Kings' Hockey Fest: Triple Crown line still smooth
They finished each other's sentences without rehearsal or hesitation, almost as quickly as they finished off each other's passes nearly three decades ago while wearing those wonderful uniforms in Forum "blue" and gold.
Charlie Simmer, Marcel Dionne and Dave Taylor, who formed the Kings' potent "Triple Crown" line in the early 1980s, were reunited during a panel discussion Saturday at the Kings' Hockey Fest and were as entertaining in sharing their memories as they were on the ice all those years ago.
"For that short period of time it was really exciting," said Dionne, 58, a grandfather and businessman with interests in memorabilia sales and fantasy camps for corporate executives.
Their chemistry, he said, was almost instantaneous and never faltered. All three were chosen to represent the Kings in the 1981 NHL All-Star game, played at the Forum in Inglewood. Those were the days when trios stayed together for a while, which rarely happens anymore. As Dionne noted, the last line to have long-term major impact was the Flyers' Legion of Doom line of Eric Lindros, John LeClair and Mikael Renberg.
"To have a successful line you've got to get along together and respond together," Dionne said. "That's what we had. We had a lot of chemistry on and off the ice. They were both gentlemen. I cannot remember having any problems at any time. You know, sometimes there's friction with players but that never happened."
Taylor, soon to begin his third season as the Dallas Stars' director of player personnel after ending a 30-year career as a Kings player and executive, recalled the first time the trio played together, in Detroit in early 1979. "Marcel and I had been playing together for about a year. We had some different left wingers," he said.
"Our coach at the time was Bob Berry, and he had played with Charlie the year before down in Springfield. So he called him up and put him on the line. Marcel got a couple of goals there in Detroit and that was a good thing for all of us, and that was the birth of the Triple Crown line."
They had some great times and one extremely tough one. Simmer broke his leg in a gruesome fall at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens on March 2, 1981, another in a long line of disappointments for Kings fans. That one was especially painful--and not just for Simmer--because all three players had been enjoying stellar seasons.
Bob Miller, moderator of Saturday's panel, asked Simmer if he had seen a replay of the incident since then and Simmer shuddered and said he couldn't look. True to form, Simmer turned his head when the replay was shown on the video screen Saturday.
"The disappointing part was Bob Berry had the team turned around," said Simmer, now a businessman and part-time TV analyst in Calgary. "It was the first year I was in the organization that we felt positive about the playoffs."
Dionne, traded to the New York Rangers in March 1987, said he always enjoys returning to Los Angeles.
"You sense there's a different crowd and there's younger people that don't know who you are, and I understand that," said Dionne, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1992. "But if you keep talking about it and they keep showing videos about you, and so on, it's very rewarding and a lot of fun. . . . What lacks here, and that's the difference, is no championships for us ever happened."
And none has happened since.
Hockey Fest will end Sunday with autograph sessions, memorabilia sales and interactive games in the Event Tent and three panel discussions at the Nokia Theater. The first panel, at 10 a.m., brings in the Kings' brain trust: General Manager Dean Lombardi, assistant GM Ron Hextall and Coach Terry Murray. At noon, Miller will host a one-man show that should showcase his great storytelling abilities, and at 2 p.m. impending Hall of Fame inductee Luc Robitaille will join Bernie Nicholls and Mark Hardy on a panel called "Growing Up Kings," in which they'll share their experiences as young players in the organization.
Photo: Former Kings player and executive Dave Taylor spent 30 years with the organization. Credit: Ric Francis / Associated Press