TORONTO – Every November marks a very special weekend in the hockey world, but that was especially the case for the Los Angeles Kings who saw three of their members enter the game’s Holiest shrine: the Hockey Hall of Fame.
In 2016, former Kings’ equipment manager Mark O’Neill, former Kings’ head coach, the late, great Pat Quinn and former Kings’ netminder Rogie Vachon all received the call to be inducted. But while the latter was the most noteworthy of the three to have represented the Kings, both O’Neill and Quinn were no less integral to the team’s success over the years.
Mark O’Neill enters the Hall this year having been recognized for his recent PHATS – SPHEM (Professional Hockey Athletic Trainers Society – Society of Professional Hockey Equipment Managers) Hall of Fame Induction.
O’Neill, who served as the Kings’ equipment manager from 1978 to 1993, entered the Hall having left his mark not only on the Kings organization but on the overall hockey scene in southern California having also served as the equipment manager of the Anaheim Ducks from 1993 to 2007. O’Neill’s career with the Ducks was capped off with – to the chagrin of Kings fans – a Stanley Cup victory in 2007. With that said, though, O’Neill certainly celebrated some high points while he was with the Kings.
“With the Kings, I would say ‘Miracle on Manchester’ and being a part of that. An unbelievable high,” O’Neill told myself and colleague Jeff Duarte of CaliSportsNews during Monday’s induction festivities. “But so many memories. Going to the Finals [with the Kings] in 1993, that [1993 Conference Final] series against Toronto.”
As for the overall feeling of being inducted into hockey’s Holiest shrine?
“Well, it’s a great honour,” O’Neill said matter-of-factly. “Just to be 29 years in the league with both the L.A. Kings and the Anaheim Ducks. It started way back when Dave Taylor was a player, Charlie Simmer and Marcel [Dionne], Rogie Vachon was part of the team and just to see all the players I’ve worked with and most of them are in the Hall of Fame now, so it’s a great honour.”
As for Vachon’s induction, some former teammates and colleagues were able to share their thoughts on Monday night, including Kings legend [and fellow Hall-of-Famer] Marcel Dionne.
“[The Hall of Fame’s selection committee] are always looking at younger players who just got out of the game and it’s a generation you kind of forget, so it’s kind of nice,” Dionne told us during Monday’s induction festivities. “You go back and the game was there before I was and I really enjoy that. We don’t get enough—we should get more of the videotapes and watch them and say, ‘Are you kidding me?’ and I played [with Vachon]. He was my roommate, had a lot of passion for the game and I could tell he played for Montreal *laughs*.
“We really enjoyed him there. Came from a small town, [the Kings] retired his jersey and I was there. He traded me too *laughs* [to the New York Rangers], but that was fine because we all get traded and he got traded, too. But the sad part is that his wife [Nicole] passed away earlier this year. Very unfortunate but the same thing for Pat Quinn. His daughter and his family will be [here tonight] and same thing with Pat Burns a few years ago but, you know what, these guys are in a great place even though they’re no longer around because once you’re in, it’s your house.”
Former Kings captain Dave Taylor, who was with the Kings when Vachon was a player, goaltending coach and a general manager, shared his thoughts about the netminder’s induction.
“Oh, I think it’s long overdue,” Taylor said on Monday night. “I had the good fortune to play with Rogie in Los Angeles and just an outstanding goalie and probably one of the classiest people I ever played with.”
Longtime Kings defenseman – and the club’s current assistant GM – Rob Blake even touched on his feelings regarding not only Vachon’s induction into the Hall.
“Oh, it’s terrific,” an enthusiastic Blake told us on Monday night. “It’s nice to see him rewarded!”
As for Pat Quinn, I spoke with some former Kings as part of MakeWay’s ‘Royal Reflections’ series, most notably former defenseman Steve Duchesne who played under the Hall-of-Famer in Los Angeles as a rookie.
“My first coach was Pat Quinn and I remember the first game of the year, I didn’t play,” Duchesne told me in September. “He didn’t dress me and we lost 7-2 or– it was a high score and Pat came to me after the game and said to make sure I’m ready for the next game ‘because you’re going to play’, and he ended up playing me the whole year. But it was nice seeing Pat Quinn in Detroit three years ago for the Alumni Game. Pat was there and I saw him. I told him, ‘I never thanked you for starting my career. You’re a big reason why I did so well in the NHL,’ because he played the heck out of me. I was a rookie and yes, I made mistakes but he kept putting me on the ice and it really helped build my confidence. So, I’m very grateful to Pat Quinn for being my first coach in the NHL.”
It was an exciting night but an emotional one as well.
While Rogie Vachon spoke highly of his career and his induction, he was visibly emotional when speaking about his late wife, Nicole. The same can be said for the family of Pat Quinn who wished the former coach could have been there in person to celebrate the momentous occasion.
Having three members of the Los Angeles Kings family getting enshrined is certainly a special way to celebrate the organization’s 50th anniversary but more importantly, the individual careers of Mike O’Neill, Pat Quinn and Rogie Vachon – all of whom have left a lasting impact on this proud organization.
Congratulations to each of them.