LOS ANGELES — Over the long history of hockey, there have been a number of forward lines that earned so much notoriety—a relatively small number—that they became known by a nickname. A very small handful of those lines include:
- The Bread Line – New York Rangers (1920’s): Frank Boucher, Bill Cook, and Bun Cook; a reference to Bun Cook’s nickname.
- The Production Line – Detroit Red Wings (1947–52): Sid Abel, Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, and later, with Alex Delvecchio. Refers to the automotive industry in the Detroit area, which was rapidly expanding at the time.
- The Dynasty Line – Montreal Canadiens (1970’s): Guy Lafleur, Jacques Lemaire, and Steve Shutt.
- The Espo Line – Boston Bruins (1967–75): Wayne Cashman, Phil Esposito, and Ken Hodge. This line was also known as The Nitro Line and The Dogs of War Line.
- The French Connection – Buffalo Sabres (1972–1979): Gilbert Perreault, Rick Martin, and René Robert; referring to the fact that all three were French Canadian.
- The KLM line – Soviet national ice hockey team (1980’s): Vladimir Krutov, Igor Larionov, Sergei Makarov; refers to the initials of their last names.
- The Legion of Doom – Philadelphia Flyers (1994–97): Eric Lindros, John LeClair and Mikael Renberg.
The Los Angeles Kings have also had some lines with nicknames, but the vast majority of them didn’t stick. A couple that did were:
- The Hot Line (early 1970’s): Bob Berry, Juha “Whitey” Widing and Mike Corrigan.
- That 70’s Line: Tanner Pearson, Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli. Named after the popular sitcom, That 70’s Show. The line earned its nickname due to the fact that each player wore a jersey number in the 70’s, and from their instant chemistry during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
But the Kings’ most famous named forward line, indeed, one of the best lines in NHL history, was the Triple Crown Line, with Charlie Simmer on left wing, Marcel Dionne at center, and Dave Taylor on right wing.
The Triple Crown Line was so prolific that, during its peak, they averaged 51 goals and 61 assists for 112 points. In the 1980–81 season, each player surpassed the 100–point plateau—the first forward line to accomplish that feat in the same season—and they each were among the league’s top ten scorers, with Dionne finishing the season second in overall scoring with 58 goals and 77 points for 135 points. Taylor hit career-highs with 47 goals and 65 assists for 112 points, while Simmer scored 56 goals and tallied 49 assists for 105 points.
But before head coach Bob Berry created the Triple Crown Line in January 1979, Taylor first played with Dionne when he was a rookie in 1977–78.
“The next year, I played with Marcel, too,” said Taylor. “Charlie had signed at the same time I did, coming over from Cleveland. He went straight to [the Kings’ minor league affiliate, the Springfield Kings of the American Hockey League].”
That set the stage for a magical run.
“About halfway through my second year, Charlie got called up and Bob put him on the line with Marcel and I, and right away, Marcel scored a couple of goals,” Taylor reminisced. “I think that was against Detroit. That was the start of the Triple Crown Line. That year, Charlie ended up with 20–something goals.”
“Charlie was as good a player as I’ve ever seen around the net for tips and deflections and getting to rebounds,” Taylor added. “Marcel was a superstar. He could do everything. He added speed to the lineup, he could make plays and he could score. One thing about Marcel was that he always put the puck on net. Very seldom did he ever miss the net, and Charlie and I figured that out pretty quickly. We knew that we could get some rebounds.”
“For Charlie and I, our game was working the corners, being solid defensively, getting to the net for screens and rebounds.”
Hall of Fame “Voice of the Kings” Bob Miller, who broadcast the Kings on radio and television for 44 years starting in the 1973–74 season, and is now retired, has fond, vivid memories of the Triple Crown Line.
“When that Triple Crown Line was put together, it was the perfect make–up for a line,” said Miller. “Marcel Dionne was the pure goal scorer. Charlie Simmer was great in front of the net and deflecting shots, and Dave Taylor got everything going by going into the corners, digging out loose pucks, getting control of it, and making the right pass. That was the reason that line was so successful and one of the highest scoring lines in NHL history.”
“Over the years, we’ve talked about Dionne, Taylor and Simmer—the Triple Crown Line, and about each one, individually,” said Kings Hall of Fame radio play–by–play announcer Nick Nickson, who completed his 39th season with the Kings this year. “Marcel was just a tremendous talent, He could do everything better than, probably, 99 percent of the players in the league, whether it was scoring, making plays, skating—he was so strong on his skates with that low center of gravity.”
Miller and Nickson recalled just how prolific the Triple Crown Line was.
“My recollection of the Triple Crown Line was that almost every time they’d start down the ice, I thought they could score a goal,” said Miller. “They were that effective. You would bet anything that they were going to score any time they came down the ice. They just had that chemistry—the shooter, the one who could do the dirty work in the corners and the guy who could deflect the incoming shot in front of the net. That’s why they piled up those numbers.”
“If you talk to Bob Berry, who put the Triple Crown Line together, he’s talked about that big year when they had 161 goals together,” Nickson recalled. “He said that they were so good that when they went out there and started cycling the puck, Bob would look down the bench and say, ‘It’s going to be a goal’ and they’d score. They almost scored at will that season. Three players had about half of the team’s goals. That’s how dominant they were.”
As alluded to earlier, the Triple Crown Line had tremendous chemistry and each player filled their role to a tee. In Taylor’s case, he was the one who did most of the grunt work on the line—he was a much tougher player than many gave him credit for.
“Dave was always the heart and soul of the line,” said Nickson. “He couldn’t shoot as well as Marcel did, but he could shoot. He wasn’t as good a passer, but he could pass the puck, too. He wasn’t as big as Charlie, but he played as big as Charlie did, and in fact, Dave was a lot more physical. He played bigger than he actually was, that’s for sure.”
Jim Fox, who completed his 30th season as the Kings television color commentator this year, echoed Nickson’s thoughts about how tough Taylor was, but from a completely different perspective.
“On the ice, I really didn’t know how tough he was,” he said, having played with Taylor during his career with the Kings (1980–90). “He was getting all the points with the Triple Crown Line—that year, they were filling the net, which was not unusual. But just to see Dave operate in the physical games and in the physical areas of games, that was something that I didn’t really know about him, and that was very impressive, to see him get his nose in there as well as anyone.”
“I’m a right winger,” he added. “I played the same position as he did, so I noticed things that I didn’t know about him before. That was something that stood out to me, more than anything. After all, he was on a top line, so they were getting heavy checking every single night from the other team’s top defensive line. He also had a very underrated skill set. But that honest toughness was right at the forefront.”
“For a line to work well together, you need different components. Dave was able to bring that to the Triple Crown Line—a lot of the dirty work, a lot of the corner work, putting pressure on the other team, and he kept pucks alive because he just wasn’t going to give it up. If there was a 50/50 battle, he came out on the winning end of more of those battles than anyone I’ve ever seen—he went through guys.”
Taylor played the game physically—tough and with no fear. That much was illustrated by Fox and Nickson, who recalled how Taylor would always go after the opposition’s toughest players, even though he was not the team’s enforcer.
“I remember, whenever we played the New York Rangers, Barry Beck…Marcel would tell him, ‘don’t go after him. The guy is 30 pounds bigger. Just don’t do it,’” Fox recalled. “But as soon as the puck was dropped, who was running Barry Beck? Dave Taylor. He felt that was his responsibility. To get the job done, he felt that he had to be that kind of player and he never backed away from it.”
“That tells you a little about his makeup, personality, and how he approached games,” said Nickson. “He would do whatever it took to win a game. He was one of the more complete players who has ever played for the Kings. He was responsible, physical, he could score goals, he played on the power play, he killed penalties, he was a captain, and on and on.”
As great as he was on the Triple Crown Line, like so many of the game’s great players, Taylor deflects praise, choosing to shine the spotlight on his line mates.
“Having the opportunity to play with Marcel—he was probably the best player in the league, back then,” Taylor noted. “When he retired, he was the number three all–time scorer. He could play in all situations, a true superstar. Playing with him was a tremendous advantage for me, and I’d like to think that I helped him out, too—I was able to do some of the forechecking and backchecking for him. I don’t think he ever got the recognition that he deserved because he played most of his career in L.A. His greatest years were with the Kings.”
“We were three good players who brought different assets to the table,” Taylor added. “I always say that the sum of the parts was greater than the sum of the individuals. We had great chemistry—chemistry that I hadn’t seen before or since. We could make automatic plays behind the net and in front of the net. We could make cross–crease plays that we worked on in practice.”
But as much as Taylor chooses to deflect praise, as his numbers indicate, he had a lot more talent and skill than many give him credit for.
“I think his skill set was underrated, and I think his skating was underrated,” said Fox. “He was quick in tight areas. He had a deceptive move that a lot of defensemen who played against him for years—Dave beat them to the outside. He really caught a lot of people by surprise with his quickness.”
“He wasn’t flashy,” added Fox. “But if you break down some of his goals and passes, you realize that he was a highly–skilled player.”
Highly–skilled and tough as nails, indeed. But somehow, as Miller alluded to earlier, Taylor was rather unassuming. The spotlight just wasn’t his thing.
“He wasn’t flamboyant,” said Miller. “He was quiet. He would do things in a game, but he’d never call attention to himself regarding what he did. He did his job quietly, in a way. After games, you’d look at the score sheet and think, ‘Wow. He’s got three assists!’”
“The one component of the [Kings’] two Stanley Cup–winning teams that stood out to me was that no one cared who got the credit,” Fox noted. “That fits Dave to a tee. He was willing to take the lead, to do whatever was needed. He did not care who got the credit. He only cared about getting the job done.”
“It’s not about him,” Fox added. “It’s about the team, and that’s Dave.”
One time when Taylor couldn’t avoid the spotlight was when he, along with Dionne and Simmer, were introduced together prior to the start of the 1980–81 NHL All–Star Game, held at the Forum in Inglewood, California, the Kings first permanent home.
“That was just thrilling, to see the Forum sold out and they introduced them as a group, instead of individually,” Miller reminisced. “That was outstanding. The perfect way to do it. They came out together and the fans roared. That was a great moment.”
“We were named to the All–Star Team, and we made the starting lineup,” said Taylor. “They told us that they were going to introduce each player, but they were going to introduce us together and that we’d skate out together. It was a pretty cool way to do it.”
“I was fortunate to have played in a few All–Star Games,” added Taylor. “But that one in L.A., and to play with those two guys in particular—they had a tremendous influence on my career. [During the time he played on the Triple Crown Line], I had the most individual success, in terms of scoring.”
As successful as the Triple Crown Line was, that success was short lived. In fact, after those two great seasons, Simmer went down with a broken leg in the 1981–82 season, and Taylor suffered a couple of injuries, as well. Things were never the same after that.
“Charlie came back after he broke his leg,” Taylor noted. “But he got traded not long after that to Boston. Things were changing for the team.”
Even though the Triple Crown Line was unable to skate together for more than a few seasons and become undeniably legendary, they still became one of the best named lines in NHL history. Taylor continued to be one of the Kings’ top players, eventually becoming their captain. In the next installment of this series, Kings broadcasters will share more of their thoughts about the kind of player Dave Taylor was. Stay tuned.
LEAD PHOTO: From left: Charlie Simmer, Marcel Dionne and Dave Taylor sit on the bench during a game against the Hartford Whalers on January 14, 1981, at the Hartford Civic Center in Hartford, Connecticut. Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images. Embedded via Getty Images and WordPress.com
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