ALUMNI FEATURE: MARCEL DIONNE
Entering the season just nine goals shy of Dionne's all-time Kings record for goals scored, Luc Robitaille, Dionne's former teammate with the Kings in the mid-1980s, is now within one goal of breaking that long-standing mark.
And the early-season success of the Craig Conroy-Pavol Demitra-Alexander Frolov line has, if nothing else, allowed some to think back to the enormous accomplishments enjoyed by the famed "Triple Crown Line" of Dionne, Charlie Simmer and Dave Taylor.
The legacy of that trio, in fact, constantly follows Dionne around now to this day, even around his home in upstate New York.
"It is a thing forever," said Dionne by phone recently. "It is the same thing with the French Connection here in Buffalo. Everyone in my generation, the Baby Boomer's generation, knows about it. They might struggle with all the three names – Dave, Dave, oh yeah, Dave Taylor, and the big guy, the one who married the Playboy playmate – but they know."
While the three certainly packed a punch on the ice – they each averaged close to 95 points during their time together from 1978-84 – the hockey landscape – buoyed by solid fan support -- has certainly changed in Los Angeles since the threesome played its last game together.
Sparse Kings crowds were common back then at the Forum in Inglewood. More recently, hockey has had much better footing in the Southland.
"I think a big part of that was Wayne Gretzky coming in 1988," Dionne declared. "I don't think (then Kings owner) Jack Kent Cooke took advantage of the Triple Crown Line. When Wayne came, and the cable TV-world was exploding, there suddenly became big interest.
"As long as they stay competitive, do the proper marketing and utilize the great building in STAPLES Center, the Kings do not have as big of a fight against such ultra-established and successful franchises as the Dodgers and Lakers.
"They are off to a good start this year and while they have been close recently, maybe they will get past Colorado and into the Finals. I would not be surprised if they do in the near future."
If a Stanley Cup banner is to be hung at STAPLES Center, it would surely rest near that of the names Dionne, Vachon, Gretzky and Taylor, the four sweaters retired by the Kings. Meanwhile, the name Robitaille, Dionne's old roommate, will surely be raised at some point as well.
While a rookie with the Kings in 1986, Robitaille was invited to live with Dionne in his home in Palos Verdes. A young Frenchman, Robitaille suddenly moved in with a French-born legend – Dionne had 526 career goals as a King at the time en route to a 19-year NHL career that would encompass 731 goals and 1,771 points.
"I saw tremendous dedication by Luc back then," reflected Dionne, who now runs a sports retailing business.
"There was always something about his skating but he had great anticipation and passion for the game."
Dionne, meanwhile, enjoyed that same passion in Los Angeles. The same, however, cannot be said about the long road trips endured by the Kings back during his time in purple-and-gold.
"Nobody really appreciates what it was like to play in California at the time," Dionne said. "We had no charter and we seldom practiced because we had to get to an airport. When I was with the Rangers, a long road trip there was to Long Island and back."
Suitcases and jokes aside, Marcel Dionne's impact on the Kings has been felt for decades. Just don't weep for him, he said, when Robitaille does break that goals scored record (Dionne's Kings career ended in 1987 with 550 while Luc entered this campaign with 542).
"There is life after hockey. I don't go to bed at night worried about that. I like to see guys like Luc; guys who enjoy the game of hockey. That is what is most important. He is a future Hall of Famer and all that is important to me is that he leaves the game healthy.
"When that record does fall, I will very happy for him."