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Kings a lifelong passion for David Courtney

The public address announcer, who died Thursday at 56, had a decades-long bond with the hockey team — through its dark years and its Stanley Cup win last spring.

November 29, 2012|Helene Elliott

When David Courtney returned to the Kings for a second tour of duty in 1985 their staff was small enough to meet in a closet, which was no problem because that's where his office was located.

Luc Robitaille, a scared rookie in 1986, vividly remembers his first encounter with the man whose warm, booming voice was a true reflection of the man himself.

"He was our PR guy. He did video. He did a lot of things," said Robitaille, now Kings' president of business operations and one of many employees. "I remember he came down after a few games and introduced himself, and he asked me to go to his office. I went upstairs at the old Forum and it was a closet. I remember just sitting there and wondering what was going on.

"Oh, we've been together a long, long time."

Courtney was 14 when he began working for the Kings in 1971 as a gofer, PR assistant, scoreboard operator and sometime Zamboni driver. Except for a seven-year detour to Houston, he shared the suffering of Kings fans and was a welcoming presence through decades of failed five-year plans and general managers who arrived with high hopes but inevitably departed in defeat.

His familiar public address introduction of "Ladies and gentlemen, your Los Angeles Kings," was a touchstone for all who cared about them even in the darkest days when the team was, according to bankruptcy laws, actually Bank of America's Los Angeles Kings.

It was only right that the Kings were home June 11 and Courtney was able to say the simple but magical sentence most fans doubted would ever be meant for them: "Ladies and gentlemen, the Stanley Cup." An undercurrent of exhilaration simmered beneath his professional tone, and no one could begrudge him that joy.

The tragedy of his death Thursday from a pulmonary embolism isn't limited to the fact that 56 is too young to die. Or that he had enjoyed merely two years of married life with Janet Fisher, whom he wed in a ceremony at Lake Mission Viejo. That, too, is unspeakably sad.

It is also beyond heartbreaking that although he got to see the Kings win the Cup, the lockout imposed by the NHL on Sept. 15 prevented him from becoming the voice of the Kings' banner-raising ceremony. Try quantifying that loss in millions or billions of hockey-related revenues. It can't be done.

Courtney, a New York native who moved to California as a child, was also the public address voice of the Clippers for the last three seasons and for the Angels for 18 seasons, earning a World Series ring he proudly displayed on his Facebook page. He did PA duty for the Rams for three seasons and was a morning traffic reporter for several local radio stations.

But his greatest passion was the Kings, and he was most strongly identified with them. They identified with him.

"His voice was always very comforting," Kings forward Jarret Stoll said. "When you're playing a game, whether it's a basketball game or our games, it's always that good, exciting voice that you hear. To not be able to hear that from now on, that will definitely be sad."

Kings TV voice Bob Miller got the bad news Thursday morning from Courtney's wife. Courtney had tweeted Wednesday that he was in the hospital and awaiting an angiogram.

"I've known him years and years and years," Miller said. "I think he was a PA announcer who didn't go crazy. You've heard some of those guys that, holy cow, are just over the top. He always played it straight with the Kings.

"It's just a shock to hear about it."

Robitaille said he was glad Courtney experienced the Kings' triumph last spring.

"He was so happy when we won the Cup. He's like all of us," Robitaille said, still using the present tense. "He's been bleeding the Kings through all the years, and this was a big moment.

"It's just devastating. I think it's a reminder that we've got to enjoy every one of our days because you never know. He's going to be thoroughly missed."

The NHL will come back someday when owners and players figure out how to divide an embarrassment of riches, and the Kings will eventually raise their Cup banner to Staples Center's rafters. But it won't be the same without Courtney's rich voice to launch it skyward.

"I'm happy that he got a chance to see the Kings win the Cup," Miller said. "If he had to go now, I'm happy that at least somebody who spent so many years here had a chance to see that victory."

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