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Barry Melrose: the Coming Forth of the Los Angeles Kings

June 5th, 2014 at 1:22 AM
By Suzanna Bezyan

When Barry Melrose coached the Los Angeles Kings from 1992-1995, he became a core part of the franchise’s history. He was the first coach to take the team to the Stanley Cup Final in the 1992-93 season, even though they lost, it was the closest they had ever gotten. He was there when Tinsletown became hockey town and was present when Wayne Gretzky became the star of the city.

“You know what? I saw L.A. in the 90s when we were in the finals, and the Forum was rocking; the city was crazy. My wife and I would go to a restaurant at night and walk in and the place would start clapping. That doesn’t happen unless it’s a hockey town. People could say that, ‘Well, you can’t win in the south, you can’t win if it’s not hockey weather.’ I always said if you come out after practice and it’s 80 degrees and sunny, that’s a good thing, that’s not a bad thing.”

Melrose so modestly says he is proud to be a part of the team that played a “small part” in the team’s history. “I’m just glad that team that I had in ’93 had a small part — with Gretzky and Robitaille and all the great players we had on that team — it sort of laid the groundwork and showed everyone that you can win in the south and the sunny areas.”

Melrose has been known to always rave about the Kings. As a coach for the Kings, he’s known the struggle to have people take hockey in Southern California seriously. Every year he speaks highly about them when other networks won’t. He predicts them to win the Stanley Cup when other stations and commentators lean towards other teams, and that’s a big plus for the Kings to have someone out there like Melrose to throw their name in the rink. Justin Williams of the Kings said it best after game 7 in Chicago that they want to be known as a serious team, not just that team in Los Angeles where you go to have fun and get a tan, they want to be known as the great team that they are.

“Now this team, led by Darryl Sutter, has taken it full circle and now is one of the best organizations in the NHL, and one of the best franchises in the NHL” said Melrose. “Them and Chicago, right now, I have to think are the two best.”

'Justin Williams at the Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings parade' photo (c) 2012, JulieAndSteve - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Melrose is modest, but his ESPN colleague and good friend Steve Levy, whom he’s covered the Stanley Cup with for 20 years will say, “Barry is too modest to say, but he’s beloved in every hockey city we go to, with the exception of maybe Newark, New Jersey. But other than that, he gets extra love here in Los Angeles. So many people come up to him and say they first fell in love with the Kings with obviously Wayne Gretzky and with Barry’s ’93 team that went to the Stanley Cup Final.”

Levy added that it takes success to get that kind of reaction. “Success, that gets people into the game, and that’s how you really, really develop a long?term fan base. Obviously winning takes care of the rest. But you should see the reaction people have, still to Barry. ’93, that’s 21 years ago, that’s a long time, but people have long and fond memories of Barry.”

Los Angeles sure has changed and developed since Melrose last coached here and he’s happy about the direction it’s taken. “It’s fun to see people I dealt with and worked with, and come back here and see STAPLES Center packed and see downtown L.A. You know, downtown L.A. is a vibrant place now, built around the STAPLES Center and all the other stuff here. So, it’s great; the outdoor game and everything. It’s great to see what L.A. has become.”

When asked about the LA Kings twitter account, which is considered the best official team account in sports, he admitted to not being very involved in his own twitter account, instead he took the opportunity to rave about his former player, Luc Robitaille. “Luc Robitaille is here, and Luc played for me and I saw him yesterday, and he’s one of my favorite guys. He’s one of the big honchos here in charge of things in L.A. here and Luc has always been a cutting?edge guy. He’s always been a guy that would try things, even as a player. I remember I brought Tony Robbins into the dressing room and Luc was one of the first guys who really embodied it. He would try it. So I think when a guy like Luc is in charge of your team and all those things, you’re going to be cutting edge. You will try things. That’s why L.A. now is one of the models and one of the best organizations on the ice and off the ice in the NHL today. They have got people that will try things, and you know, those are the organizations that go places and now they certainly are one of those organizations.”

Melrose is proud of many accomplishments of the Kings, but what’s he exceptionally proud of? “I love the fact that they went back to the black and gray jerseys. I really love that. They got away from it with the purple and stuff for a while, and they experimented with a lot of different jerseys. So they got back to the Gretzky silver and black. I think that’s awesome.”

Tags: Barry Melrose, Hockey, Los Angeles, Los Angeles Kings, NHL

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