Former LA Kings Great Dave Taylor Took the College Route To Reach the NHL

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LOS ANGELES — When Frozen Royalty last left this series of stories on former Los Angeles Kings star right wing Dave Taylor, we looked at his early days growing up in Levack, Ontario, playing youth hockey and at his father’s influence—all that combined to make Taylor, not just a really good, young hockey player, but one with tremendous character and a work ethic to match. Those were traits that were evident throughout his 17-year National Hockey League career with the Kings—he played all of his 1,111 career regular season games with one team from 1977-78 to 1993-94.

As reported in the previous installment of this series, “LA Kings Legend Dave Taylor Learned About Hard Work with a Pick and a Hockey Stick” (October 31, 2019), Taylor played four seasons at Clarkson University. In his senior season, he led the entire NCAA in scoring with 41 goals and 67 assists for 108 points in 34 games.

Taylor’s play caught the eye of Kings scout Alex Smart, who was instrumental, to say the least, in the Kings drafting the likes of Luc Robitaille and Steve Duchesne, among others.

“The guy who was responsible for drafting me was Alex Smart, who was the Kings scout based in Ottawa,” said Taylor. “He drafted me in 1975. Then, in 1984, he was the key scout who drafted Luc Robitaille.”

“I was drafted 210th, in the 15th round, and the way the draft worked back then, I don’t know if there were 16 or 17 teams, maybe 18—it was somewhere in that neighborhood,” added Taylor. “So the draft went as many rounds as teams kept on picking. So when we got into a round and teams stopped picking, the draft would be over.”

As it turns out, Taylor wasn’t at the draft. In fact, he didn’t even know he had been selected.

“Unlike today, when players are either present at the draft and hear their name called, or they follow the draft on television, the World Wide Web, or social media, to find out if they were selected, that wasn’t how things worked in 1975,” he recalled. “The funny story about the draft—it was held in Montreal back then. Today, most of the players go to the draft. It wasn’t like that back then. I wasn’t at the draft, but I knew it was going on. No one from the Kings called me. The way I found about it was my sister, Linda, who worked at the credit union in Levack.”

“One of the people in the office was reading the Toronto Star on the day after the draft,” he added. “He was going through the list and said, ‘Hey! It looks like your brother got drafted.’ So my sister called and said, ‘David was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the 15th round.’ That’s how I found out about being drafted.”

At the time of the draft, Taylor was working at his summer job in the same mine that his father worked at, operated by the International Nickel Company.

“The draft was on a weekend, so I went back in to work in the mine on Monday,” he recalled. “The shift boss, who was Mr. Murphy, bellowed, ‘Taylor! What are you doing here?! Don’t they give you a wheelbarrow full of money to stay out of the mine after you’re drafted?!’ I said, ‘No, I don’t think they do that for 15th round draft choices.’”

“We had a good chuckle about that, and I ended up working the rest of that summer in the mine,” he added. “I worked there during the summer after my junior year, too.”

During his junior season, the Kings sent Taylor to play a short stint in the minor leagues.

“After that season, the Kings asked me to go on a tryout in Fort Worth [Texas], which was in the Central League—they shared [an affiliation] with the New York Islanders,” he noted. “During our March break at Clarkson, I went there and played in seven games.”

“It was the old Central League and there were only six teams,” he added. “I was really there for eight games, Don Choice was the coach. He was an Islanders employee. But he had some Kings players there. The first game, I just sat on the bench. He said that this would be a big step for you, so we’ll just have you sit on the bench and get a feel for the pace or the game. So I never got a shift the first game I was there. But I played in the next seven.”

“I ended up with six points in the seven games, and in one of the games, I had three points and they had a local store that had a promotion for the players where if you scored three points, you got a cowboy hat, so I got one for my time there.”

Although the stint with Fort Worth showed that Taylor could play at a higher level, it did not come without cost.

“I got cross checked in the mouth when we were playing Dallas,” he said. “I had to have my teeth wired back in. That was the sixth game I was there. I played one more, and then, school was starting the next week. This was the end of the Central League regular season, so the playoffs weren’t going to start for another week, But the Kings wanted me to stay with Fort Worth. I signed a three-day [tryout contract]. But they liked me, so I was able to play in seven games. But I went back to school and graduated with my class.”

“It’s actually kind of a funny story,” he added, chuckling. “I’m with the Fort Wayne coach, Don Choice, who called me into his office. He said that [Kings general manager] George Maguire was going to call from L.A. George called and asked how I was doing and how my teeth were. I said that were OK and that I was doing fine. He said, ‘we’d really like you to stay for the playoffs.’ I replied, ‘I understand that. But we’re on March break here and school starts next week. I’ll end up missing a week of school if I don’t head back.’”

“At the time, they were paying me $100.00 per game on the tryout. He told me that they could pay me $200.00 per game. But I told him that I wanted to get back to Clarkson and graduate with my class.”

It was at this point where the gruff, caustic, George Maguire showed his usual lack of tact.

“George then said, ‘I haven’t had a chance to see you play there. I’d kind of like to see you in the playoffs,’” Taylor recalled. “So I had kind of a smart-ass comment. ‘Well, I’ve been here for two weeks,’ and he said, angrily, ‘You think that’s all the [expletive deleted] we have to do is to go down there and watch you?’ He started barking at me over the phone. Then he told the coach. ‘give him his money and tell him to get the hell outta there.’”

“He sure was buttering me up there,” Taylor added, chuckling. “George was always really good to me. But he sure had that big bark. He was pretty abrasive.”

But Maguire didn’t start off being good to Taylor, at least, not when it came to his first training camp.

Art Kaminsky was my agent back then,” Taylor noted. “He represented a lot of college guys, at the time. He felt that I should have a contract before going to training camp. But even after the time I spent in Fort Worth, the Kings didn’t want to give me a contract. They wanted me to come to training camp on a tryout basis the following year.”

But encouraged by Kaminsky, Taylor balked.

“I had been drafted by Houston of the World Hockey Association,” he explained. “Art pulled a few strings and my rights were traded by Houston to Cincinnati. They offered me a one-year contract at $25,000. Art took that back to George Maguire and said, ‘Listen. The kid wants to play in the NHL and he wants to play for the Kings. But he’s not coming to camp without a contract. If you’re not going to sign him, he’s going to take this deal.’ So the Kings ended up signing me to a two-year contract and I showed up in training camp in September.”

Indeed, Kaminsky successfully pointed to Taylor’s college career, pushing the fact that his development in the two years after the Kings drafted him had been exemplary—as reported earlier, he led the entire NCAA in scoring in 1976-77. That forced the Kings to acknowledge Taylor’s post-draft development before they really wanted to.

“The next year, in September, I went to training camp with the Kings and ended up sticking with the team,” Taylor noted.

Although the Kings would reach the playoffs in 13 of his 17 seasons, post-season success remained out of reach during Taylor’s NHL career. Nevertheless, the addition of Dave Taylor had a dramatic impact on the franchise, including some of the most glorious years in Kings history. Taylor’s time on the famed Triple Crown Line with Marcel Dionne and Charlie Simmer, and later, with Robitaille and Wayne Gretzky, brought fans some of the most memorable moments in franchise history. But before that, he had to attend his first Kings training camp and make a strong impression to earn a place on the roster. More on how he did that is coming up in the next installment.

LEAD PHOTO: Dave Taylor poses for a portrait, circa 1982, in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images.

Frozen Royalty’s Dave Taylor Coverage

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