FROZEN ROYALTY EXCLUSIVE: As reported in part 1 of this two-part story, former Los Angeles Kings forward Mike Corrigan—one of the original Kings from the 1967-68 team—who played in 401 regular season games with the Kings, has a lot of fond memories of playing for the fledgling National Hockey League franchise during the 1970’s. He shared some of them, along with some thoughts about how the franchise has evolved, exclusively with Frozen Royalty. Part 2 of a two-part series.
LOS ANGELES — During the Los Angeles Kings’ 2016-17 home opener weekend in October, they honored their 1967-68 team—the original Kings—as part of their year-long 50th Anniversary commemoration. Among the 13 former players who were able to attend was forward Mike Corrigan, whose best years in the National Hockey League came while wearing the Forum Blue and Gold jersey of the Kings.
“It was great to play here,” he said. “I loved L.A. I enjoyed my stay here. I played with great players here—Butch Goring, Marcel Dionne, the list goes on.”
Like so many teams in Kings history, Corrigan was part of one Kings team after another that, for various reasons, just couldn’t get over the hump, and that included the 1974-75 team that still holds the franchise record for most points (standings) in a season.
“The year we had 105 points, that’s the greatest team that I played on,” Corrigan noted. “We lost in the best-of-three [in the first round], but Dan Maloney lost his father and Butch Goring got hurt. If it was a seven-game series, Butch would’ve come back and maybe it would’ve been different.”
As reported in part 1 of this story, Corrigan believes that Jack Kent Cooke, the original owner of the franchise, was a great owner, contrary to prevailing sentiment based on his track record. But Corrigan offered another example of Cooke’s magnanimity.
“When my son was born, we were on the road,” Corrigan recalled. “At that time, you didn’t come home when your wife was [about to deliver] because we were playing. We didn’t have what they have today.”
“We were playing in Montreal on Wednesday and Buffalo on Thursday,” Corrigan added. “They had called the Forum near the end of the game to tell the Kings management to let me know that my wife had gone in to have the baby. So we went to the airport after the game—we had just won. We were having a couple of beers at the bar, and [head coach Bob] Pulford comes up. So I said to the guys, ‘I’ll walk out,’ and I did. But Pulford said. ‘Mike, I need to see you.’ He told me that my wife was having the baby. But we had our flight to Buffalo and we were waiting to board.”
“We got on the plane, and he said, ‘we’ve got a game tomorrow night because we’re going to New York, and the bars are open until 4:00 AM, you guys take it easy. I know Mike’s wife’s going to have the baby. We don’t know if it’s going to be a boy or a girl,’ and I’m yelling, ‘I’m going to get my big guy,’ that it’s going to be a boy. I already had three girls.”
After arriving in Buffalo, the team went straight to their hotel.
“After we got in—Butch Goring was my roommate,” said Corrigan. “We go upstairs, and Kathy Edwards [wife of backup goaltender Gary Edwards] calls. Butch answers. I came in, and Butch said, ‘Mike! The big guy! You got your big guy!’ We went to Sinatra’s until 5:00 AM.”
Out drinking until 5:00 AM? The night before a game? Talk about a recipe for disaster for that night’s game. But…
“Even though we were out so late, we beat Buffalo that night, 6-3, and that was when they had the French Connection line [with superstars Rick Martin, Gilbert Perreault, and René Robert],” Corrigan said, laughing.
But the celebration had only just begun.
“When we got home, Jack Kent Cooke had sent two cases of champagne to the hospital room, and some beer,” Corrigan noted. “But we never made it to the room. We went straight to the nursery and to my new baby. But they were saying, ‘you can’t come in here.’ I told’em that it was my first boy.”
“They brought the baby in and we started drinking champagne, but we didn’t have enough glasses, so we started drinking it out of bedpans,” Corrigan added, laughing again.
As awful as that sounds…
“They said, ‘they’re sterilized, so it shouldn’t be a problem,’” said Corrigan.
That part of the celebration lasted well into the night and, once again, the Kings had a game the next evening.
“The next night, we had to play Boston, and we beat them, 6-4,” said Corrigan.
Back in Corrigan’s day, the Kings played at the Forum in Inglewood, California, the team’s first permanent home, which they shared with the National Basketball Association’s Los Angeles Lakers, also owned by Cooke.
“We used to [stretch] in the Lakers dressing room,” Corrigan recalled. “I’d be wearing [Lakers superstar center] Wilt Chamberlin’s t-shirt. It went down to my ankles.”
Then there was the time Corrigan was in an awful scoring drought.
“I was in a slump, when I first got to L.A.—young and stupid,” he reminisced. “[My wife] told me to get the stuff out of the dishwasher, because I had to eat my pre-game meal, a steak, at 1:00-1:30 in the afternoon.”
The dishwasher had just completed its drying cycle.
“I grabbed a hot knife and I threw it at the wall,” said Corrigan. “She said, ‘maybe you should do that on the ice. Maybe you’ll score a goal.’ I said, ‘really?’ She just said, ‘sit down and eat, get some rest and get going.’ Guess what. I got a hat trick that night.”
Returning to Los Angeles this past October after so many years, and after watching the team from afar, Corrigan has taken pride in the franchise’s growth, progress and improvement in recent years.
“Boy, has it changed in the last, I would say, 15 years,” he observed, marveling at what the Kings have accomplished. “That’s when they really started going. But when you win a Stanley Cup, that’s just outstanding because it brings everybody in. Tampa Bay did it, and they’re sold out. You’ve got to win and put a good hockey team on the ice. They have that now. But what I look back at is that we started it.”
“We had some good years here and they went down a little bit for four or five years, but then they got it back,” he added. “That’s the way it goes in the game. You win some, you lose some.”
“As far as I’m concerned, this owner [the Anschutz Entertainment Group] took over big time. You had your other owners like Bruce McNall and Jerry Buss, but [AEG] really took over. Wayne Gretzky? He helped. But this guy [Philip Anschutz] took the team to the top.”
Years after retiring from the NHL, Corrigan splits time between homes in Clearwater, Florida and Connecticut, but he really isn’t retired at all.
“For 29 1/2 years, I’ve worked for Eversource,” he said. “We’ve got the contract with the State of Florida to spray weeds along the highways. It’s outstanding because I only work from May 1 to October 1. My health insurance is covered and I make good money.”
“I also do a lot of fundraising [for local charitable organizations],” he added. “Between work and the fundraising, it all keeps me going.”
But even after moving away from talking about the Kings and his days in the NHL to what he’s doing now, Corrigan just couldn’t stop thinking about his days playing hockey, now long past.
“We used to skate on ponds [during his youth back home in Ottawa, Ontario],” he reminisced, fondly. “We’d shovel the rinks off in the morning and when it got too warm, you went and played ball hockey until you played your league game [in an ice rink].”
“We used to skate on the ponds, and the parents and families used to ice fish.”
Now that would be a sight to behold for most hockey fans, wouldn’t it?
Be sure to read part 1 of this story: Mike Corrigan Has A Lot Of Fond Memories of His Time With The LA Kings.
LEAD PHOTO: Former Los Angeles Kings forward Mike Corrigan (left), shown here in a game against the Boston Bruins during the 1969-70 season. Photo courtesy Los Angeles Kings.
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