When Wayne Gretzky landed in Los Angeles more than 30 years ago, the West was still considered the Great Frontier for the NHL. For two decades, the Kings had struggled to make an impact in a virgin hockey landscape that seemed rife with potential. The Great One’s arrival immediately changed that, clearing a path that led to today’s thriving state of California hockey.
After Gretzky’s arrival, California quickly become fertile ground for the grassroots game. From 1970 to 1990, two years after The Trade, the number of registered players in the state hadn’t even doubled, going from 2,780 to 4,830 (according to USA Hockey). But just three years later, in 1993, when Gretzky and the Kings reached the first Stanley Cup final in franchise history, that number had swelled to 9,316. By 1996, the ye...
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