LA Kings Legend Dave Taylor Learned About Hard Work with a Pick and a Hockey Stick

LOS ANGELES — When he was selected by the Los Angeles Kings in the 15th round (210th overall) of the 1975 National Hockey League Entry Draft, right wing Dave Taylor was not a player anyone thought would become one of the great players to have ever worn a Kings jersey, let alone play in 1,111 career regular season games for them. But in addition to knowing how to play the game, he knew what hard work was and he epitomized that with the Kings—it played a major role in his advancement and success.

Born on December 4, 1955, David Andrew Taylor was born and raised in Levack, Ontario, Canada, a mining town where virtually all the men worked in the local nickel and iron ore mine. In fact, his father worked in the Levack mine for almost 40 years.

“International Nickel Company (INCO) built all the houses in the town,” Taylor noted. “Aside from a handful of people who had businesses there, everyone else in the town rented houses from INCO and the Dad’s all worked in the mine. But INCO also built a hockey rink, a curling rink, a baseball field, and an employee’s club that had a bowling alley and badminton courts. We had pretty good facilities.”

“The original rink was built in 1955,” Taylor added. “It was a covered arena, but it had natural ice. They didn’t have an ice-making plant. But it was cold enough there, so we had ice for a long time [each year]. I played all my youth hockey in my hometown. We had house leagues—there were a lot of kids there, with the mines booming at that time.”

As the mine boomed during the Cold War, the men of Levack, including Taylor’s father, had to do back-breaking work underground to keep the mine running, 24 hours a day. The hard work put in, day in and day out, by the patriarch of the Taylor household certainly did not go unnoticed by his family, including his children.

“One of the things my brother mentioned when we went to take a picture with the Stanley Cup outside the mine (see Former LA Kings Great Dave Taylor On Becoming a Stanley Cup Champion)…back when the Levack mine was booming, there were 7,000 men working there,” said Taylor. “Our town was only 3,000 people, so guys were coming in from all over the Sudbury district. They ran three shifts—day shift, afternoon shift and the graveyard shift. Guys were mining there 24 hours. The Cold War was going on at the time, so nickel and iron ore were pretty important back then.”

When he wasn’t hard at work in the Levack mine, Taylor’s father was involved with the youth hockey program in town, including his son’s teams.

“We had a really good minor hockey system in Levack,” Taylor noted. “My Dad was involved, too. He coached for a number of years. He managed the teams that I played on.”

“He was pretty active,” Taylor added. “He liked to pick the best players, travel, and go play in tournaments in other towns. That really helped a lot of the kids to become better players—we were looking for better competition to play against.”

“He loved hockey and before I was born, my Dad had an outdoor rink when my parents first moved up there. My Dad, along with a partner, did the maintenance on the outdoor rink, so when it snowed, they had to shovel it off. They would flood it—stuff like that. They never missed a day of hockey. That was extra work for him. But he really enjoyed it.”

The way Taylor tells it, his father was just like a lot of hockey Dad’s across Canada.

“He was always involved, particularly when I was younger,” Taylor observed. “Once I got up to midget, he became more of a fan. When I was in college, my parents would come down for a number of games. In my senior year, I’m not sure they missed a game. They came down almost every weekend. They also cane down to Boston when [Clarkson University] played in the ECAC finals in the old Boston Garden.”

As just alluded to, Taylor played NCAA hockey with Clarkson in the East Coast Athletic Conference. He still owns the ECAC single-season scoring record with 108 points (41 goals, 67 assists) in 1976-77, his senior season. He was also the leading scorer in the NCAA that year.

Taylor went the college route, in part, because no major junior team in Canada was interested.

“I was playing Junior B in my hometown and going to Grade 13,” he said. “I had applied to a couple of Canadian universities. I wasn’t drafted by a major junior team, so I was just going to school and playing hockey. I played one year of Junior B.”

“I think it was in February [1973],” he added. “I was leaving the arena, and a guy named Jerry York was waiting to talk to me. He said to call my Mom and Dad. ‘I’d like to come over to talk to you about coming down to Clarkson to go to school and play hockey.’ That was the start of it.”

Little did Taylor know what a huge stroke of luck that would turn out to be for him.

“Jerry York is the all-time winningest coach in NCAA Division I hockey and he’s being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame [in November],” Taylor noted. “He started at Clarkson. In 1973, I was part of his first recruiting class. I think he spent seven years at Clarkson before going to Bowling Green, where he coached [former Kings players] Rob Blake, Nelson Emerson, Dan Bylsma, and a lot of other guys. I think he spent nine years at Bowling Green. Then he went back to where he went to school, Boston College. He’s still there. Now he’s got five national championships and well over 1,000 wins.”

“Having him recruit me was a huge break,” Taylor added. “I was just playing hockey in my hometown. No major junior team showed any interest in me. But when I got the opportunity to go to Clarkson, it was a high level of hockey with excellent coaching.”

Although Taylor was now playing Division I college hockey, during the off-season, he returned to Levack and worked in the mine, following in his father’s footsteps.

To be sure, his father’s example and his own experience working in the Levack mine helped shape Taylor’s work ethic. Add in good coaching and it’s no wonder Taylor quickly built a reputation of being a hard-nosed and extremely hard-working player in the NHL.

“[Working in the mine] was just a way of life for us,” he said. “Everybody I grew up with and went to school with, their fathers all worked in the mine.”

“I’d like to think that was part of where I got my work ethic,” he added. “But there were also the coaches I had in youth hockey. They liked that you had skill. But they wanted you to play two-way hockey. They wanted you to backcheck, forecheck and finish checks. The game is different now. I don’t think they have anybody checking until age 13 today. But back then, when I was five years old, we were knocking each other around—I started playing organized hockey in 1960.”

For a player who didn’t have the skills of a Marcel Dionne, Taylor’s character and other intangibles made up for whatever skills that he lacked. Indeed, the combination of his father’s influence, his own experiences working in the Levack mine and his youth hockey coaches gave him a work ethic and character traits that very, very few could match and that certainly showed throughout his 17-year NHL career.

In the next installment of this series, Frozen Royalty will look at the Kings selecting Taylor in the 1975 draft and his brief stint in the minor leagues, along with his early years with the Kings, including his seasons on the Triple Crown Line with Charlie Simmer and Dionne.

LEAD PHOTO: Dave Taylor of the Los Angeles Kings skates with the puck during an NHL game against the New Jersey Devils on February 14, 1984 at the Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images.

Frozen Royalty’s Dave Taylor Coverage


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