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Backchecking: California loves Daryl Evans

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

By Alex Mansfield

After 10 seasons as a radio commentator for the Los Angeles Kings, Daryl Evans still loves the view from the press box.

“It’s a whole different perspective watching the game up there,” Evans said. “I really enjoy it. You have a different appreciation for the speed and the power down there on the ice.”

For many Kings faithful, it wasn’t too long ago Evans himself was a famed part of the same hockey action he now calls for KTLK AM 1150 in Los Angeles.

On April 10, 1982, a young, relatively unheralded Evans gave the Kings and their fans an iconic place in hockey lore.

Trailing 5-0 in the third period of Game 3 in a first round series against the Wayne Gretzky-powered Edmonton Oilers, the Kings orchestrated the greatest comeback in NHL playoff history, tying the game with seconds remaining in regulation and stunning the Oilers on Evans’ goal 2:35 into overtime.

The Kings went on to win the best-of-five series in five games.

The hallmark of the so-called “Miracle on Manchester” – the image of a 21-year-old Evans sprinting the length of the ice, arms flailing, teammates nipping at his heels – might not quite equal Bobby Orr’s famous, flying-through-the-air Cup-winner in 1970 or Mike Eruzione’s high-stepping heroics in the 1980 Olympics, but it’s close.

“I think I’ve learned to appreciate it more now, over the years, than I actually did at the time,” said Evans, now 48. “You know, you’re a young kid, 21 years of age and you think things like that should happen all the time.”

Those 1982 playoffs were an unprecedented high for the then-rookie Evans, who went on to enjoy a nine-year career between the NHL and the minors. Although his playing career took him all over the map, including NHL stops in Washington and his birthplace of Toronto, he ultimately ended up back in his adopted hometown of Los Angeles.

Since his return, Evans has dedicated himself to growing the game in an already-burgeoning Southern California hockey community.

Apart from his work with the Kings, which also included a stint as a ticket sales director and his current gig as a power skating coach, Evans has played a pivotal role in the emergence of the Toyota Sports Center, a world-class sports facility in neighboring El Segundo.

As the practice facility for the Kings, the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers and the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, TSC boasts both international-size and NHL-size ice surfaces, as well as an inline hockey rink and full-service facilities for both basketball teams.

The facility has also been home to several prominent names in the world of figure skating, including world champion and two-time Olympic medalist Michelle Kwan.

“It was a neat adventure to get me back into hockey,” said Evans, who left a career in automotive sales to become TSC’s first general manager 10 years ago. “We put a rink basically in an area where there’s not a lot of neighborhood around and the game has just grown immensely.”

Currently, TSC’s hockey participation numbers – including both recreational and competitive players – are in the thousands, a figure Evans attributes largely to the facility’s early and ongoing efforts to cater to every brand of player.

“From the public standpoint, we’ve developed some great programs,” Evans said. “We have women’s hockey programs and youth hockey programs and today we even have some of the top AAA teams in Southern California playing out of our facility.”

Evans continues to work as an executive for TSC, though he stepped down as the facility’s general manager in 2001. Never one to distance himself from the game of hockey, however, Evans hasn’t exactly locked into a desk job.

“I skate basically seven days a week when we’re in town,” Evans said. “I’m constantly out on the ice helping with all our programs and it’s something that I love to do.

“Every student is different, every day’s a different challenge and I love the interaction. And it’s so rewarding to see them come such a long way in a short period of time.”

Evans further endeared himself to the Los Angeles community at the start of the 2006-07 season, when he drew up plans for a charitable program that would see him donate $100 out of his own pocket for every power play goal the Kings scored. The proceeds, which have totaled $21,400 over the past three seasons, go to the Ronald McDonald House of Southern California. Evans has even succeeded in getting the Kings organization to match his donations.

“It’s really been a great partnership (with the Ronald McDonald House),” Evans said. “It’s something I will definitely continue to do in the future. ”

As the hockey community around Southern California continues to prosper, it’s likely Evans will remain a lynchpin in its development. And now, even to those who weren’t around for his Manchester moment, Daryl Evans is becoming a household name in Los Angeles.

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