Daryl Evans: A King Once More

posted Mar 21, 2018, 9:48 AM by Ryan Allison
            On February 5th I sat down with retired LA Kings ice hockey player, Daryl Evans. Evans, made a name for himself on April 10, 1982 when he became the overtime hero in the historic 6-5 comeback playoff victory, against the Oilers, with the most iconic goal in Kings franchise history. It will forever be known as the “Miracle on Manchester.”

            I went down to interview Evans, and actually found myself in one of the friendlies, most interesting one on one conversations that I have ever had. Daryl gave me two hours of his time and I could have sat and listened for two more. I found that Evans is much more than just a legend on the ice, but one heck of a nice guy that gives back tirelessly to his community and owns some of the most awesome suits the sports world has ever seen (if you do not believe me then Google it).

            These days Evans is no longer on the team roster for the Kings’ but if you ever visit the Toyota Center (home of the LA Kings practice ice) you just might see him skating the ice (he is the guy that wears no laces in his skates) or giving knuckles to all the littlest LA Kings’ fans he walks by. This is what Evans does by day. On game night he is the long-time radio color commentator for his beloved Kings’.  As an added bonus I was able to meet Alex Faust the TV play by play announcer for the Kings’. Faust took the place of long time play by play announcer Bob Miller. I have been invited back to “headquarters” (AKA: Staple Center) for a Kings’ game and a visit to the broadcast booth to see Faust at work.

            Below is what Daryl Evans shared with me during our conversation. I hope you enjoy getting to know Daryl as much as I did.

Tell me a little about yourself: where you grew up, siblings?  I grew up in Toronto, Canada. I have a brother and a sister. My sister is a little bit older and my brother is a little bit younger and both my brother and I played hockey. He still plays a little bit of adult hockey, he’s in sales now. My sister lives in Michigan.

Did you play ice hockey when you were young? Did you have a dream to play in the NHL? I actually was a late starter. My dad had never ice skated ever. He was a very good athlete but primarily football, baseball, basketball. He played for the Brooklyn Dodgers organization never on the big team. So, we used to play street hockey and actually got into hockey through one of my friends’ dads who suggested to my dad that we play in house hockey and that’s how it all got started.

Who were your ice hockey heroes growing up? Well, back when I was growing up there were only 6 teams so we got to know pretty much every player on every team. I think players I remember when I was young, young, remember watching Bobby Hull who had the big shot, when Bobby Orr started to play I was a big fan of his, I loved the way he played the game. Yvan Cournoyer because of the speed that he had.

Tell me about your career in the junior hockey league: the Niagara Falls Flyers? Well I was drafted to the OHL at that time to the Niagara Falls Flyers. I played my hockey growing up in Toronto. I played some junior B in Toronto that’s where I was drafted to Niagara Falls and when I was drafted in juniors to Niagara Falls I was actually a defenseman and I never played forward until I started junior hockey. Team was loaded up with defense and coach suggested that I play forward and that would be the only chance I would have to make a team. Fortunately, enough I got the opportunity and by the end of the year I was second on the team in scoring.

I read your stats in the junior league and it was obvious you could score and score often. However, some critics felt that this ability might not translate into the NHL where the players were bigger, faster, stronger. But yet, the Kings drafted you in the 9th round 178th overall in 1980. How did that feel?     Well, I think being a smaller athlete at the time, you know your size is always the question. So, size is one thing that no one has control over. So, things I worked on were: becoming a better skater, shooting the puck, all those types of things that were controlled by myself. Those are things that I worked on all the time my strength and my ability and continued to keep doing that. You got to continue to keep proving yourself. That is when I made the transition from defense to forward led my team in scoring there through my junior career and when I got drafted by the Kings went to the AHL, which was in Newhaven, CT at that time. Again, re-established myself and proved myself there and ended up scoring 51 goals in the AHL in one year. So, again its constant proving yourself, showing that you can play at whatever level you’re in.

At what point did you realize that being a professional hockey player was a real possibility?

I think it was probably more of a dream like I don’t know if you ever really look at it and think it is a possibility. You continue to keep chasing that dream. Probably when I was like 11 or 12 years old playing peewee in Toronto I remember going to the Quebec peewee tournament it was kind of a really big thing. One of the best minor league tournaments in the world, still to this day. I think at that point there I thought it would be great to be a hockey player. Probably never understood what it was to do it for a living or for a career. I think that is probably when the dream became a little more of reality a little bit more focused, striving forward. I was a good player at that time and so I continued to keep pushing to do all that I could. I always played ahead of myself. Played minor bantam and then started playing junior hockey. When I was 14 I was playing against guys that were as old as 21. That is when it was starting to kick in that there was an opportunity. So, the focus over the next handful of years was to do all I could to give that opportunity a chance.

What was it like to play in your first NHL game? Where was it and did you win or lose?

I think it’s a dream come true. I think that comes in a couple of different phase. I think one thig is getting drafted into the NHL, going to a training camp, playing in an exhibition game, and playing in a regular season game. My first regular season game was actually in Denver against the old Colorado Rockies at that time and it was a great experience. I didn’t score or get any points or anything in that game. But, it was just a great experience playing in that game against something that you will never forget.

What position did you play? Was that a position you saw yourself playing in?

Well, I always played defense all the way until I was drafted in juniors. Defense, I was always comfortable with. I played both left and right defense. I had a good shot when I was growing up. I never really envisioned myself playing forward at all. I think really throughout the course of my career whether it be through childhood or professional one position I never played was center. I played goalie and everything else. But I never really played center. I like the defensive position. Kind of like quarterback.

When you saw your schedule who was the one goalie you didn’t want to face?

At that time when you looked at it there was guys you didn’t want to face for a reason of how good they were but you still wanted to get that opportunity. Being in awe of some of these guys. I remember playing against the Montreal Canadians which they still are today the winningest franchise in the history of the NHL. You go back to the time when they had guys like Grant Fuhr on the team, these are guys that you really don’t want to play against, but you do want to play against. Probably say going into the Montreal forum for the first time playing against them was one of those experiences that everyone will remember.

What was your favorite road ice to play on? Well back then when we played I think the rinks especially the ones in Western Canada. Winnipeg had exceptionally quick ice. This was a rink at that time were used just for hockey rinks. But now they are entertainment centers ice gets taken in and out for concerts and things like that. I would say Winnipeg probably stands as having the fastest ice and Minnesota was pretty good back then.

No interview with Daryl Evans would be complete without asking about the most iconic goal in Kings’ franchise history. At the end of the 82 season the Kings made the playoffs against the Oilers. Not to mention, you would take the ice with Gretzky. You made the game winning goal in overtime for a miracle comeback. Who was favored to win that game? How does it feel to go down in NHL history as a legend?   I think when you look at that game in that series that year the Oilers finished 46 points ahead of the Kings in the regular season. So, it was a mis-match. They were clearly the better team of the two. I think what really favored us in that series was that there was a 5-game series of three out of five. Had the series been seven games we might not have had the success that we had. We had nothing to lose we went into Edmonton and that was really a unique series aside from the game of “Miracle on Manchester” game one of the playoff series we went in there-the NHL actually expanded the roster from 19 to 20 players that year just for the play-offs and so I actually got into the line-up. I was the twentieth player. The coach of the team Don Perry kind of put me in as an extra player I wasn’t going to get much ice time. I played for him in the AHL and the international league prior to that so he was familiar with me as a player. He gave me an opportunity to play in the play-offs. We were down four to one in Edmonton and eventually came back and won that game 10-8. Now the unique thing about that is that still stands today as a record in the NHL most goals scored combined by two teams in a play-off game-18 goals. That was my first play-off game and I had two goals and two assists and was the 1st star by Hockey Night in Canada, so that was a dream come true. First of all, to play in a play-off game and then have the impact that you would have on a game that is in the record books.  As I mentioned Edmonton was 46 points ahead of us in regular season, they were highly favored to win the series. Next night in OT Gretzky scores they beat us 3-2 so the series comes back to LA tied one/one with Edmonton having won the last game I think everyone felt Edmonton was on track and it was a wake-up call. In game three, the “Miracle on Manchester”, they built a five nothing lead through two periods. We were going into the 3rd period at the forum it was a down atmosphere. I think the focus of our team was to win the 3rd period and carry some momentum into game four. That’s what we did, we made the big comeback. Jay Wells scored a couple of minutes into the 3rd making it 5-2. At 9:56 of the 3rd myself along with some of my team mates got ejected for a 10-minute misconduct penalty forced to go to the locker room. It was a ten-minute waltzing penalty for pushing, shoving, or fighting. We listened from the locker room and the Kings battled to make it 5-4! Steve Bozeck tied the game with five seconds left in the 3rd and we got a chance to play in OT. It still stands today as the greatest comeback in Stanley Cup play-off history. I skated in behind Doug Smith because the puck was there just behind his leg and I just let the puck go in the direction towards the net and it had eyes. It made its way over Grant Fuhr’s right shoulder. Two nights later Edmonton beats us by a score of 3-2. Both teams actually boarded the same plane and went to Edmonton for game 5. Which is unheard of that both teams were on the same plane.  We went in there and beat them 7-4. I led the team that year in scoring in play-offs. It was a crazy type of year. That series it was odd that we won they were the highest scoring team in the NHL, but it was the Kings who won the 10-8 game the 6-5 game and the 7-4 game and they won the low scoring games that were 3-2.  It was a great way to start a career.

What’s your best/craziest memory from the sin bin?

We try to stay out of there as much as we can. But, in some of the arenas we used to go to there used to be a lot more fighting back then and you would have fans come in there and next thing you know your fighting in the sin bin. So, I would say probably some of the characters (fans from the opposing team) you had come down there pouring drinks on your head having to throw them back the other way. There was a lot of chaos back then. A lot of memorable things usually involved the fans trying to get themselves into the penalty box and once they got in there they were trying to get out because they bit off a little more than they could chew.

What path did your hockey career take after the Miracle on Manchester?

Probably not the course I would have expected it would have taken or would have likes it to take. I used that as a platform to get going and the unfortunate thing was it didn’t go quite the way I would have expected. I went down to the AHL (American Hockey League) and set a modern day record for goals scored in consecutive games down there. Had another chance to come up. Eventually got traded to Washington, went to Toronto which was unique playing in my home town. I always dreamed of being a Maple Leaf as a young kid, so it was good. Spent the last couple of years of my career over in Europe. A year in Italy, a year in England. All in all, the Miracle on Manchester that series, that game opened up a lot of things and I never looked back, never regretted anything. The path that I was given I wouldn’t change a thing.

Who were the biggest supporters of your dream to be in the NHL?

It would have to be my mom and dad and my entire family. Without them it never would of happened. First of all, the introduction to the game and then after that just continuously making it possible for me to practice, to getting new sticks and things like that. We didn’t have a lot of money as a family but it was a priority, it was something I likes and had passion for and everything was possible they did what they could. I am forever grateful and thankful to them. Still to this day they will come out here (L.A.) they come to the King’s games, they usually generate their winter trips around how many games we have. They love the game and something I am forever grateful for. Without their support, not only the financial support-the means to take me to all the games, but also the emotional support for all the ups and downs. I knew they were always there and they always had my back.

What went into your decision to hang up your blades?

At the time there was only 21 teams in the NHL. I went to Europe for a couple of years and the last year I went over as a player/coach so that was kind of the start of it, but it was a little bit of an introduction as to what hockey would be like post-career. I actually retired in Europe. I went in to coaching. I think recognizing where I was at and the opportunity that was in front of me-I knew it was time. I don’t regret anything. The time that I spent, as little as it was seemed like an eternity at the time but probably most proud of what I have accomplished post-career then actually playing in the NHL.

After retirement you chose a career in broadcasting with the Kings. Is this something you thought about prior to playing in the NHL?

Not at all. I actually stumbled upon that. When I retired from hockey I actually went into the automobile business. I managed a car dealership and just stumbled into broadcasting. I had an opportunity to do one game and I enjoyed it. It didn’t come about right away. Being removed from the game I realized how passionate I was about the game and how much I appreciated it. Coming back to it has been real special. I now have a career in broadcasting. I have been blessed with the people that have been around: Bob Miller, Nick Nixon, and Jim Fox. These guys all great in their industry. I learned from all of them. It is an industry where you continue to learn and that is what I like about it. It evolves every year. You look at the guys that have been around it 40 to 60 years and then you look at the guys that are coming now, from different generations. The athlete is different, so it’s a moving target and I enjoy being around it. I was more nervous commentating my first King’s game than playing my first game with the King’s. Broadcasting is not something I did as a young kid and coming in gave me a few more jitters than playing the game.

I watched a news clip on Fox about your fancy suits. Have you always been the guy with the suits? What is your favorite suit?

Some of it has to do with the way I was brought up with our teams. With certain teams we had a team uniform we had to wear, maybe a pair of slacks, sweater, sports jacket something like that. When I got to junior you had maybe one suit and when it was gameday you put that suit on. I remember getting my first three-piece suit. I have always liked being dressed up. It kind of evolved. Now a lot of the suits I wear are theme based. I like the shiny material. The suits that I had made for Vegas with the dice are some of my favorite.

Your are known for giving back to your community. Tell me about the youth camps you run?

I feel very fortunate for what the game has done for me. I was a player that started has a goal tender and couldn’t skate well. I have great appreciation for skating coaches. I have now been teaching for 47 years. Never gets old. Each student whether it is a child or adult is a different challenge. I like that challenge. When I was drafted here in L.A. in 1980 hockey was not very popular we some passionate fans but the number was small. We try to reach the next generation and the next generation after that. I am involved in the youth camps that have been around for 30 years and I take a lot of pride in that. I coach the skating element. All of the other things, the hospital visits, visiting schools, and anything else we can do to grow notice to our game-bring it to the forefront. Just not enough hours in the day. If I could do more I would.

Describe the game of hockey in three words

Fun, Fun, FUN

Greatest hockey goalie of all time?

Tough question. To answer this you have to go through generations and phases of hockey players because the game has changed so much. You have to look at statistics: Martin Brodeur owns every record. You have Glenn Hall who has a record that I don’t think will ever be challenged. He played 500 straight games as a goalie without a mask. These are the guys I got a chance to watch. In todays’ era I am a huge fan of Jonathan Quick who is arguably the best goal tender in the game today.

If you could give yourself a hashtag that summed up your hockey career what would it be?