Perhaps The Toughest Player Ever To Wear The LA Kings Jersey, Former Kings LW Dan Maloney, Dead At 68

LOS ANGELES — Dan Maloney, an 11-year National Hockey League veteran who was a fan favorite in his two-plus seasons with the Los Angeles Kings, died on November 19 at the age of 68.

At press time, the cause of Maloney’s death has not been released. But as reported by Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun, “The 68-year-old had not been in good health in later years, according to friends.”

Looking back at Maloney’s NHL career, the native of Barrie, Ontario was selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round (14th overall) of the 1970 NHL Draft. He was acquired by the Kings from Chicago on February 26, 1973, in exchange for center Ralph Backstrom. He played in 14 games for the Kings to close out the 1972-73 season.

Maloney, who was 6-1, 195 pounds during his NHL career, played for the Kings through the 1974-75 season when he enjoyed his second-best season in the league, scoring 27 goals and adding 39 assists for 66 points with 165 penalty minutes in 80 regular season games.

That summer, Maloney was traded to the Detroit Red Wings with defenseman Terry Harper and a 1976 second round pick for the rights to superstar center Marcel Dionne and defenseman Bart Crashley.

In 1975-76 with the Red Wings, Maloney matched his offensive numbers from the previous season, but did so in three fewer games, making that season his career-best in the NHL.

In 737 NHL regular season games, Maloney scored 192 goals and contributed 259 assists for 451 points with 1,489 penalty minutes. With the Kings, Maloney scored 46 goals and added 95 assists for 174 points in 159 regular season games.

Maloney, who also played for the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New York Rangers, and later, coached with Toronto, the Winnipeg Jets, and the Rangers, became a fan favorite in Los Angeles, mostly because of his ability to fight.

“He was with the team when I came on board in 1973,” said retired Hockey Hall of Fame play-by-play announcer Bob Miller, the Voice of the Kings. “He had some ability and what I remember most is that if you body checked him with a clean hit there was no problem. But if you got your stick up around his neck or face, he’d hit you three times before you even knew the fight had started. He was so quick and he could take a hard check, as long as it was clean. But if it wasn’t, you were going to be in trouble. He was really quick with those fists.”

“He was one of the toughest guys I’ve ever met,” said former Kings superstar goaltender Rogie Vachon, an honored member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. “In our days, when I played, we didn’t have a very physical team. But wherever he was, at home or on the road, he had to take care of business all the time. That’s why, over the years, I really respected him for taking care of the team. Every time something was going wrong—some of our top guys were being attacked or something of that nature—Dan was always there for them.”

“He was someone who allowed the team to go out onto the ice and beat any team in the league,” Miller recalled. “He was the reason they could go out there with a little swagger because now they had a player who the other teams were a little bit afraid of or leery of what might happen.”

Indeed, Maloney was known for his uncanny ability to drop the gloves with anyone. But it wasn’t only that he was a willing combatant. He was one of the toughest players ever to put on an NHL jersey, and he was also, arguably, the toughest player in Kings franchise history.

“I remember him as being, and I’ve said this to many people, he was just about the toughest fighter—that’s hard because there were so many guys who were tough,” said retired Kings head athletic trainer Pete Demers. “But he would just go into a zone. He would be in a different world when he was fighting.”

“We had a lot of tough guys on our team,” added Demers. “But when I think back, he just might be the toughest guy to have ever played for the Kings and I don’t think I’d be the only one who would say that. He was scary tough. He fought for keeps.”

Although Maloney will likely be remembered primarily for his fighting prowess, he was not a one-dimensional player who could only drop the gloves. Indeed, he was much more than that.

“The one thing about Dan was that he could play,” Vachon noted. “He was not strictly an enforcer, where you just sent him on the ice. The guy could play on any kind of line. He had decent hands. He wasn’t a gifted scorer, but he did his job every time he was on the ice. He was great in the dressing room, too, to pep up the guys.”

“He was always one of those guys who you were aware of when he was on the ice, but he wasn’t just an enforcer,” Miller emphasized. “He had some playing ability. He wasn’t just out there on the ice for two minutes to start something. He was there to contribute to the team.”

“He was a good player, too,” said Demers. “He could score goals. It was pretty uncommon. If you’re a goal scorer, you just skate up and down the ice and just go out for your shift when the coach taps you on the shoulder. But for guys like Dan Maloney, they had to have a tremendous amount of focus, watching their shifts, watching who goes onto the ice.”

Off the ice, Maloney was a character guy. Vachon referred to him as “a great human being.”

“Great guy,” said Demers. “Great family man. Great in the room and he proved that by going on to coach in Toronto, Winnipeg and New York. He was the kind of guy you wanted to be in a foxhole with you when the going got tough. If you were going into a biker bar, you wanted Dan Maloney with you.”

“He was a pretty good guy,” said Miller. “I remember when we were doing interviews for our radio shows and he was always receptive. Most of the players who played that way were very friendly and polite away from the ice and even on the ice, they didn’t always go out there to start something. But he was always ready to jump in to protect a teammate and he could handle himself.”

Maloney was so highly regarded by his teammates that when the trade for Marcel Dionne was completed, they let it be known that they were not happy that Maloney was included in the deal.

“When he got traded to Detroit for Marcel, initially, it was not a very popular move in our dressing room,” Vachon recalled. “Let’s forget about Marcel, for now. Dan was doing everything he possibly could to help our team to be better. But all of a sudden, when it happened, I remember [former head coach] Bob Pulford always preached that if you do what he asked you to do on the ice and you’re productive and do well, you’re going to be on his team. But then, there was the big trade for Marcel and there was a little bit of controversy in our room. Everybody knew about Marcel and what he could do in Detroit, but not on our team.”

“Of course, Marcel became one of the best ever in the NHL, so you can’t question the trade,” Vachon added. “It turned out to be one of the best trades the Kings ever made, without a doubt. The trade worked for both teams. We wound up with a superstar, one of the best players ever to play the game. We were very happy that Marcel was coming to the Kings. But at the same time, nobody wanted Dan or Terry Harper to leave.”

It wasn’t just Maloney’s teammates who didn’t want him to be traded.

“He was a player who Bob Pulford did not want to trade in the Marcel Dionne deal,” Miller recalled. “[Original Kings owner] Jack Kent Cooke asked Pully for six players that he did not want traded and Maloney was one of them.”

“As I recall, Pulford went to Cooke’s house in Bel Air and said, ‘I don’t want these six players traded for Marcel,’” Miller added. “Cooke said, ‘I will not trade those six players.’ Then, Pully said that he got in his car and drove off. About one mile away, he thought, ‘wait a minute. He said that he wouldn’t trade those six players.’ So he turned around, went back to Cooke’s house, knocked on the door and said, ‘I don’t want any one of those players traded for Marcel.’ Nevertheless, Maloney was included in the deal.”

As reported earlier, Maloney was as tough as they come, always sticking up for his teammates, he contributed on the score sheet here and there and he was the consummate teammate. He certainly earned the respect and deep admiration of his teammates.

“We spent a lot of good times together and sometimes, some bad times,” Vachon said, bemoaning the loss of Maloney. “I’m devastated that he passed away. He was much younger than I was. Maybe something happened to him.”

“I feel bad,” Vachon added. “Really bummed out. It’s too bad. We’ve lost a really good man. I just hope he’s in a better place.”

LEAD PHOTO: Former Los Angeles Kings left wing Dan Maloney (background; being restrained by a linesman). Photo courtesy Los Angeles Kings.

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