ALUMNI FEATURE: NELSON EMERSON
The long and winding National Hockey League path taken by former Kings forward Nelson Emerson seemed to have about as many stops as an anything-but-swift drive down the 405 Freeway.
After all, Emerson played in eight different cities during a 12-year career (from the 1990-91 season through 2001-02), including two plus-seasons as a King to complete the journey.
"When I look back now, it was tough moving cities and everything," Emerson said recently from his home in Manhattan Beach. "But I also look back upon the experiences and each of them, after you add them up, it comes to a world's worth of excellent opportunities really."
Emerson played college hockey at Bowling Green State University, where he totaled 112 goals as a four-year star. The NHL trip began quickly thereafter as Emerson played less than a full season of minor hockey.
Making his debut with St. Louis, he and his family soon broke out their road maps, as visits to Winnipeg, Hartford, Carolina, Chicago, Ottawa, Atlanta and the Kings soon followed.
Emerson, however, said his time in Los Angeles was indeed special.
"It was at the end of my career," the career right winger said. "LA is a pretty good place to finish up. I found the area to just be a wonderful community. The Kings had a fabulous, world-class training center, and the teams that we had were pretty close-knit."
Among Emerson's closest friends with the Kings was Rob Blake (a former teammate at Bowling Green), current Kings captain Mattias Norstrom and Kelly Buchberger, whom he shared time with in Atlanta.
"Those relationships are what are special. Most of us were in Manhattan Beach and El Segundo. To all live in a little town, it creates quite an atmosphere."
Emerson also has connections with current Kings coach Andy Murray. Murray was an assistant coach in Winnipeg when Emerson played for the Jets.
After his final game as a King/NHLer – a playoff game in 2002 – Emerson, his wife June and their four kids decided to stay put in the South Bay. Murray, however, put the former speedy winger right to work as a special coaches aid for the club during the 2003-04 campaign.
"Nelson has a lot of passion for the game that showed through during his many years as a player and most recently as a coach," said Andy Murray. "While he played in a small body, he certainly played big on the ice. I think he has a tremendous future ahead of him as a coach. He is very patient and he listens."
Emerson was appreciative of the opportunity.
"Coaching is something that certainly interests me, and coaching at the NHL level is what I would like to do in the future," Emerson said. "Also, the Kings coaches were gracious enough to have me around. Watching them everyday and working alongside them gave me a wealth of experience.
"It just re-enforced that coaching is what I want to do."
This past summer, Emerson, who ended his playing career with 488 points – including 195 goals – in 771 career regular season games took another step in his coaching career by accepting a job with the Kings in the popular Jr. Kings program.
And he, like everyone else around the sport, it happy to see the labor dispute come to an end.
"I am a big fan and I am excited to be able to turn my TV on every night and watch games as I cruise around the house. I love the game and the time off was tough for me. "Needless to say, I am real excited that it is back for sure."