A Tip to the History of Tip-A-King
LAKings.com sat down with Jim Fox to talk about the origins of Tip-A-King
The now-annual event started in the late 1980s, with former Kings forward / current club TV color commentator Jim Fox playing a prominent role.
He recently answered the following questions about the origins of this very popular event, which this year is sponsored by Barry’s Tickets, Rocco’s Old School Products, SitOnIt Seating and The Fanz Choice:
After your playing career ended, and before you started work on Kings telecasts as the club’s color commentator, you helped create the Kings Community Relations department. What are some of your early memories as it relates to that position and that upstart department?
Fox: I remember first talking about getting involved in the community when I was still playing, sometime in the mid 80s. Back then, the Kings profile in the community was not as big as it is now. I remember sitting in the training room talking with Phil Sykes about starting up a Kings charity golf tournament.
Nothing really came of it until the 1988-89 season, when I missed the whole season due to knee injuries. While injured I asked the Kings if I could work as an “intern” and try to get some things going in the Community Relations area. Co-Worker Ron Muniz (now deceased) was handling this area at the time and I thought he could use some help. Of course, this was Wayne Gretzky’s first season with the Kings and the team was in demand due to his presence and the attention he brought to the Kings and hockey in general. For the first time since I arrived in L.A. (1980), the Kings were being talked about and it was time for us to take a bigger role in the community.
I came back to play only 11 games in the 1989-90 season, but due to the knee problems, I was forced to retire around mid-season. I immediately asked the Kings if they could offer me a place in the Community Relations department and that is how it started.
One of the first things to take care of was to file for non-profit status and make things official. Initially I created three non -profit groups to handle different areas of our community outreach. “Kings in the Community” was the main group, along with the “Los Angeles Kings Youth Hockey Foundation” and “Kings Wives for Kids Foundation”. These groups would later be brought together under the “Kings Care” name. Along with Ron Muniz and many of the King wives we got things off the ground!
You and Beth Taylor, wife of Kings Hall of Famer Dave Taylor, were integral in the creation of Tip-A-King. How did that event all get started?
Fox: This is another example of the exposure Wayne Gretzky brought to the Kings. Because of the increased demand for the Kings and the players, we tried to come up with many ideas to reach out to the community. With Tip-A-King, we were actually approached by Chef Hans Aeschbacher from Lawry’s California Center, who was trying to help another community group, L.I.F.E. (Love Is Feeding Everyone). We all got together and came up with idea for Tip-A-King, an event where fans would “tip” Kings players for their autograph or photograph and the proceeds would benefit L.I.F.E. Everyone in the organization got behind the idea and Tip-A-King was born. Since I was not playing due to knee injuries, I took the lead along with Ron Muniz, Dave and Beth Taylor, Dean and Tammy Kennedy and, of course, my wife Susie. As I mentioned, everyone became involved but it was mostly the wives who organized committees to operate the event. I became a big part of the planning and operation of the event, but the idea came from Chef Hans who initially met with Ron Muniz.
What do you remember the most about the very first Tip-A-King?
Fox: I remember the beautiful setting we had at the Lawry’s California Center. The grounds were absolutely beautiful and it made for a great event. I remember losing many nights of sleep worrying about whether or not it was going to rain, since 99 percent of the event was held outdoors. But the biggest thing that comes to mind is how everyone came together to help make it a wonderful event. We learned a lot and we just tried to make it better every year. After the event, during a game (March of 1989) there was an announcement at the Fabulous Forum giving the fans in attendance the results of the first Tip-A-King. If my memory serves correct, they announced $80,000. I was standing near the Zamboni entrance at the Forum when the announcement was made and I can remember feeling so proud to be associated with such a great event.
Another memory came after the Tip-A-King that was held at Hollywood Park. This was another perfect venue for the event, due to the “floor plan” layout and parking. By this time the event was getting quite popular and we were raising some serious funds (approx. $200,000 net that year). But after the event, Hollywood Park did not want to hold the “tip” cash we had collected, so I had to take it home with me. I was quite nervous driving home with about $50,000 in one dollar bills in the trunk of my car. I made it without incident and I am certainly thankful for that. Anyone have change for a ten?
LAKings.com: As you look at the event now, what has changed the most over the years?
Fox: It really hasn’t changed that much. In the first few years, we tried to change it up with different themes and different “stations” at the event. But the bottom line is the fans just want to meet the players, get autographs and/or photographs, and just share a short conversation with them. Of course the scope has increased over the years and it gets bigger and better. But the original plan was to create an event where the fans could meet the players and hopefully that is still what the event is all about. Along with meeting the people who support us, we also get to raise funds that are used to help many different organizations in the Los Angeles area. Win, win, win! Each year I continue to be thankful for the support and generosity of our fans. We could not do it without their participation!
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