A hockey player’s life can change drastically.
Moving to a new team could mean starting a new life. A new city, a new residence, new teammates, and, in some cases, a whole new hockey culture.
That was certainly the case for a young Daryl Evans.
Speaking to Betway Insider, the former Los Angeles Kings star talks about his time in the United States and his most nostalgic moments.
“It was definitely an eye-opener,” Evans says of his time in a new environment when he signed for Kings in 1980. “Not only growing up in Canada, but Toronto being the hockey hotbed of the world, and then going to Los Angeles at that time.
“I’d gone to the United States and played games before, in tournaments in Detroit and things like that, and got a chance to see the way the game was evolving, how it was growing in the US. But going to a non-traditional hockey market was a lot different.
“In Toronto, it’s hockey, hockey, hockey everywhere. You want to strike up a conversation with somebody, just talk about the Maple Leafs and you’ll be engaged for a great period of time.
“It was a transition in that hockey wasn’t at the forefront. You had the Dodgers, the Lakers, the Raiders playing at that time. Hockey was a sport that was down on the totem pole a little bit.”
Despite the fact that Evans made such a major switch at such a young age, it can be confidently said that the transition went well for him.
The teenage forward would go on to play 105 games with the Kings over four seasons and is now in his 23rd year as a radio color commentator for the franchise.
Evans, who has spent the better part of his life in California, has seen firsthand the expansion of hockey in the state and across the United States.
“When I was growing up, I remember playing against a team from Pittsburgh that we had to beat by 32 goals in order to move on in a tournament,” says Evans. “We beat them 33-1 in a game which only had three 10-minute periods.
“Hockey has always been the number one sport in Canada, but I think now in different spots in the US, you can start to see it has evolved into that.
“The US has done a great job at embracing the game of hockey, and even taking it to the next level. They’ve provided different ways of looking at the game, different ways of coaching the game to the Canadians, just as the Russians did.”
The Arrival of ‘The Great One’
The arrival of Wayne Gretzky in 1988 contributed largely to the growth of hockey in California.
“When Gretzky came to Los Angeles that really put hockey on a different platform and drew the attention of different parts of the city,” claimed Evans.
“He brought the Hollywood scene into it, and I think anytime that you get that type of attention, it becomes magnified, everybody else starts to pay attention to it.
“What Gretzky did, by coming to Los Angeles, took our game to a different level and kind of put it on par with Canada and Toronto.
Evans had left the NHL the year before and was no longer with the Kings when Gretzky arrived from the Edmonton Oilers in 1988.
He did, however, get to see ‘The Great One’s’ impact on expanding the reach of hockey in his adopted hometown.
“The story I tell is that the town wasn’t big enough for the two of us!” Evans says jokingly. “But no, I would have loved to have been part of him being in Los Angeles.
“Not only was he one of the greatest players to ever play the game of hockey, but I think everybody got to see the type of individual that he is off the ice.
“Gordie Howe was his idol, who’s the ultimate professional. I think Wayne carried a lot of those characteristics and traits.
“I had the great fortune of playing both hockey and baseball against Wayne since we were nine years old. So, we’d built a little bit of a friendship all the way through, but it would have been nice to have stepped on the ice alongside him playing on the same team.”
‘The Miracle of Manchester’
Evans did play against Gretzky a number of times, including during the ‘Miracle on Manchester‘, the biggest comeback in NHL history.
Evans not only played in that historic game, but he also scored the match-winner as the Los Angeles Kings rallied from 5-0 down to drub Gretzky’s Edmonton Oilers, winning the first-round playoff series against their heavily favored opponents.
“It was an incredible moment,” remembers Evans. “I’ve learned to appreciate it more now, many years removed from it.
“When you do something like that in the NHL, and you do it against Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers, it magnifies it that much more.
“Looking at the way the two teams lined up going into the playoffs, Gretzky’s team had 46 more points than us during the regular season. It ws supposed to be a walkover.
“I wasn’t even supposed to be in the lineup. That year, they expanded the roster from 19 to 20 players, and I was one of the add-ons.
“Believe it or not, both teams flew on the same plane to go back to Edmonton for game five. That was the quietest plane ride I’ve ever been on.”
Evans finished his NHL career with the Toronto Maple Leafs after four seasons with LA and one with Washington.
Despite the fact that he only played two games for his hometown team, skating at Maple Leaf Gardens was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the Toronto native.
Source: NHL lines site Betway
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