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Bob Miller, Jiggs McDonald remember Larry Regan

March 10, 2009 |  9:03 pm

Larry Regan with the Boston Bruins. Like every employee during the Kings' early years, Larry Regan worked under the considerable shadow of owner Jack Kent Cooke.

Regan, who was the Kings' first general manager and coached them in 1970-71 and for part of the 1971-72 season, died in an Ottawa hospital Monday at 78 after suffering from Parkinson's disease and other ailments. Though he had to obey Cooke's orders in many areas -- Cooke took as gospel George Allen's philosophy that it was better to trade a first-round draft pick for an established commodity than hope an unknown kid would blossom -- Regan did earn respect from those who knew him.

Regan, who toiled in the minor leagues for years before being voted the NHL's top rookie for the 1956-57 season, went on to carve out an identity as a shrewd scout and one of the first NHL executives to tap the wealth of European talent. He discovered that resource while coaching in Innsbruck, Austria.

"He got caught up in a situation, being the general manager and having no experience as a general manager, but I think he put together a very good intitial expansion team based on his scouting abilities," Jiggs McDonald, the Kings' play-by-play voice for their first five seasons, said by phone Tuesday from his Florida home.

"And from there, it would be the fact that Mr. Cooke was going to be the administrator and Larry just had to do as he was told. Which didn’t always sit well."

Although ill for quite a while, Regan had spoken to Mike Kalinowski of the Kings' public relations department late last year for a story that's part of a series on Kings alumni. He explained how he got the general manager's job.

Larry Regan with the Boston Bruins."I knew Jack from the years I played in Toronto," Regan said of Cooke, who was a Canadian media magnate.

"We became pretty good friends along the way and stayed in touch. When I heard about the NHL expanding, I put my oar in the water with Jack before anybody else and I was fortunate enough to be chosen."

Bob Miller, who began his Kings broadcasting career in 1973, said Regan could be "kind of hard to figure out.

"He was someone who wanted to keep you guessing as far as what his mood was or motives were as to certain moves he made," Miller said.

Miller recalled being at the Kings’ first workout during his first year with the team and having Regan approach him.

"Larry said, ‘Why aren’t you over at the hotel studying names and numbers?’ And I said, OK, I guess that’s what I’m supposed to do," Miller said.

"So the next day I stayed in the hotel studying names and numbers and when he saw me he said, ‘Where have you been? Did you have holidays?’ I’m thinking this is kind of crazy.

"But it was a time when I think everybody in the organization was on pins and needles wanting to please Jack Kent Cooke or not get him mad at you."

Regan is also remembered for throwing several punches at referee Bruce Hood at the end of a game between the Kings and the Oakland Seals on Oct. 13, 1968, in protest of calls that he believed cost the Kings a game.

Larry Regan as the first general manager of the Los Angeles Kings.Regan, who complained that Dale Rolfe had been cut over the head by Carol Vadnais but Hood missed the initial chop and penalized Rolfe's retaliation, was fined $1,000.

"Someone had to do something about officiating like that," he told The Times in the edition of Oct. 15, 1968. "I rarely beef about officals. But that was a joke."

But he and the Kings more than made up that money at their next home game, against Boston. Regan vowed that the game would become a "bloodbath" to avenge the Bruins' roughing up Brent Hughes and cutting him for 15 stitches the previous season -- and that drove ticket sales from about 1,500 to more than 10,000 for the Bruins game.

In that Times story, reporter Chuck Garrity said that a witness said Regan had missed Hood. "Oh, is that right?" Regan said, adjusting an ice bag covering his swollen left hand, which matched his swollen right hand.

Regan resigned as the Kings' general manager early in the 1973-74 season and became a scout. A story in The Times' editions of Dec. 5, 1973, said Cooke contended that Regan had resigned for "personal reasons" and not in protest of a trade that Cooke had ordered in which Gilles Marotte and Real Lemieux went to the New York Rangers for Mike Murphy, Tom Williams and Sheldon Kannegiesser.

However, the story noted that Regan had previously offered to resign "several times after arguments with Cooke."

The man who signed the checks always won.

McDonald recalled Regan taking him to meet Cooke during his first visit after getting the announcing job.

"I’m in a hotel in El Segundo and Larry is driving me to Beverly Hills to the office, to Mr. Cooke," McDonald said, "and I’ve got the dark suit on and white socks like Canadians wore at that time. And Reegie looks across and says, 'You’re not going to Bevely Hills with white socks.’

"He said, 'Do you have any dark socks?' I said I did, and we went back to the hotel and found a pair of dark socks and on to Beverly Hills."

McDonald had kept in touch with Regan over the years and remembered Regan fondly.

"He always wore gray suits, not houndstooth but like a plaid," McDonald said. "He loved Austrian crystal and he loved the years he spend overseas. He was very loyal to his friends from back home in Ottawa, the Ottawa Valley.

"He was a very solid human being."

-- Helene Elliott

First two photos, from top: Larry Regan with the Boston Bruins. Credit: Associated Press. Third:  Regan as the first general manager of the Los Angeles Kings. Credit: Los Angeles Times