Press-Republican

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June 13, 2014

Canadian hockey Kings

As of this writing, the Los Angeles Kings have either already quaffed from their second Stanley Cup or are on the verge of closing out the New York Rangers.

Regardless, there's no question the current edition of the Kings is a hockey powerhouse and likely to be so for some time to come.

At least part of the reason for that, according to colorful (literally, if you've seen his suit jackets) hockey commentator Don Cherry, is that the Kings are stocked with Canadians — as are the Rangers, for that matter.

Whether that's true or not is highly debatable —my losing Leafs, for example, have almost as many native sons on the team — what isn't at issue is that Canadians have a long history of loving shinny in the sunshine, California-style.

I recently had the pleasure, through my job that pays the bills, to speak with a Canadian who was the Kings' first real superstar on the roster.

Marcel Dionne is now 62 and full of stories from his time as a Hollywood hockey hero. He recalls what a thrill it was for him, then playing with the Detroit Red Wings, to arrive in the middle of winter for games against the Kings in the glorious California weather.

Known as the "little beaver," Dionne started his stellar career with his hometown team, the Drummondville Rangers, then became a Detroit property, drafted second after Canadiens (and later Rangers) legend Guy Lafleur in 1971.

A contract dispute with Detroit led to his trade to Los Angeles in 1975. The Kings at the time had been in the NHL for seven years, part of the first wave of expansion.

Dionne recalls that, despite fetching up in a virtually winter-free paradise, he initially resisted getting into a vacation-like between-game routine of golf and beach life. Consequently, the family household became the "Dionne Hilton" with friends and family from the north camping out for extended periods of time.

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