Anze Kopitar in the lead for 3rd annual Eddie Joyal Award

Eddie Joyal, early LA Kings star

At the end of Spring Training, the Dodgers hand out the Roy Campanella Award, to a player who best exemplifies the spirit and leadership of the team’s former Hall of Fame catcher.

On a more humble note, for the past few seasons, MayorsManor has recognized the player who leads the Kings in pre-season points with the Eddie Joyal Award. It’s a small way of recognizing and remembering one of the early stars in Los Angeles.

As the Kings were assembled for their first season in 1967-68, they were a hodgepodge of guys picked and plucked from various clubs across North America. Jack Kent Cooke‘s upstart group was made up of pieces acquired from the original six teams; plus some free agents, misfits, leftovers, cast offs and other assorted guys on skates. Nobody was quite sure what would emerge.

Joyal, a 6-foot center who had played only 121 NHL games for two different teams over the previous five years, broke out of the pack as one of the early stars. He went on to lead the team in points that year with 57, after assisting on the Kings first ever regular season goal.

More on Joyal in a moment though.

Let’s take a look at past award winners and this year’s current standings…

The inaugural award was given out in 2009 to Anze Kopitar. That year, he finished the NHL’s exhibition season with eight points (5 goals, 3 assists), just ahead of defenseman Jack Johnson‘s seven points (2g, 5a).  Then, last season, Johnson moved from bridesmaid to the top of the heap. He actually posted the exact same numbers, yet beat out Kopitar for the award.

Entering tonight’s game in Las Vegas – with only two pre-season games left for the Kings – Kopitar again leads the team with five points (4 goals, 1 assist). Close behind are Trevor Lewis and Dustin Brown (each with four points), followed by Slava Voynov, Justin Williams, Jarret Stoll and Johnson (all with three points).

Kopitar is also the all-time leading scorer over the course of the previous 13 Frozen Fury games (5g, 4a, 9 points), so that bodes well for his outlook later tonight.

Now back to Joyal…

Without a proper training facility in California back then, the first Kings training camp was held in Canada. And after weeks of drills, scrimmages and just a general getting-to-know-you atmosphere, it was time for the team to wear their now famed purple and gold jerseys (or Forum Blue and Gold, as Cooke would say) for their very first pre-season game on September 18, 1967.

The Kings never led in the game and eventually lost 7-3. However, a name that was soon to become extremely popular with the team’s initial group of fans showed up twice on the score sheets that night. Netting two assists in the game was Joyal, one of the Kings’ first real superstars.

Wearing sweater #16 before Marcel Dionne made it more famous a decade later in LA, Joyal went on to net 23 goals during the inaugural campaign and added 34 assists to lead the Kings in points. He followed that up during the Kings second season with 33 goals and 52 points, both team highs. Like today’s game, where the biggest stars are usually the goalscorers, Joyal was one of the main guys LA fans would come to see.

As a tribute to all he did for – and all he meant to – the first group of guys who ever pulled a Kings jersey over their head, we fondly remember Joyal each pre-season with this award.

Sure, the exhibition season means little in the big picture. However, it certainly meant something to Joyal in September of ’67. And it still means something to many hockey fans each year.

As summer winds to a completion, the die-hards look forward to the start of training camp and all that comes with it – from the first look at some draft picks, to speculating on line combinations and debating where their favorite team will finish the season…this time of year is a delight for hockey starved fans.

Equally important is the feeling of hope that hangs heavy in the air – a hope that the sum of the Kings parts will equate to having a chance to win most nights.

Eddie Joyal was part of that hope in 1967.

For more information on the Kings early years, including an interview with Brian Kilrea – the man who scored the first ever goal in Kings history – be sure to check out the links below.

The Mayor
www.twitter.com/MayorNHL
www.facebook.com/MayorsManor

RELATED ARTICLES:

Interview with Brain Kilrea – remembering the first goal in LA Kings history

Interview with Marcel Dionne – a one-one-one chat with the Hall of Famer

Interview with Dave ‘The Hammer’ Schultz – he still holds the NHL’s penalty minute record

Throwback Thursdays:  A look at Cowboy Bill Flett

High / Low with Marcel Dionne – the Kings legend looks at the modern NHL game

NHL History – a look at the Kings and the ‘Second Six’

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