He got his chance after Grant Fuhr made a save and froze the puck for a faceoff in Edmonton's end. "Doug Smith did what every winger dreams his centerman will do: He drew the puck between his feet and eliminated the Oilers' center," Evans said. "I drew my stick as high as I could and I caught it as good as I could catch it. It went under the crossbar. Grant Fuhr never had a chance." The Kings lost the next game, at home, but won the series at Edmonton. They lost to Vancouver in the next round.
Evans' 13 playoff points were the only ones he recorded. But King fans won't forget him. "It's nice to be remembered for something so great," said Evans, the team's radio analyst.
MCNALL: NEW HEIGHTS....
Local boy who loves ancient coins parlays his hobby into a fortune while a teenager. He studies ancient history at UCLA and Oxford and carries his Midas touch to a horse-racing syndicate and movie production company.
He meets Buss, who's also interested in coins. He buys a 49% stake in the Kings from Buss in 1986 and buys the rest late in the 1987-88 season for $20 million. But Bruce McNall's biggest purchase set the hockey world abuzz: He acquired Gretzky, Marty McSorley and Mike Krushelnyski from the Oilers for Jimmy Carson, three first-round draft picks and $15 million on Aug. 9, 1988.
"To me, Wayne Gretzky isn't only the best player in hockey, but he's also the ambassador of hockey," he said in 1989. "It was never a question of whether to do it. I had to do it."
McNall gave Gretzky an eight-year, $20-million contract, changed the team's colors and logo and ushered in a star-spangled era. McNall became a powerful figure in the NHL and was elected chairman of the Board of Governors. What had been an NHL backwater became a mecca because of Gretzky.
"He put hockey on the front burner in L.A.," said Barry Melrose, the Kings' coach for nearly three seasons. "There were movie stars in the building every night. It was electric. The Forum was the place to be . . . It was a wild ride."
Said Gretzky: "When I got here, people didn't understand the game of hockey and the image of our sport wasn't very good. One of the things we worked hard on was getting out into the communities and getting kids to try and play hockey. . . When kids started to play, more parents started appreciating the game. As time went on people realized what a great sport it is."
Gretzky became McNall's partner in purchasing a rare Honus Wagner baseball card for $451,000 in 1991, race horses and the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts. Everything McNall did was on a grand scale, from the private plane he bought for the team to the lavish hotels they visited.
"I remember a night in Chicago. Gretzky was in the locker room and I wanted to come in and he said, 'You don't want to go in there,' " said Roy Mlakar, then a King executive and now president of the Ottawa Senators. "Bruce had just given the team an exorbitant amount of money for beating Chicago, because we never won there. That was against the 1/8NHL 3/8 bylaws. He gave them $1 million to win a regular-season game.
"One time we were coming back from a playoff game in Vancouver and I was walking back with Kelly 1/8Hrudey 3/8 and Tony Granato, and they were looking at some Versace clothes. I got on the plane later and found out Bruce had bought them $5,000 worth of clothes and a $1,000 pair of shoes for me. I'm still wearing them."
The Kings sold out every home game in 1991-92, unprecedented in Los Angeles. They reached a high point in 1993, when they made it to the Stanley Cup finals after Gretzky missed almost half the season because of a back injury.
With Gretzky out, Luc Robitaille, Jari Kurri and Granato carried the Kings. They trailed Calgary, 2-1, in the first playoff round but rallied to win in six games and then upset division winner Vancouver in six games. Gretzky was spectacular in the seventh game of the Campbell Conference finals against Toronto, scoring three goals and adding an assist in a performance he has called his best in the NHL.
"For two months L.A. was the greatest hockey city in the world, better than Montreal and Toronto," Melrose said.
The Kings defeated the Canadiens in Game 1 of the Cup finals and led Game 2 at Montreal until McSorley was caught with an illegal stick, giving the Canadiens a two-man power play. They tied the game late, won in overtime, and won the next three games.
Tension between Melrose and General Manager Nick Beverly began to overheat. Melrose favored grinders over skill players, and defenseman Paul Coffey was traded to Detroit for pluggers Gary Shuchuk and Marc Potvin. The Kings missed the playoffs in 1994.
"It was the Yankees. There was always something happening," Melrose said. "A lot of the focus got moved away from what was happening on the ice. We weren't all pulling in the same direction, like we did in '93."