Photo: Thomas LaRocca/LAKings.com.
Dionne was acquired by the Kings on June 23, 1975, along with Bart Crashley, from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for Terry Harper, Dan Maloney and a second round draft choice (later transferred to the Minnesota North Stars) in the 1976 National Hockey League Entry Draft.
From that day forward, the Kings finally had that elite, superstar forward they had lacked since they joined the NHL in 1967.
Dionne made a huge and immediate impact. In the 1975-76 season, his first with the Kings, Dionne scored forty goals and tallied 54 assists for 94 points in eighty games.
Dionne never looked back after that, scoring 550 goals and contributing 757 assists for 1,307 points in 921 regular season games with the Kings. He still leads the team on their all-time assists list (757), ranks second all-time in goals (550), and to top it all off, he was part of the famed Triple Crown Line, along with Charlie Simmer and Dave Taylor, that was so dominant for six seasons.
Dionne played in twenty NHL seasons with the Red Wings, Kings and Rangers, scoring 731 regular season goals and adding 1,040 assists for 1,771 points. He ranks fourth all-time in the NHL in goals, ninth in assists, fifth in points, second in goals by a center and ranks fourth all-time in points by a center.
Perhaps more eye-opening is that Dionne scored forty or more goals in ten seasons and scored fifty or more in five straight seasons. He also scored 100 or more points in eight seasons (ranked third all-time in the NHL).
Dionne was the recipient of the Lester B. Pearson Trophy (league’s best player) in 1978-79 and 1979-80. He also won the Art Ross Trophy (league’s leading scorer) in the 1979-80 season. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Kings retired his jersey number 16 on November 8, 1990.
Dionne’s tenure with the Kings ended on March 10, 1987, when he was traded to the New York Rangers, along with Jeff Crossman and a third round pick in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft (later transferred to the North Stars), in exchange for Bob Carpenter and Tom Laidlaw.
Dionne’s resume is more than impressive. Nevertheless, a lot of people here in Southern California have never even heard of him, primarily because the Kings have forever been mired in mediocrity, even while he was scoring goals in bunches at the Forum in Inglewood.
Indeed, there are entire generations of Kings fans who have no (or very, very little) idea about who Marcel Dionne is.
But that does not bother Dionne in the least.
“It’s always fun [to come back to Los Angeles],” said Dionne, who was in town to celebrate Kings hockey and reminisce with fans at LA Kings HockeyFest 09, which was held August 28-30 at the Nokia Theatre at LA Live. “I just got back from Montreal. I was with [Montreal Canadiens great] Guy Lafleur, who just opened a new restaurant. The amazing thing…you just sit down with the people who are there. I’m 58 years old and they’re 59, they’re 61…you remember everything and you forget that it was thirty years ago.”
“When you do come back, you understand that it’s a different crowd,” added Dionne. “It’s younger people and they don’t know who you are and I understand that. But if you keep talking about it, they keep showing videos about you and so on, it’s very, very rewarding. It’s a lot of fun. I still enjoy it.”
As mentioned earlier, the fact that the Kings have accomplished so little in their 42-year history is the reason much of that history is not well-known.
“I’m very, very lucky,” said Dionne. “I see a lot of players and I travel a lot and you go back in time. The only difference is what lacks here. No championships have ever happened [in Los Angeles]. It’s about winning. It lifts everybody up.”
At HockeyFest 09, Dionne joined with Simmer and Taylor—the three were reunited in a hockey setting here in Los Angeles for the first time in 25 years.
During a panel discussion featuring the Triple Crown Line, Dionne captivated the crowd with stories about the time he scored a goal with his nose, another time when he scored four goals at Detroit against former Kings superstar goalie Rogie Vachon, who got so mad that he chased Dionne with his stick, and yet another time when he received a death threat in Pittsburgh.
Dionne, a great storyteller, had the crowd in stitches, laughing heartily at his stories.
The Triple Crown Line played together for six seasons from 1979-84. During that stretch, Simmer averaged 77 points per season, Taylor averaged 88 points and Dionne averaged 119 points. In the 1980-81 season, all three scored 100 points or more, the first line combination to do so in NHL history.
These days, lines playing together for a handful of games, let alone a single season, is a rarity. As such, it is difficult to imagine three forwards playing together on the same line for six seasons.
“As a line, you don’t see that now, over the last twenty years,” Dionne explained. “I think the last line was with the [Philadelphia] Flyers [the Legion of Doom, featuring John LeClair, Eric Lindros and Mikael Renberg].”
“It was really significant in the Fifties, Sixties and early Seventies to have one unit that played a lot,” Dionne elaborated. “We were one of the only lines where [each of us scored] 100 points in one season.”
“I look at the [New York] Islanders with [superstar forward Mike] Bossy, [Bryan] Trottier and [Clark] Gilles and then you look at the [Buffalo Sabres’] French Connection with [Gilbert] Perrault, [Richard] Martin and [Rene] Robert—people loved that and the thing about [our] line was that if they didn’t like me, they liked the other two or if they don’t like the other two, they liked me.”
Why did the Triple Crown Line play so well together? The answer lies in basic chemistry.
Indeed, Dionne, Simmer and Taylor not only complemented each other, but they instinctively knew where the others would be on the ice.
“To have a successful line you’ve got to get along together and respond together,” said Dionne. “We had a lot of chemistry on and off the ice. We were gentlemen and I can’t remember us having problems at any time. Sometimes there’s some friction between players but that never happened.”
“With Davey, it was automatic,” added Dionne. “With Charlie, we had him at training camp. I liked his size.”
“[When I first saw Simmer], he was playing for [the] Oakland [Seals] at the time. I thought, ‘look at this guy Simmer. Look at the size of him,’ Dionne explained. “Then he came to camp, but that was when we got Murray Wilson. [Former Kings owner] Jack Kent Cooke made the trade for a first round pick, so Murray had to play.”
“By pure luck, Danny Grant got hurt in Detroit. We brought up Charlie and from that point on, I just knew right away.”
Simmer, who was a poor skater, certainly made up for that weakness in his game, just like another Kings player who would become a superstar years later.
“The thing about [Simmer] and the same thing that has been [said] about Luc Robitaille, too, is that [Simmer] was not a good skater,” said Dionne. ‘He can’t skate.’ But if you look at replays, he had a lot of breakaways. He knew how to set himself up. He knew when I had the puck.”
Back to Robitaille…Dionne, who invited Robitaille to live at his home during Robitaille’s rookie season, immediately noticed something different about this particular wet-behind-the-ears rookie out of Montreal.
“I saw him the year before,” said Dionne. “I saw in him the ability and that he wanted to play. That’s the biggest thing. If you want to play, if you have passion, then there’s a chance. Anything else after that, you need a break, this and that. But he made his own.”
“People said he was lacking this, lacking that,” added Dionne. “But now he’s the highest scoring left winger of all time. He proved everybody else wrong.”
Indeed. And as a result, Robitaille will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on November 9 in Toronto.
“I really liked his passion,” Dionne emphasized. “We had Jimmy Carson and Steve Duchesne that year. That was the first time we had young players who were going to stay.”
The first time indeed. And whenever the Kings managed to acquire or develop the necessary talent, they screwed up by giving it away, usually for a washed-up former star who was near the end of his career.
“That’s one of the reasons we never accomplished anything,” Dionne lamented. “We never had anything. As soon as we got to something, they traded away [their talented players].”
Since he retired from the NHL after the 1988-89 season, Dionne became a businessman, operating several businesses as part of Marcel Dionne Enterprises, LTD.
“I’m doing pretty good,” he said. “A lot of events. I have a store on the Canadian side [to go with his hockey memorabilia store in New York]. I’m more into corporations. I’m doing fantasy camps in Edmonton and Niagara Falls. Companies bring their best customers. We play hockey at a rented rink, they get uniforms—it’s all first class.”
“I was born in the retail business. The day it was over in New York [when he retired from hockey] I was in business. I became a businessman. I’ve done pretty good.”
To listen to the interview with Dionne (14:41), click on the arrow below:
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