers were forced to play their last seven regular season 'home' games at neutral sites: March 3 at Madison Square Garden in New York versus the Seals, March 7 at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto versus the Bruins, and games on March 10, 14, 17, 28 and 30 at Le Colisée de Québec. In 1979 the Hartford Whalers played their first home games in the NHL at the Springfield Civic Center in Springfield, Massachusetts because the Hartford Civic Center's roof collapsed under the weight of snow in January, 1978. They didn't return to the Hartford Civic Center until February 6, 1980.

Another such example was the Los Angeles Kings in 1967, the beginning of their inaugural season. Kings and L.A. Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke was building his own arena, The Forum in Inglewood, to house his hockey and basketball teams. He had had a 'prickly' relationship with the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission, the Lakers' landlord at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena (located next to the gargantuan Memorial Coliseum). In fact they had supported a rival bid for an NHL expansion team led by Jim Piggott and Dan Reeves, owners of the WHL's Los Angeles Blades. The Blades held the hockey lease at the Sports Arena and the Coliseum Commission wouldn't let the new NHL team play there.

So Cooke built his "Fabulous Forum" and it opened December 30, 1967. Unfortunately for him NHL seasons start in October, not December. The Kings were forced to play in two temporary homes in the Los Angeles area until the Forum opened. The Kings themselves say as much in their online history (see http://kings.nhl.com/club/page.htm?id=40920). They note that the team opened the season at home at Long Beach Arena, played a couple games there, and then played at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena until the Forum opened December 30. 

The L.A. Kings have botched their own history.

The Kings did indeed play their two inaugural home games at Long Beach Arena: October 14 versus the Flyers and October 15 versus the North Stars. And they did start playing at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena thereafter, beginning October 31 versus the Rangers. The incorrect information here is that the Kings' website says "Those two games would be the only games the Kings ever played at the Long Beach Arena, posting an all-time mark of 2-0-0," and "The Kings would play their final game [at Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena] on Dec. 21, a 4-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins." Neither are true.

The latter is quite obviously not true because the Forum opened December 30 and the Kings had another home game after the 21st, before the Forum opened: on the 23rd against the Blues. This was their last home game at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena (a 4-0 shutout). This is blatantly obvious on the Kings' own webpage about their 1967-68 season: http://kings.nhl.com/club/page.htm?id=41005

Concerning their games played at Long Beach they say only two but other sources say otherwise. In fact I have found sources of the time saying the games on December 6, 8, 15 and 16 were played at Long Beach Arena, with quotes like:

"The Kings, with an 11-9-3 record and 25 points, hope to gain their first victory over the Blues when the two teams tangle in the Long Beach Sports Arena." (The Press-Courier, Dec. 4, 1967)

"The Kings have a chance to either lengthen their lead of lose it Friday when they meet the Flyers at the Long Beach Arena." (Windsor Star, Dec. 7, 1968)

"The Kings, shut out in their previous two games, were beaten by the East Division-leading Boston Bruins 5-2 at the Long Beach Arena." (The Press-Courier, Dec. 18, 1967)

The only one up in the air is the game on the 15th against the Minnesota North Stars. Most newspapers at the time simply referred to the game having been played "at Los Angeles", not naming the particular arena. I have found a short article from the Associated Press carried in a few newspapers about the results of the game, with the reporting location cited as Long Beach. Another article dated Monday the 18th said "The slumping Los Angeles Kings, losers of seven of their last 10 National Hockey League starts, play three games this week—all at the [Los Angeles Memorial] Sports Arena," which suggests the games played the week before (Friday the 15th and Saturday the 16th) were played at Long Beach. It seems most likely that this game on the 15th was played at Long Beach.

That means that the Kings played the following games at Long Beach Arena:
  • October 14 vs. the Flyers (4-2W)
  • October 15 vs. the North Stars (5-3W)
  • December 6 vs. the Blues (3-2W)
  • December 8 vs. the Flyers (3-0L)
  • December 15 vs. the North Stars (3-0L)
  • December 16 vs. the Bruins (5-2L)


And the following were played at Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena:
  • October 31 vs. the Rangers (6-1L)
  • November 2 vs. the Black Hawks (3-1L)
  • November 7 vs. the Seals (5-4W)
  • November 9 vs. the Maple Leafs (4-1W)
  • November 17 vs. the Red Wings (4-1L)
  • November 19 vs. the Canadiens (4-2W)
  • November 22 vs. the Seals (3-1W)
  • November 24 vs. the Penguins (5-3W)
  • December 19 vs. the Seals (3-1W)
  • December 21 vs. the Penguins (4-1W)
  • December 23 vs. the Blues (4-0W)


In six home games at Long Beach the Kings went 3-3-0 with 14 GF, 18 GA, and overall attendance of a paltry 30,918 (an average of 5,153). In 11 home games at Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena they went 8-3-0, 35 GF, 26 GA, with 71,846 fans attending (6,531 average). At The Forum they went 9-7-4, 67 GF, 52 GA and 194,490 fans (9,725 average). The Kings had better results on the ice at their temporary homes in '67 but their gate receipts were much better at the Forum. So it goes ...

Update — August 30, 2016

Perhaps the most definitive, irrefutable proof I've found that the Kings played the games on December 6, 8, 15 and 16 at Long Beach Arena is this ticket order form from the program from the King's first home game on October 14, which clearly shows where each home game was scheduled. This image is by former FAN590 reporter Howard Berger, who posted it to his blog at betweentheposts.ca from his personal memorabilia collection. Thanks, Howard!


Sources:
"Kings Beaten By NY, Fall Out of First". The Press-Courier. Associated Press. (Oxnard, California). Dec. 4, 1967. p. 11. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=HP1RAAAAIBAJ&sjid=iDQNAAAAIBAJ&pg=4398%2C717795
"Kings take over top spot". Windsor Star. Dec. 7, 1967. p. B3. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=ojU_AAAAIBAJ&sjid=n1EMAAAAIBAJ&pg=4638%2C2677934
"Kings Blanked gain, 3-0, By Minnesota's Maniago". The Press-Courier. Associated Press. (Oxnard, California). Dec. 16, 1967. p. 10. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=KP1RAAAAIBAJ&sjid=iDQNAAAAIBAJ&pg=1959%2C3396598
"Kings Seek to Regain Cool On Ice This Week". The Press-Courier. United Press International (Oxnard, California). Dec. 18, 1967. p. 13. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=Kv1RAAAAIBAJ&sjid=iDQNAAAAIBAJ&pg=5720%2C3945252

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