Building on our tweet yesterday, where we noted the Kings would open their 2016-17 home schedule with a game on October 14th vs. the Philadelphia Flyers, we can now pass along some additional details. After speaking to various sources throughout the week, it has become apparent that, despite the game being scheduled for a Friday night, fans of the team will want to start arranging their schedules now because the pre-game festivities are shaping up to be something truly worthy of an NHL club’s 50th anniversary.
Last November, when reporting news of three big items surround the upcoming campaign, we were told that AEG and Kings management were going all-in when it comes to making this a very special year in Los Angeles. Thus far, that more than appears to be true. For opening night, the team has secured the participation of all six Kings players who have had their jerseys retired – Rogie Vachon, Marcel Dionne, Dave Taylor, Wayne Gretzky, Luc Robitaille, and Rob Blake. This alone should be considered quite the accomplishment, as Gretzky’s involvement in team activities has been extremely limited through the years and Taylor’s has been nearly nonexistent – with him often citing that he didn’t want to be included since he worked for another team (first the Dallas Stars and more recently the St. Louis Blues). This was perhaps never more awkward than when Blake’s jersey was retired in early 2015 and Taylor watched from the press box, while many of his former teammates were at center ice with Blake. Having all of these players involved in the 50th anniversary celebration will be a special moment for fans, players, and the entire organization.
There is still more, though. With the Kings set to recreate their first-ever NHL game, by once again facing the Flyers, we’ve confirmed through multiple people that plans are well underway to bring back all living members of the inaugural 1967 team. This includes center Brian Kilrea (who scored the first goal in Kings history and went on to become the coach of Jim Fox and later Tyler Toffoli – check out our interview with Kilrea here), leading goal scorer Eddie Joyal, wingers Lowell MacDonald and Ted Irvine, defenseman Bill White, and coach Red Kelly. As we understand things, this group will be on the ice with their original Forum blue and gold jerseys prior to the puck dropping on the 2016-17 campaign. While some of the details are still being worked out, we believe there has at least been talk of a ceremonial passing of the torch, from original team captain, Bob Wall, to whoever takes over the ‘C’ for Darryl Sutter’s 2016-17 team (believed to be Anze Kopitar, as discussed here).
Further, many other former players and luminaries have been invited and are expected to participate in several events, including autograph sessions with fans. Hall of Famer Bob Miller, who has been recovering from heart surgery, is said to be doing much better – he has even been traveling this past week, per his usual summer schedule – and is expected to host the on-ice portion of the ceremonies.
Opening night should be a fantastic spectacle, especially for longtime fans of the club. With management’s commitment to spend whatever is needed to make sure the 50th Anniversary is a season-long event, including hosting the NHL All Star Game in January 2017, there is already quite a bit to look forward to next season.
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