Game 7: NorCal vs. SoCal … 1969

After tonight’s Game 7 at Staples Center we will know which team from California will represent the state in the Western Conference Finals against an Original Six team (Chicago or Detroit).

And while the Kings-Sharks matchup is the first Game 7 between the franchises (who also met in the first round of the 2011 playoffs), it’s not the first Game 7 between the Kings and a Northern California NHL team.

That happened in April of 1969, when the Kings rallied from a 3-2 series deficit to defeat the California/Oakland Seals, 5-3 in Oakland in Game 7.

The Kings won that series despite being cumulatively outscored, 25-23. The key to LA’s clinching victory probably was its ability to kill penalties, including a two-man advantage during the first period.

“Our inability to score on those first period power plays, especially the one where we had a two-man advantage hurt badly,” Seals coach Fred Glover told the Los Angeles Times.

Lowell McDonald stole the puck from Norm Ferguson to score what proved to be the winning goal at 7:37 of the third period. McDonald earlier had set up two first-period goals by Ted Irvine (father of professional wrestler Chris Jericho).

The victory sent the Kings into a series against the St. Louis Blues, who interestingly enough are the team the current Kings defeated in the first round this season in six games. Last season’s Cup winner knocked out the Blues in five games in the second round.

Note: The historical research is part of my upcoming book on the history of hockey in California, Palm Trees and Frozen Ponds.

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Happy New Year California Hockey Fans!

2009 was a year of continued learning and research for the hockey book.

2010 should be the year it sees the light of day!

To date, I have interviewed nearly 400 people associated with the game at all levels from youth hockey to the NHL. What I have discovered blows my mind. Not only is the history of the pro game much deeper than I imagined, the amateur game has had a foothold in the state for 50-plus years as well!

The other thing that consistently amazes me is the quality of people associated with the game at all levels. I covered every sport imaginable for two decades in daily newspapers, and I can’t think of another one that even comes close to hockey in that regard.

So stay tuned in 2010. I promise much more frequent updates on who I’m talking to and how the writing of the book is coming along.

Happy New Year!

Chris

How old is hockey in California?

As I research the history of the game of hockey in California for my upcoming book, I have discovered that ice rinks existed in Los Angeles as far back as 1917. I now can document it. Whether or not those were used for ice hockey is another matter.

However, I did find some record of hockey being played in the Los Angeles area during the early 1920s. So it’s not a stretch to say the game is at least 85 years old in California.

I also have uncovered concrete evidence of organized youth hockey beginning around 1960, meaning we are approaching nearly 50 years of youth hockey in the state. This predates several sources I’ve spoken to for the book.

I keep plugging away, one shift at a time.

1960 Olympic hockey … in California

This isn’t breaking news, but 20 years before the ‘Miracle on Ice’, the United States won a gold medal in in 1960 at Squaw Valley, which essentially was a resort when it was awarded the Games in 1955.

In continuing my research on the history of the game in the state, I happened across this clip from those Games. Enjoy!

Think of Big Bear or Mammouth – not Los Angeles – playing host to the Olympic Games, and you get an idea of what the Squaw Valley Games were like.

The hockey arena (Blyth Arena) had to be built for the games (it was closed in 1983 after its roof caved in because of heavy snowfall), and its south end was open to provide a view of the mountains.

Just another tidbit of our state’s rich hockey history.

Another notable first about those Games – it was the first time there was an Olympic Village.