FROZEN ROYALTY EXCLUSIVE: Part 1 of a two-part story featuring the memories of right wing Mike Corrigan, who shared some interesting stories about his time with the Los Angeles Kings exclusively with Frozen Royalty.
LOS ANGELES — On October 14, when the Los Angeles Kings honored their 1967-68 team as part of the franchise’s 50th Anniversary commemoration, the 13 players from that first Kings team who were able to attend, along with the team’s first play-by-play announcer, Jiggs McDonald, had the time of their lives, by all accounts.
Not only did they enjoy all the festivities and the first class treatment they got, but they also enjoyed reuniting with each other out of the spotlight, sharing stories, reminiscing, and enjoying the camaraderie they had as teammates so many years ago.
“As far as the players being together, we never stopped laughing and joking,” said right wing Mike Corrigan, a native of Ottawa, Ontario, now 70 years old. “We were like that back then. My son said the best quote was, ‘we know you all played together, but did you not just see each other yesterday? You’re talking like you’ve been together all year.’”
The original Kings were also able to interact with fans, including a surprising number who remembered them.
“I couldn’t believe the number of people who stopped us for autographs,” said Corrigan, who ranks 28th on the team’s all-time scoring list with 106 goals and 124 assists, good for 230 points in 401 regular season games. “We were signing photos and I said to them, ‘thank you so much,’ and they said, ‘no, thank you. It’s great to see you, you look great.’”
Corrigan is the youngest of the original Kings. Nevertheless, he has some rather vivid memories of that first season in Kings franchise history.
“I remember coming out here to play hockey then, being the youngest player on the team, and then, we never played at home [early that season],” said Corrigan. “We played at Long Beach [Arena]. We didn’t open the Forum until [December 30, 1967 against the Philadelphia Flyers], and that was like playing a road game.”
“When other teams came in, like Toronto or Montreal, [the fans] cheered them a lot, more than they did us,” added Corrigan, who now splits time between homes in Clearwater, Florida and Connecticut. “There were more fans [of other teams then].”
The Los Angeles area has had transplants from all over the United States and Canada for many years, and as Corrigan noted, they came out to cheer for their hometown teams when they faced the Kings at the Forum in Inglewood, California, their first permanent home. That illustrated the fact that the Kings had a lot of work to do in order to sell Southern California on NHL hockey, and the players had to be a big part of the pitch.
“[It was a tough environment to play in], big time,” Corrigan noted. “But [selling the game was] your job. [The Kings first head coach], Red [Kelly], would stress that it was all new. We were new to the league and new to L.A. We just had to go out and play. Once you become a pro, you’ve got to play.”
Corrigan even tried to sell the game in his own neighborhood.
“I remember bringing sticks home—Jasmine Avenue in Culver City—for the neighborhood kids to play hockey,” he said. “They didn’t know what hockey was. But they started to play in the street.”
Corrigan spent the 1968-69 season back in the AHL with Springfield, and then he split time between Springfield and the big club in 1969-70. But after that season, he was traded to the Vancouver Canucks, only to be dealt right back to the Kings during the 1971-72 season.
Corrigan spent the next five seasons with the Kings, and during the three days he spent with his 1967-68 teammates, he also got to spend time and share memories with some of his other Kings teammates, as well.
“[Goaltender] Gary Edwards and [right wing] Don Kozak were there, and so was [center] Vic Venasky,” said Corrigan. “They didn’t play on the 1967-68 team, but the stories! [Venasky’s wife], Connie, was crying, but she told stories about when we played—how the wives were when we went on the road, and I talk about this lot. When we went on the road, the trips were 17 days, sometimes. At least two weeks. We had Oakland, but then we had to go to Minnesota, St. Louis, Atlanta. We didn’t have San Jose, Vancouver, or Phoenix. Sometimes, that’s a road trip and you come back.”
“Those were long road trips and people don’t realize what our wives did back then,” added Corrigan. “They all got together—the wives, the girlfriends. The guys went to play and the wives, girlfriends and kids all got together, and that was because of [original owner] Jack Kent Cooke.”
Although most of the stories about Cooke tend to be critical, and rightly so, based on his record as owner, Kings players from the franchise’s earliest days often praise him.
“I played for one of the greatest owners in sports, Jack Kent Cooke,” Corrigan stressed. “For a guy to come out from Toronto, put a franchise up, and build his own rink, financing it himself, that’s unbelievable.”
“My greatest story of the whole thing is I said that Jack Kent Cooke brought hockey here, and I talked about it, and it’s no disrespect to anybody who played after, like Wayne Gretzky, or anyone else,” Corrigan added. “But Jack brought the NHL here. He financed his own building [the Forum].”
“I really wish we could’ve won the Stanley Cup for Jack Kent Cooke. They would’ve seen a lot more [Stanley Cups] because he was a great owner.”
Corrigan scored 152 goals and added 195 assists for 347 points with 698 penalty minutes in 594 career regular season NHL games with the Kings, Canucks and Pittsburgh Penguins. But his best season was in 1972-73 with the Kings when he scored 37 goals and tallied 30 assists for 67 points with 146 penalty minutes in 78 games.
“One thing was that I was versatile,” he noted. “I could play left wing, center and right wing, which I did. I scored 20 goals (in separate seasons) at each position. I had that big year with 37 goals and I led the team in penalty minutes. But the next year was contract time. I won in arbitration and they traded me to Pittsburgh.”
Corrigan had that big season playing with forwards Bob Berry and Juha “Whitey” Widing, a line that was nicknamed, “The Hot Line.”
“They were great players,” Corrigan noted. “We just seemed to click. Whitey was a good passer and Bobby could put the puck in the net. I was the two-way player. I could pass, shoot and hit. I think that melded together to help us have a great year.”
Corrigan might be best known for a playoff goal he scored, one that was overshadowed by another goal scored later in the same game.
The goal came on April 22, 1976, in Game 6 of a seven-game, quarterfinal series against the Boston Bruins.
The Bruins were leading that game, 3-1, when…
“I was on my back and [Bruins defenseman] Brad Park was on top of me,” Corrigan recalled. “I was always told by the veterans, late in the game, always get the puck to the net, so I backhanded it, and it went in off of [Bruins Hall of Fame goaltender] Gerry Cheevers stick. It went all the way down the shaft and into the net. That was with about two minutes left.”
“I didn’t know I had scored,” Corrigan added. “But the fans went crazy and [former Kings superstar center] Marcel [Dionne] was jumping up and down with his skates on both sides of my head, so I was yelling, ‘Marcel! Marcel! Get away! Get away!’”
“I scored again, [the tying goal], with about 1:20 left, and then we went into overtime when [center] Butch Goring scored.”
Goring’s overtime heroics not only won the game and tied the series, 3-3, but is remembered because Goring was carried off the ice by his teammates and because the description of the play by Kings legendary play-by-play announcer Bob Miller was one of the best of his career.
In stark contrast, what Miller remembers about Corrigan’s goal was that it resulted in what he said was one of the worst goal calls of his career.
“What I remember most about [Corrigan] was one of my worst ever goal calls,” Miller lamented. “He got tripped and I was so upset that they didn’t call a penalty. I said, ‘he got tripped! They didn’t call a penalty…and he scores!’”
“He was sliding along the ice and he swept out with his stick,” Miller added. “Cheevers had his stick pointed right at the net, and the puck hit his stick and went in.”
“I know nobody at home knew what the heck happened there, but that was the worst call ever. I was so mad.”
Corrigan shared a lot more, including thoughts about the Kings’ 105-point, 1974-75 season, still the best season in franchise history, along with more of his memories of his time with the Kings, including the time he was in a slump, a funny story that involved a pre-game meal, a knife, and some “sage advice” from his wife, all of which is covered in part 2: Former LA Kings Forward Mike Corrigan Talks Hot Knives, Hat Tricks and…Bedpans?
LEAD PHOTO: Former Los Angeles Kings forward Mike Corrigan (right), shown here >with his son during the team’s 2016 home opener weekend in which the 1967-68 Kings players were honored. Photo: Jeff Moeller/Los Angeles Kings.
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