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These Players Were LA Kings???

Yes they were! But I can’t honestly blame anyone for not remembering that as they were not Los Angeles Kings’ players for very long, so if you blinked, even for just a second, you might have missed their entire tenure there.  This article was spawned from a fun conversation I once had with the Emperor of MakeWayForTheKings.net Ryan Cowley during the 2015 Hockey Hall of Fall Alumni game at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada that we were both covering.  We were name dropping former LA Kings’ players and caught each other by surprise by reminding the other of certain well known players that were not as well known as Kings and had forgotten the fact that they had played at some point in their careers in Los Angeles.  The four players I chose for today’s article were all included in that conversation last year and all four did end up having long and productive careers in the National Hockey League. I am in no way trying to degrade these men, their talent or their overall hockey careers (heck, two of them even won the Stanley Cup), I just find it interesting (and maybe even a little amusing), that as time passes by, their short stints in Los Angeles are now fading from our memories along with the sands of time (not Days of our Lives). Thankfully I am here to remind you all that Eddie Olczyk, Neal Broten, Valeri Bure and Sean Burke were all once crowned with the armor of the Kings so without further ado, let’s jump into our time machine of choice, (I am a DeLorean man myself) and let’s go back in time and remember these four men that have a lot of us Kings’ fans asking out loud, “These Players Were LA Kings???”

 

Eddie Olczyk

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The current color commentator for the NHL on NBC as well as for the Chicago Blackhawks on Comcast SportsNet Chicago, and former head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Eddie “O” enjoyed a 16 year career as a player in the NHL that saw him bounced around from team to team.

After being drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks as the third overall pick in 1984, he showed much promise in his first three seasons with the Hawks before being traded in a massive deal to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1987.  Toronto is where Olczyk became an all-star in the NHL while playing for a very unsuccessful team.  With the Leafs, he enjoyed seasons of 42 goals and 75 points in 1987-88, and 38 goals and 90 points in 1988-89.  He was later traded to the (original) Winnipeg Jets and then to the New York Rangers, whom he won the 1994 Stanley Cup with, (but only played one game in those playoffs as head coach Mike Keenan wasn’t a fan of Eddie “O’s” style of play, (to be fair, Keenan wasn’t a fan of most people’s style of play). After being bounced around by more teams, Olczyk returned to the Blackhawks and retired there in 2000. He ended up playing 1, 031 career NHL games and achieving 794 career points. He was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013.

His time as a King

After playing with the Winnipeg Jets a second time, Olczyk signed as a free agent with the struggling (and Wayne Gretzky-less) Los Angeles Kings in the summer of 1996, instead of moving with the relocated Winnipeg franchise to Phoenix, Arizona. Because of his experience and due to the Kings’ Captain Rob Blake often being injured, he became one of the leaders of the team.  The Kings were horrible that season and were nowhere close to a playoff spot but Olczyk still had an impressive 21 goals and 44 points in 67 games.  That was good enough for third overall in team scoring behind Dmitiri Khristich and Ray Ferraro, even though he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Glen Murray at the trade deadline and didn’t get to play as a King for an entire season. As well as Olczyk played for LA, this was a good trade for the Kings at the time as he was deemed too slow of a skater at the best of times and the powers that be were hoping to inject youth and speed into the team.

Eddie Olczyk’s greatest moment as a King

Being traded for Glen Murray. Murray enjoyed success as a King and helped greatly during the Kings 2001 playoff fun.

Olczyk’s greatest memory of being a King

Playing for head coach and Hall of Fame player Larry Robinson.

 

Neal Broten

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A highly touted American prospect as a student at the University of Minnesota, Broten would achieve great success before ever skating as a professional in the NHL.  Coached by the legendary American coach Herb Brooks, Broten won the WCHA Rookie of the Year award and scored the game winner for the Minnesota Golden Gophers to win the 1979 NCAA Championship. Brooks was hired as the head coach of the American Olympic National team for the 1980 Lake Placid, New York Winter Olympics and he brought Broten with him to play for the team.  The rest is hockey history as the Americans stunned the tournament favorite National Soviet Union team, 4-3 in the semi-finals.  The Americans went on to win the Olympic Gold medal by defeating Finland in the final.  These events are now more famously known as the “Miracle on Ice.”  Broten was later awarded the prestigious Hobey Baker award in 1981.

Short at 5’9, Broten enjoyed a successful NHL career that started when he was drafted by his home state’s Minnesota North Stars.  With the Stars, Broten helped the team reach the Stanley Cup final twice in 1981 and 1991. He had a career year with them in 1986 when scoring 29 goals, 76 assists and 105 points, which made him the first ever American born player in NHL history to reach 100 points in a season.  In 1993, the Minnesota franchise relocated to Dallas, Texas to become the Dallas Stars and Broten was named as team Captain in 1995 before being traded to the New Jersey Devils at that year’s trade deadline.  Broten would go on and score the Cup clinching goal for the Devils to win that franchise’s first ever Stanley Cup, making Broten the first ever American born player to do so.  Broten ended those 1995 playoffs with 19 points in twenty games. Broten retired in 1997 after returning to the Dallas Stars and finished his career with 1,099 games and 923 points.  He had his number 7 jersey retired by the Stars franchise in 1998 and was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2000.

His time as King

Broten was traded to the LA Kings by the New Jersey Devils during the 1996-97 season, (the same season Eddie Olczyk played with the Kings).  Already in the twilight of his great career, Broten only produced 4 assists in 19 games before being placed on waivers before the season was done. He was picked up by his old friends, the Dallas Stars and finished the season and his career there more successfully with 15 points in 20 games.

Neal Broten’s greatest moment as a King

When as a Minnesota North Star, he once fought (yes fought) Wayne Gretzky of the Edmonton Oilers back in 1982.

Of course this does not have anything to do with the Kings except that both players would go on to become Kings’ players at some point, (but not at the same time), which goes to show that Broten’s time in LA was not very memorable and can be easily forgotten. Still, I find it very cool that he did in fact play for the Kings, as unmemorable as it was.

Broten’s greatest memory as a King

Being placed on waivers by the Kings so he could go back home (somewhat) and play for the Stars to end his wonderful career.

 

 

Valeri Bure

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The lessor popular of the Russian Bure brothers, Valeri left his home in the USSR in 1991 to play for the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League where he became a two-time All-Star. The Montreal Canadiens then drafted Bure with the 33th pick of the 1992 NHL entry draft and he went on to play three and half seasons with “Les Habitants.”  In 1998, the “Habs” traded Bure to the Calgary Flames and it was with the Flames were he enjoyed most of his success as an NHL player. Bure was also happy with the move as this brought him closer to his family in the west coast as his brother Pavel was playing with the Vancouver Canucks and his wife, actress Candace Cameron (best known for portraying D.J. Tanner on the popular sit-com “Full House”) was working in Los Angeles.

After a fall-out with the Flames, Bure wanted a trade out of Calgary and his wish was granted by being traded to the Florida Panthers, where his brother Pavel was now playing.  After scoring 75 points and 55 points for the Flames during his last two seasons there, Bure never reached those numbers again for the remainder of his career due to suffering various injuries and battling in long contract disbute.  After two years in Florida, Bure was traded to the St. Louis Blues but returned to Florida the following season as a free agent.  Bure finished his career with 400 points in 621 games. Years later, Bure would go on to win the Canadian reality show, “Battle of the Blades.”

His time as a King

Before the 2005-06 NHL season started, (which was after a yearlong NHL vs NHLPA strike that completely erased the 2004-05 season, playoffs and Stanley Cup final), Bure signed a one year, $1.5 million contract with the Los Angeles Kings.  That’s about it when it comes to his time in Los Angeles as Bure ended up not playing a single regular season game with the team due to soreness in his back.  He ended up having back surgery and also hip surgery and because of it, he announced his retirement by the age of 31.  Many Kings’ fans were not impressed and felt Bure should have returned the money he received by the Kings since he did not play one meaningful game for the franchise, (and by Kings’ fans, I mean me! His back sure did look sturdy and strong when he won the BATTLE OF THE BLADES!!! AM I RIGHT?!?!)

Bure’s greatest moment as a King

A photo-shoot he was a part of during the pre-season to announce his signing with the Kings organization. Well at least that counts for something right?

My greatest memory of Bure as a King

Nothing but at the previously mentioned 2015 Hockey Hall of Fame alumni game, I openly mocked Bure while he was playing by calling him an “LA Kings’ Legend,” because I simply thought it was funny.  I have no idea if Bure found out about it or not but later after the game during the press interviews, Bure randomly approached me, got my attention and took a picture with me.

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Panicked and shocked, I quickly (not Jonathan) asked him the first question that came across my mind, which was what he thought about his wife’s new upcoming show on Netflix, “Fuller House?”  He smiled and answered politely and kindly and we ended up having a fun conversation about how awesome it was going to be to see Uncle Jesse/John Stamos and Aunt Becky/Lori Loughlin together again on his wife’s new show! Valeri Bure was one of the friendliest, charming and most approachable athletes I have ever came across!  What a delightful person to chat with.  So delightful in fact, that I totally forgot to suggest to him that he give back the $1.5 million he took from the Kings while never really playing for them! Damn him and his kindness!

 

Sean Burke

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Drafted by the New Jersey Devils in the 1985 NHL entry draft, this goaltender made waves when as a rookie he backstopped the New Jersey Devils in the 1988 playoffs all the way to game 7 of the Wales Conference Final. Dubbed the future of the Devil’s franchise, Burke didn’t reach the same heights again with the team as the Devils did not have much depth on the roster back then.  Burke still made the All-Star game as a Devil in 1989 and was selected to play for the Canadian National Team at the Best on Best 1991 Canada Cup (now World Cup of Hockey) tournament (as the third string goaltender) but a contract dispute with Devils’ general manager Lou Lamoriello saw Burke sit out the entire 1991-92 season.  During this sit-out, he went on to play with Eric Lindros on the 1992 Canadian Olympic National Team and won the silver medal. During the summer of 1992, the Devils traded Burke to the Hartford Whalers, (which at the time was the Siberia of the NHL).  Despite the lack of success that the Whalers had, Burke played very well with them and was the team MVP for four straight seasons.

Before the 1997-98 season, the Whalers were relocated to the state of North Carolina and became the Carolina Hurricanes.  Burke stayed with the team for 25 games that season before being traded to the Vancouver Canucks and then being traded again to the Philadelphia Flyers before the season was done.  In Philadelphia, Burke was expected to be the goaltender that was the final piece that they needed in the championship puzzle, as it was widely felt that the powerful and talented Flyers team (which had the “Legion of Doom” line (not Roadwarrior Hawk and Animal), of Lindros, John LeClair and Mikael Renberg), only needed a solid and reliable goaltender to take them all the way to Stanley Cup glory.  It never happened, (and poor goaltending is still an issue with the Flyers to this very day).

Before long Burke left Philadelphia and found some success with the Wayne Gretzky owned Phoenix Coyotes.  With the “Yotes,” Burke was nominated for the Vezina Trophy in 2002 and was almost (as in sooooo sooooo close to being) selected to the 2002 Canadian Olympic National Team for the 2002 Salt Lake City, Utah Winter Olympics, (future Hall of Famer and Stanley Cup champion Eddie Balfour was selected as the third string goaltender instead and Canada went on to win their first Olympic Hockey Gold Medal since 1952 with Martin Brodeur in net leading the way). Burke officially retired in 2007, finishing his career with 324 wins.  He went on to become the Coyotes Director of Prospect Development and assistant to the General Manager.

His time with the Kings

Burke was picked up by the LA Kings on waivers during the 2006-07 season.  The Kings were heavily struggling with their goaltenders (amongst other things) of Mathieu Garon, Dan Cloutier, Barry Brust and the Japanese born sensation Yutaka Fukufuji.  Kings’ GM Dean Lombardi brought in Burke because of his NHL experience and the young Kings immediately went on a winning streak with the veteran now between the pipes.  Eventually, the Kings went back to their losing ways and Burke ended the season and his playing career as a Los Angeles King.

Sean Burke’s greatest moment as a King

Holding the fort in net for the Kings, who at the time were in the middle of a full rebuild.  His veteran presence and leadership contributed to the Kings being at least competitive against better teams, at least for a few weeks.

Burke’s greatest memory as a King

Feeling wanted by the Kings’ organization after many teams had given up on him or purposely ignored him when he was placed on waivers by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

 

Well there you have it.  Eddie Olczyk, Neal Broten, Valeri Bure and Sean Burke all had long careers in the NHL and had achieved some form or another of success but as LA Kings, they were very unmemorable.  Please feel free to tell us in the comments section below what your memories of these men as Kings’ players were, of course this is assuming you have any memory at all of their LA Kings’ career?! Don’t feel bad if you don’t!

And before I go, I want to make a big shout out to David J. Villa for putting together the featured photo. His contributions to Make Way never go unnoticed and this is no different.

Okay until next time everyone, thanks for reading!

GO KINGS GO!!!

About Jeff Duarte

Born and raised in Canada and surrounded by the sport of hockey for as long as he can remember, there is nothing Jeff loves talking about more than the past, present and future of his beloved Los Angeles Kings.