NEW YORK, NY – Rangers fans already hate Dwight King thanks to his crease-interrupting abilities and the way they turned Game 2, but the big-bodied left winger came about his NHL career earnestly and developed under unique circumstances.
King, who is Metis, played his midget hockey in the Saskatchewan League with Beardy’s Blackhawks, the only program in Canada run by and based off a First Nations reserve. While the team is not exclusively made up of those with First Nations status, King estimated that the mix was about 50-50 during his playing days. Back then he followed in the footsteps of older brother D.J. King, who played in the NHL for both St. Louis and Washington.
Early on in the Blackhawks’ existence, the team won the 2000-01 league championship with D.J. in the lineup and Dwight, who was not quite 12 at the time, looking on in awe.
“I remember the league final was against the Saskatoon Contacts, who were a very good team,” King said. “It was exciting hockey and it made me want to get there one day.”
He did so four years later and even got to play with his best friend, Cullen Morin. That made leaving his home of Meadow Lake, which was several hours away from the Beardy`s and Okemasis First Nation reserve, a little easier. After that, he again followed his brother by playing for the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the Western League before the Kings drafted him 109th overall in 2007.
There aren’t a ton of First Nations-affiliated players in the NHL, so someone such as King and teammate Jordan Nolan become great role models. King in particular has really grown his game in a short amount of time, using his great 6-foot-4, 234-pound frame to bull around the ice. His 10 points through 24 post-season games have been great for the Kings and that physical presence is just one part of what has become a tremendous line with Jarret Stoll and Justin Williams.
King has already hoisted the Stanley Cup once before in 2012 and is on the cusp of another, which hopefully might inspire some of the kids who saw him with the Blackhawks all those years ago.
“It’s nice to be an example,” he said. “No matter where you grow up or what your background is, you dream of winning the Stanley Cup if you’re a hockey fan. To go back to my community and show off the trophy, to show that it’s possible, is a good feeling.”
And it will not get old should King pull it off again in 2014.