[Ed. Note: Some lists chronicle the best in hockey. Others the worst. Others the most memorable or greatest or essential. What Puck Daddy’s 2016 Summer Series seeks to do is capture those indefinable, quirky, oddities that occur every season. Moments that defy prediction or, in some cases, logical explanation. Welcome to WEIRD NHL.]
1. LA Kings’ top LW injures himself eating pancakes
Can we just stop and read that description one more time?
In 2012, Dustin Penner did his best job of channeling Babe Ruth by making headlines for… eating. Yes, I know this incident has already been (butter)milked for all it’s worth, but this really merits revisiting now that it’s been four years.
In Penner’s eagerness to dig into a shortstack one morning, his back seized up and rendered him nearly immobile. “I was probably at the third stage of evolution,” the forward explained to LA Kings Insider.
Yes, Penner’s conditioning was sometimes a topic of conversation during his NHL tenure. But man, how could you stay mad at a guy who subsequently held a charity event at a local IHOP and vigorously defended his right to eat a stack of pancakes before a 1pm game?
Congratulations, Dustin Penner. Thanks to your affinity for breakfast foods and your ability to be a good sport, you will go down in weird Los Angeles Kings history as both a Stanley Cup Champion and a blue plate special kind of guy.
2. Our owner went to jail
Overall, the Bruce McNall era of the Los Angeles Kings is probably the team’s most bizarre stretch of history. On the one hand, he brought Wayne Gretzky to Los Angeles, forever changing hockey’s reach and influence in the western United States. On the other hand, he smuggled art antiquities, defrauded banks out of more than $230 million, forced the Kings into bankruptcy in 1995, and was sentenced to prison.
Look, LA Kings fans have a complicated relationship with Bruce McNall. The guy so obviously loved the team and his players, and his loyalty was unparalleled. Wayne Gretzky refused to allow the Kings to retire his jersey until McNall was out of prison and able to attend the ceremony. Yes, yes, McNall also sent the Kings spiraling into fiscal chaos for several years — but then again, he’s credited as a Producer in the timeless classic Weekend At Bernie’s!
Any way you slice it, Bruce McNall’s time with the LA Kings was just downright weird. I mean, it’s not every day your favorite team’s owner gets sentenced to prison for things that sound like plot beats from an Ocean’s 11 villain story arc.
You gotta give the guy credit, though: his autobiography is titled Fun While It Lasted.
Before I dive into this one, let me make a disclaimer before Sharks fans get mad online. I’m not salty about this anymore, given the way things turned out. This incident is like the greasy cheating version of The Butterfly Effect, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
In 2012, at the end of the season, a testy matchup between the Sharks and Kings got really, really weird when Ryane Clowe decided to break up a play… from the bench. Jarret Stoll was racing into the Sharks’ zone along the boards on a power play, when Clowe decided to take matters into his own hands from the bench and poke the puck away. All four officials missed it, Jim Fox unleashed a torrent of WHOAs, Sharks fans cackled with glee, and Kings fans had a collective rage meltdown.
For perspective, let’s understand the magnitude of what Clowe thought it was okay to do. This is like in basketball, if a player was running down the court on a fast break, and someone on the bench slapped the ball out of his hands. In baseball, it would be like if a catcher punched a batter in the jock strap right as a juicy fastball floated over the plate. It’s cheating, plain and simple.
Again, I’m not mad about this at all (“Hey Siri, how many Stanley Cups has San Jose won?”). This is just one of the most bizarre, astonishing incidents of brazen cheating I’ve ever seen in sports. And since the Los Angeles Kings have never done anything wrong in their lives, it makes Benchgate extra shameful for the Sharks organization.
4. Dangerous curves
Ah yes, the original granddaddy of Kings strangeness. Newer NHL fans might not be so familiar with this incident, so allow me to crack the history books for a moment… *pulls out history book entitled “Things I Tried Really Hard To Never Think About Again*
In 1993, the Los Angeles Kings reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in their existence. The Kings dominated Game 1 against the Canadiens, sending LA into a jubilant frenzy. Late in Game 2, the Kings were again looking like they had the win in the bag… until the fated incident occurred. Habs coach Jacques Demers asked officials to measure the curve on Kings defenseman Marty McSorley’s stick, which turned out to be, indeed, illegal. *tugs collar nervously after morally posturing about Ryane Clowe/Benchgate*
You can guess how things turned out from there. The Kings were assessed a penalty, the Habs pulled Roy, the Habs won in OT, blah blah blah.
What’s really strange about this incident is how the heck Demers knew that McSorley’s stick was illegally curved. The resulting conspiracy theories have been practically endless. The two most likely explanations are that a Montreal Forum worker got a little too friendly with the Kings’ stick rack; or, that Habs captain Guy Carbonneau has the eyesight of a crested honey buzzard.
5. The game where the LA Kings bent the fabric of space-time
Well, here we are, at the final and possibly most bizarre moment of all.
The time when the LA Kings’ game clock froze at 1.8 seconds remaining and allowed them to score a last minute goal to vanquish the Columbus Blue Jackets.
I mean, this is kind of hilarious. Columbus’ GM worked himself into a frothy rage, insisting that there is a possibility the clock was “deliberately” stopped. The best case scenario, Scott Howson argued, is that the clock experienced a grave malfunction.
Of course, these accusations didn’t sit well with Kings GM Dean Lombardi, who issued in response a now infamous lecture that would be right at home on an episode of Cosmos.
“Those clocks are sophisticated instruments that calculate time by measuring electrical charges called coulombs — given the rapidity and volume of electrons that move through the measuring device the calibrator must adjust at certain points which was the delay you see. The delay is just recalibrating for the clock moving too quickly during the 10—10ths of a second before the delay. This insures that the actual playing time during a period is exactly 20 minutes.
“That is not an opinion -— that is science -— amazing device quite frankly.”
Yes, that’s right. Dean Lombardi invoked the “coulomb” defense against a team from… Columbus. More like the Co(u)lombus Boo-Hoo Jackets, amirite??
…I’m so sorry.
And there you have it… THE TOP 5 WEIRDEST MOMENTS IN LA KINGS HISTORY!*
*As chosen by me, 72 hours before the draft for this article was due, with a moderate amount of thought put into it and mostly relying on the other members of The Royal Half to do the work for me.
BONUS #CONTENT: A King Tufficult Soliloquy™
I can say with confidence that being a Los Angeles Kings fan over the last few decades has been one of the weirdest sports experiences you could ever put yourself through. When I was in high school in the (cough) early 2000’s, publicly claiming you were a fan of LA’s hockey team would typically elicit a similar reaction to admitting you just pissed in the swimming pool. In a town ruled by basketball and baseball, perhaps the weirdest thing of all has been watching LA’s mainstream evolve to finally and fully embrace the sport I love.
It’s been very cathartic for me to write this article. Throughout the course of my LA Kings fandom, I have been witness to events that were too surreal for a David Lynch movie. Let’s put it this way: in preparing for this post, I had to leave out things like a bloated, washed-up Jeremy Roenick dancing like your wasted uncle at a wedding; an official jersey that looked like a shirt from the Target discount rack mated with giveaway night at Medieval Times; and Colin Fraser bleeding from his eyeball like something out of Stranger Things season 2.
Oh yeah, there is one last thing I’d like to mention that is totally NOT weird and gives me hope for humanity. Two years ago, the LA Kings made a huge donation to Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times, a camp that offers fun, adventure, and a sense of community for kids battling cancer. I’ve seen firsthand the incredible impact the Kings’ donation has made on the lives of those kids and their families. If you’re in a position to, I’d like to humbly ask you to check out their donation page or wishlist to continue what the Kings have started. This is the kind of charitable giving that will make a very immediate and real difference, trust me. I’ll never forget my visit there this summer.
Did I miss anything? Are you mad and want to type at me in all caps? Did you decide to be a good human and make a donation to a worthy cause? Tweet me at @KingTufficult, and of course, keep an eye on TheRoyalHalf.com for all things hilariously Los Angeles Kings.
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About the author: As a child, King Tufficult liked to hang out at Iceoplex to watch his dad’s summer skating group that included many gloriously mulleted individuals. Some of the people attached to those mullets played for the early 90’s LA Kings. It was destiny. Since then, King Tufficult is best known for extensively traveling in Europe during the Cup Finals and writing “The Post” after Game 6 of the 2014 WCF. Follow him on Twitter: @KingTufficult and check out his work at The Royal Half.