It’s not exactly what the Los Angeles Kings and their fans have been eagerly anticipating all these years. Sure, it’s been 5,739 days since the team last played there but it’s not as if it’s anything of real significance. Nonetheless, for the first time in nearly 14 years, the Los Angeles Kings will be making their return to Winnipeg to take on the Jets.
The last time the Kings were in Winnipeg, they were wrapping up a forgettable season where they were just six weeks removed from trading Wayne Gretzky to St. Louis. It was April 12, 1996 (the 81st game of their 82-game schedule) and they lost to the Jets that night by a 5-3 score.
A lot of things have changed obviously. For one, this version of the Jets are a new franchise, with a new look, playing in a new arena. The former Atlanta Thrashers are having a very good maiden campaign in the Manitoba capital as they boast a 17-14-5, which is good enough for an 8th-place tie in the East.
Do you want to know how far back things go when the Kings were last in Winnipeg? In 1995-96, Los Angeles’ leading goal-scorer was Dimitri Khristrich, who had 27. Their plus/minus leader was Kevin Todd with a +6 rating. Although I know who Kevin Todd is, I actually forgot that he ever donned a Kings’ uniform. Their leader is goals-against average was Jamie Storr with 2.75 and their leader in wins? Byron Dafoe with 14. 14! It’s hard to imagine the Kings were that bad but I suppose there are other things that are much more unfathomable. Then again, maybe not.
So, there you have it. The Los Angeles Kings have had all this time to prepare for their return to Winnipeg. Okay, technically, they’ve only had six months but no time for semantics.
It was April 12, 1996 when the Kings ended an era with a loss. On December 29, 2011, the Kings look to make their mark as they return to the city after all these years, hoping to force Jets fans to leave the MTS Centre having dreaded the return of the silver-and-black.
Photo: Courtesy of Tucker Photography/Calgary, Alberta