FROZEN ROYALTY EXCLUSIVE: Former Los Angeles Kings right wing and long-time television color commentator Jim Fox spoke to Frozen Royalty about his time with the Stanley Cup, what it means for the Kings, and the impact it has had on him. Third installment in a series.
EL SEGUNDO, CA — As it has been for the players, coaches, management, and staff of the Los Angeles Kings, this summer has also been one celebration with the Stanley Cup after another for the team’s broadcasters, including television color commentator Jim Fox.
“It has been crazy, crazy, crazy,” Fox told Frozen Royalty during an exclusive interview. “Crazy-good, though. Everything has been great. Most everything has been around the Stanley Cup. I think I’ve had two days off since the beginning of the playoffs, but as I look back on it, it’s been tons of fun.”
The Stanley Cup has brought Fox back to well before the time he made the move to the front of the television camera, and long before he was a right winger who began his National Hockey League career with the Kings after being selected in the first round (tenth overall) of the 1980 NHL Entry Draft.
“It brings you back to your roots, to before I was a King, before I was an Ottawa 67, before I was a North Bay Trapper, before I was a Petrino Electric Bantam, before I was an Elks Club Peewee, growing up on outdoor rinks,” said the 52-year-old native of Coniston, Ontario. “That’s what I did. That’s what it brings you back to because the goal was always to win the Stanley Cup, so it hits home, as an athlete. It brings you back to your roots.”
Fox played all of his ten NHL seasons for the Kings from 1980-81 through part of the 1989-90 season, scoring 186 goals and adding 293 assists for 479 points in 578 regular season games. He remains eighth on the team’s all-time scoring list.
“I think you have to grow up where I grew up [to be able to appreciate that],” he continued. “I think a lot of small town Canadian kids did the same, but I think you have to go through that to understand what the Stanley Cup means. It means a lot. Maybe the Super Bowl means the same here, maybe Major League Baseball, I don’t know. I assume that it does. I see now that World Cup soccer is the one thing that brings out the most passion in nationalities. But that’s what it does. It brings me back to playing on an outdoor rink learning how to skate, learning how to play, [and] joining a team. That’s what it brings me back to because you’re always following the NHL, and, of course, at the end of the year, the Stanley Cup.”
Three months ago, on June 11, 2012, the night the Kings won hockey’s version of the Holy Grail, Fox was unable to hang around to watch the players skate with the Stanley Cup. But there was one thing he simply was not going to miss.
“I just wanted to see [NHL Commissioner] Gary Bettman hand [Kings captain] Dustin Brown the Cup,” said Fox. “I knew what he was going to do with it, [but] it’s a capping off moment. You win, and the guys go crazy, the gloves are going, and the sticks, but that was the moment I was waiting for.”
“Once I saw that, boom! [Long-time Voice of the Kings] Bob [Miller] and I got in the elevator and went downstairs to get ready for the post-game show,” added Fox. “I just wanted to see that. It’s the one thing I was waiting for. We were unsure of timing, because we had to get [downstairs] to do the post-game show.”
Brown receiving the Stanley Cup from Bettman is a big moment in Kings history, one that will transcend the ages. But for Fox, something else stood out.
“The [Stanley Cup Championship] parade [on June 14, in Downtown Los Angeles], to me, stands out,” Fox beamed. “That’s the one thing—looking out and seeing all those people was incredible. That was as dramatic a moment I’ve ever had, where you know everyone’s celebrating.”
“The parade is the thing that stands out to me, maybe because the pressure is off, you don’t have to think about the game, and now, it’s complete celebration mode,” Fox added. “Then you go inside for the rally [at Staples Center, immediately following the parade]. The rally was phenomenal. Our department who put that on—I assume it’s Game Night Entertainment. The parade and rally—I think it was flawless. It was a great day for everybody.”
250,000 people attended the parade, according to official estimates by the Los Angeles Police Department.
“I’m just so glad Los Angeles was able to do that,” said Fox. “I was extremely happy to see that many people. Players, coaches, management, [and] trainers deserve the credit. The fans are there to support them—everything has to come together to win the Cup. That shows how [this franchise] is viewed.”
As the double decker bus he was on made its way south on Figueroa Street, towards Staples Center, Fox was struck by the broad spectrum of people who attended the parade, especially in terms of age and experience.
“[I noticed] the generational aspect,” he said. “You could [see] fans who have been there since day one, probably because of the colors of the jerseys they were wearing, and age. Then, you see the kids that you know are only five years old. That’s part of that whole thing—it took that long to get there.”
Since the night the Kings won the Stanley Cup, Fox has been hearing from fellow Kings alumni.
“I was getting texts, e-mails and calls,” Fox noted. “But every time I’ve talked to someone since—I was up in Canada, [and former Kings forward] Lonnie Loach, [who] lives in Northern Ontario, gave me a call. He said, ‘Congratulations. I love it, it’s great to see you guys [win it].’”
Loach is not exactly one of the more memorable former Kings, having played in just fifty regular season games (ten goals, 13 assists for 23 points) for them during the 1992-93 season, when they went all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, losing to the Montreal Canadiens in five games. But the fact that he reached out after the Kings won the Cup, despite not having a long history with the franchise, illustrates how so many who have been a part of the Kings organization have been touched by their finest achievement.
“That happens all the time,” said Fox. “Any time I see someone who’s had any [contact] with this franchise, that’s what happens. I remember getting a text from [former Kings defenseman] Larry Murphy. We came [to the Kings] the same year. It was just kind of like, ‘you guys finally did it.’”
“Even [former Kings who were] here covering [Game 6 against New Jersey—Ray] Ferraro, [Kelly] Hrudey, and I’m leaving guys out…Brian Engblom—anyone who had any [affiliation with the Kings in the past]—you can’t root [in that job], but they were hoping,” added Fox. “I could tell they were hoping, no question. They were hoping that the Kings won.”
One of the first stops the Stanley Cup made after the Kings won it was Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the primary beneficiary of the Kings Care Foundation, on June 28.
“I think that’s common with hockey teams,” said Fox. “You’re in the midst of your own celebration, and you want to share it. Then, I’m going to go back to that display factor of the Cup. When you wheel that in somewhere, it turns heads.”
“You can’t tell me that all the nurses and doctors—some of them we knew were fans, but not everyone, and some of the patients didn’t necessarily know,” added Fox. “But it doesn’t matter. It’s so striking that it catches your attention, and then, you get to share the celebration with people you know are going through a tough time, and that’s a big part of the Stanley Cup.”
“That’s part of the traditions—the players having it for a day, going around and traveling the world. Players do that all the time. You’re just able to share it, and with a hospital and kids, regardless of whether they know about hockey or not, when they see that thing, it makes their day.”
Unlike Kings players, coaches and management, Fox did not get a full day with the Stanley Cup. But he made the most of his time with it on July 25, after the Cup made an appearance at the Redondo Beach Cafe.
“Redondo Beach wanted to do something, and I’ve been in Redondo Beach for 25 years, as a resident,” Fox explained. “[Former Kings left wing and current radio color commentator] Daryl Evans lives in Redondo Beach, so the first thing that came to mind was this restaurant, the Redondo Beach Cafe, because they’ve hosted so many events the Kings have done, our alumni events, our fantasy camps, they’re always around, helping us out. We were able to get a couple of hours in the morning when we could have it there.”
“They had a line around the block, but they were able to get everyone [who] was there—they guaranteed 500 people a chance to [take a photograph with the Cup], and they went through that in about an hour and a half,” Fox elaborated. “They added another half hour, so more people were able to [get a photo]. That was done in the morning. I was able to have it from 8:00 PM to midnight. We had it at a friend’s house because my house wasn’t big enough. We probably had about 180 people there.”
Along with family, friends, and some long-time Kings season ticket holders, Fox cherished his time with the Stanley Cup.
“My brother flew in from Canada,” said Fox. “[Initially], he was [thinking], ‘should I come, should I come?’ At the last minute, he decided to come. At the end of the night, he said, ‘I’m so glad I came.’ My wife’s Dad was there, her two sisters. We were able to have the family—I wasn’t able to bring it back [to Coniston], but that kind of made up for it.”
“At the end of the night, Mike Bolt, who’s one of the ‘Keepers of the Cup,’ said, ‘you know, we’re taking it away,’” added Fox. “I can’t remember who asked me, but as soon as [Bolt] put it in the crate, boxed it up, and [took off], someone asked, ‘are you sad to see it go?’ I said, ‘no.’ We were able to accomplish everything I wanted to with the Cup. I had friends there, I had season ticket holders there, I had people I didn’t know there because some people just found out it was going to be there, and they called. You try to [accommodate] as many as you can, under control, because you can’t have a million people there.”
“About two hours in, everyone had gotten their photo with it, so we had another two hours to just look at it, look at the names, so that’s what it meant to me—my brother saying he was so glad he made the trip, and then, when it was gone, was I sad? No, I was content. I was so happy we had a chance to do it, and I think it went very well.”
Fox has taken notice of the presentation value of the Stanley Cup, not to mention its powerful draw.
“You hear, so many times, about how people react to the Stanley Cup, [but] when you see it, first-hand, it hits home,” Fox emphasized. “It is a magnet, it is something that draws everyone’s attention. It commands respect. [There’s] the presentation value of the Cup. Then you have the tradition of each player getting it for a day. That all adds up.”
To see the power to attract people to it that the Stanley Cup has, all one has to do is look on social media. Indeed, as the Stanley Cup has traveled around the world, as well as throughout Southern California, fans are following its every move on Facebook and Twitter, where photos and stories about where the Cup is, what players, coaches and others are doing with it, and so much more, are available, often within minutes of it happening.
“If you never had the fortune of being there in person to see [the Stanley Cup], you certainly can catch it everywhere it goes, and within five seconds of it happening,” said Fox. “I give credit to the Kings and their social media department. I give credit to the NHL for taking the lead [in terms of using social media] among professional sports [leagues], and the NHL doesn’t get a lot of credit for a lot of things.”
“In the past, they’ve been behind in a lot of areas,” added Fox. “At times, I think that’s unfair because to compare the NHL, in the United States—it doesn’t have that grip. But our guys do a phenomenal job. The NHL does a great job. They made it a priority about five years ago, that social media was something they were going to jump on. They did, and we did here, and now we’re seeing the results.”
As Fox mentioned earlier, the Stanley Cup not only has tremendous presentation value, and the ability to draw people to it whereever it goes, but it also commands respect.
“Just seeing the respect the Cup gets—it’s something I heard about, but now, I’m experiencing it,” Fox noted. “There’s more of a respect factor, now that the Kings have won the Cup, and that makes it that much more enjoyable.”
Even more important, that respect extends beyond the trophy itself.
“It changes the way the casual sports fan looks at us now,” Fox stressed. “I see people every day. They’re fans, but they’re not season ticket [holders], and they don’t go to a lot of games. But they know I work for the Kings, so they’ll say, ‘hey, what’s going on? How’s the team going to be this year,’ those types of questions. Or, when they’re in a slump, they’ll [ask], ‘what’s going on?’”
“Now, it’s just ‘congratulations,’” Fox added. “Obviously, they know what happened, and there’s no more of the ‘when’s it going to happen,’ because it has happened.”
Fox began to notice the increased respect during the Kings’ post-season run.
“I think it started during the playoffs, because of the way the Kings were so efficient,” said Fox. “You have to play great to win the Stanley Cup, and the Kings were better than great, so I think it started [well before the Stanley Cup Final], because everyone started to watch them, [thinking], ‘this is pretty incredible,’ how they’re winning, and where they came from to win.”
“Like any team or franchise, you have a history, and our history did not include a Stanley Cup Championship,” added Fox. “Now it does, so yes, [the franchise] is looked upon differently [by] just about everyone, the media, the fans, and internally.”
“You’re always talking about the difference between us and someone else. ‘Well, they’ve won a Cup.’ But now, we’ve won, so the differences are going away.”
Even with their Stanley Cup win, the history of the Kings is riddled with bad losses, blatant mistakes and blunders, embarrassments, missed opportunities…you get the idea. But does winning the Stanley Cup alleviate all that?
If you ask Fox, the answer is a resounding “yes.”
“The down points to the Kings franchise, which were many, now, I think, are smoothed over,” said Fox. “I don’t think there’s as bitter a taste in people’s mouths about losing here, losing there, how they lost.”
“I don’t want to say that it doesn’t matter, because it is part of our history,” added Fox. “But now there’s something else to think about, as opposed to those other things. It more than balances it off.”
“Winning the Cup overwhelms everything else.”
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