LOS ANGELES — When we last left this off-and-on series focusing on former Los Angeles Kings star right wing and former general manager Dave Taylor, we looked at his time with the Kings during the 1980s, especially the time he spent playing on one of the greatest forward lines in National Hockey League history, the Triple Crown Line, with left wing Charlie Simmer and superstar center Marcel Dionne. In this installment we’ll take a closer look at one of the attributes that made Taylor such a great player and person, both on the ice and off—character.
When current television color commentator and former Kings right wing Jim Fox was selected by the Kings in the first round (tenth overall) in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft, Taylor made it a point to reach out to him. Indeed, just three years into his NHL career with the Kings, Taylor was still a very young player—certainly not an experienced veteran. But he was already making it a point to do things a team leader would do.
“My first impression was that, after I was drafted, Dave gave me a call,” Fox noted. “I didn’t really know him, then. But we grew up near each other in Ontario. I was in a small town, Coniston. He was in a small town, Levack [northwest of Sudbury, Ontario while Coniston is due east]. He just wanted to welcome me. It was very nice of Dave to do that, He made me feel more comfortable and when I got to L.A., he certainly took care of me really well, just because he had that small hometown thing in the background.”
Kings Hall of Fame radio play-by-play broadcaster Nick Nickson, who just completed his 40th season with the team, noted that a current player who seems to be almost a mirror image of Taylor is right wing Dustin Brown, who broke Taylor’s all-time Kings record for games played (1,111 games) on March 28, 2019.
“These guys, Brown and Taylor, played every game like it was Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Final, no matter if it was a pre-season game, a regular season game, or the playoffs,” said Nickson. “In Dave’s case, I think that mentality came from being such a late round draft pick and because he wasn’t very big when he was drafted. He was 135 pounds when the Kings drafted him.”
Taylor was selected in the 15th round (210th overall) of the 1975 NHL Draft.
“He filled out, but maybe he had that chip on his shoulder, believing that they had to prove himself in every game,” added Nickson. “He wound up doing that for 1,111 regular season games, and he did it very well.”
By the time Wayne Gretzky arrived in Los Angeles just before the start of the 1988-89 season, Taylor was on the downside of his career and saw his role change. No longer was he on the top forward line, instead playing fewer minutes and on the fourth line, in a checking role. But did that affect the way he approached the game? No way.
“His role changed, but his goal didn’t,” said Fox. “His goal was to win. That happens to veteran players who are nearing the end of their careers. Their role does change. Sometimes, a lot gets made of that. But with Dave, he made nothing out of it. ‘It’s normal. Let’s just go and play.”
That he never changed his approach to each game is just something else that shines a very bright spotlight on his character.
As reported in previous installments of this series, Taylor was tough-as-nails, and not necessarily just in terms of dropping the gloves.
Then there was one particularly gruesome injury that he suffered that really showed just how tough, how dedicated, and how determined Taylor was.
“I was broadcasting, at the time,” said Fox. “Dave got hit into the end boards and jammed his finger inside of his glove. It was near the end of a period, and I had to go downstairs to do interviews. After I did my interview, I was walking in the back area of the Forum where the medical room was. The doctor was in there, working with Dave. The dentist was in there—three or four people were there, working on Dave’s finger. I was able to watch.”
“I can’t remember which finger it was—the ring finger or the middle finger,” added Fox. “But it had, basically, exploded. It didn’t get cut. But because of the impact, it got jammed and just exploded. Three guys were working on his finger, including the dentist. I think [head athletic trainer] Pete Demers was there, too. I could see his bones. They were stuffing what I’ll’ call the ‘meat’ back in so they could sew him up. It was a mess.”
“I went back upstairs to do the second period, and I didn’t get specific. I just said, ‘I saw Dave downstairs and he’s going to be out a long time.’”
“Of course, he was back for the second period,” Fox noted. “I’ll bet, even to this day, his finger is all screwed up, probably deformed, a little bit. But that’s how tough Dave was.”
“I know there have been a lot of hockey players who have fought through injuries and pain,” added Fox. “They fought through a lot of things to play. But I thought this one was automatic. There would be no way he could play for a couple of weeks. But he was back the next period. That’s Dave. He never took one moment for granted. He wanted to be involved in every moment.”
“Dave had that attitude where he was going to play and do his best regardless of what was happening,” said retired, Hall of Fame Voice of the Kings Bob Miller. “That’s the way I remember him.”
One gets the idea that if you look up the definition of “character” in a dictionary, you’d see an image of Taylor next to it.
“What makes all of us appreciate Dave is, not only what he did on the ice, but we appreciate the person he is,” said Nickson. “He always had time to talk to you. I remember when he was the general manager, I was hanging around the rink, and I’d say, ‘Hey Dave. Got a moment? Can we talk?’ He’d say, ‘Yeah, come on in. Shut the door. What do you want to talk about?’ He treated everyone the same, with respect and dignity.”
“The big picture, to me, is his body of work, as a player, and I don’t think you can discount someone’s character,” added Nickson. “There are not many, if any who I’ve met in hockey who have more character than Dave Taylor.”
In the next installment in this series, we will look at what would, arguably, become the greatest test of Taylor’s character. Coming soon.
LEAD PHOTO: Former Los Angeles Kings star right wing and former general manager Dave Taylor, currently the Vice President, Hockey Operations for the St. Louis Blues, shown here just outside of his hometown of Levack, Ontario during his day with the Stanley Cup after the Blues won the 2018-19 Stanley Cup Championship. Photo courtesy of the Dave Taylor Family Collection.
Frozen Royalty’s Dave Taylor Coverage
- Former GM Dave Taylor Started LA Kings Down Championship Road: Anze Kopitar
- Former LA Kings Great Dave Taylor On Becoming a Stanley Cup Champion
- LA Kings Legend Dave Taylor Learned About Hard Work with a Pick and a Hockey Stick
- Former LA Kings Great Dave Taylor Took the College Route To Reach the NHL
- Another Big Break Helped Dave Taylor Secure His Spot with the LA Kings
- Dave Taylor Was the Heart and Soul of the LA Kings Triple Crown Line
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