East Coast versus West Coast battles have raged on for years in music, fashion, politics, and especially sports.
At the heart of these battles are, of course, New York and Los Angeles. With the biggest populations, the largest economies, and the most intense media markets, the people of these two cities are loud and proud. That spills out in the passion, identity, time, and money poured into the local sports teams.
While the Los Angeles Kings’ biggest rivals are the Anaheim Ducks and the San Jose Sharks, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Kings fan who roots for the New York Rangers.
For the Rangers, the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils are the bad guys. Going outside the confines of the Tri-State area, very few New Yorkers would admit to having the warm-and-fuzzies toward the Kings. After LA swiped the Cup out from under the Rangers’ feet in 2014, the vitriol just increased.
However, if one looks closer, the Kings and Rangers have a lot in common and should not be considered rivals, but rather just “frenemies.”
Not only are both teams deep into a rebuilding period at this moment, but they are also bonded by past greats and Hall of Famers, who fans of both teams have had the privilege to root for. Wayne Gretzky changed the landscape of hockey as a King then he retired as a Ranger. Fans of both teams shed tears when No. 99 took his last laps around the ice at Madison Square Garden. In fact, if any hockey fan didn’t get goosebumps, that person might just be a cyborg.
INGLEWOOD, CA – DECEMBER 4: Wayne Gretzky #99 of the Los Angeles Kings on December 4, 1994 at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California. (Photo By Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images)
But The Great One is not the only one who played for both the Kings and the Rangers. There have been numerous trades involving other superstars. Here are the top five biggest, most important, sexiest trades between these two storied franchises, from earliest to the most recent.
Kings Trade Away One of the Greats
On March 10, 1987, as per the request of the great Marcel Dionne himself, the Kings traded him to the Rangers. It was a hard decision for Dionne, as well as for the Kings organization, and it was a big loss. But as Dionne’s career was entering its twilight years, he wanted to go to a Cup contender after years of futility.
He was small in stature, but huge on the ice. Rated as the top King in history, he spent nearly 12 seasons in LalaLand, scoring 550 goals and a total of 1,307 points in 921 games. He routinely finished every season with 40-plus goals and 100-plus points, leading the league with 137 points in 1979-80. Sadly, he didn’t have many opportunities to put up big points in the playoffs in LA, but when he did get the chances, he took advantage, notching 43 points in 43 playoff games.
Dionne only spent three seasons in New York, playing 118 games to end his career. During that span, he scored 42 times, and assisted on 56 others and retired at the end of the 1988-89 season. Unfortunately, he didn’t win that elusive Cup, as the Rangers never made it past the first round of the playoffs during his time on Broadway.
Marcel Dionne, Los Angeles Kings (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)
Along with Dionne, heading to New York was career minor leaguer Jeff Crossman and a 1989 third-round pick. In exchange, the Rangers sent Bobby Carpenter and Tom Laidlaw to California.
Bobby Carpenter, who Sports Illustrated dubbed “The Can’t Miss Kid” after being the first American-born player to go directly from high school to the NHL, played only 128 games for the Kings and tallied 83 points, 32 of which were goals.
When asked what went wrong with the Kings, Carpenter answered,
“I was happy in L.A., and they were very happy with me. But they had too many great players, too many great goal-scorers. Now they expect you to get 30 goals when you’re not even on the power play. What they expected me to do, and what they put me in the position to do, were two different things.”
From ‘The Can’t-Miss Kid Comes Home : Former King Carpenter Tries to Salvage Career in Boston,’ LA Times, 01/30/1989
Carpenter was subsequently traded to the Bruins in the 1988-89 season.
Tom Laidlaw, was a big, tough defenseman. At 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, he was not afraid to drop the gloves, and the fans were treated to watching him reflect on his wrong-doings in the sin bin for 156 minutes during his 4-year, 195-game tenure in Los Angeles. In 2019 at the age of 61, Laidlaw appeared as a contestant on the 39th season of the tv show, “Survivor.” He ended up coming in a respectable 16th out of 20, voted out on day 14.
Nicholls To Broadway, Granato To Hollywood
On Jan. 20, 1990, Kings great, Bernie Nicholls was traded to the Rangers for forwards Tony Granato and Tomas Sandstrom.
Nicholls, who was rated as the eighth greatest King of all time, played nine years with the Kings totaling 602 games in which he sniped 327 goals and assisted on 431 for 758 points. Nicholls was coming off a stellar 1988-89 season in L.A. where he scored 70 goals and 80 assists. Nicholls played center most of that season but moved to the point on the power-play unit where he scored a slew of goals on perfect passes from “The Great One,” Wayne Gretzky.
When Nicholls arrived in New York during the 1989-90 season he played well but couldn’t quite put up the numbers he did for the Kings. Nicholls scored 110 points in 103 games for the Rangers before being traded to the Edmonton Oilers on Oct. 4, 1991, in a deal that sent over Mark Messier who led the Rangers to their 1994 Stanley Cup championship.
Bernie Nicholls (nhl.com)
What the Kings received in Granato was a respectable sniper in his own right. He spent seven years with the team, played 380 games and tallied 148 goals and 157 assists for 305 points. Not quite the numbers Nicholls put up, but respectable nonetheless. Unfortunately, his career was cut short due to concussions.
Sandstrom went on to play 235 regular-season games during his five-year stint with the Kings, scoring 117 goals and contributing 137 assists for 254 points. Sandstrom’s best year in the National Hockey League was the 1990-91 season when he scored 45 goals and added 44 assists for 89 points in 68 regular-season games with the Kings.
A Future Captain Arrives in LA
On March 14, 1996, a blockbuster deal was made between the two teams. The deal included seven players in total and a draft pick. The Rangers sent Ray Ferraro, Mattias Norstrom, Nathan Lafayette and Ian Laperriere, plus a 1997 fourth-round draft pick which turned out to be Sean Blanchard to the Kings. In return, they received Jari Kurri, Marty McSorley and Shane Churla.
Kurri, one of the great players of his generation, was nearing the end of his Hall-of-Fame career when he was sent to New York, where he couldn’t regain his old form. He only played 14 games with one goal and four assists to finish out the season. He signed with the Anaheim (Mighty) Ducks during the offseason and didn’t pay off at all for the Rangers.
Jari Kurri (photo courtesy Finnish Hockey Hall of Fame)
McSorley is another former player from the Oilers heyday the Kings sent to New York. McSorley didn’t pay off either for the Rangers. He only played in nine games to finish out the 1995-96 season with minus-nine rating. He appeared in four of the Rangers’ 11 playoff games that year and didn’t contribute much at that point. McSorley was subsequently traded to the San Jose Sharks during the offseason.
Churla made his mark in the NHL when he finally cracked the lineup as a regular with the Minnesota North Stars in 1889-90. Churla, who made his name as an enforcer, racked up nearly 300 penalty minutes in each of his next four seasons with the North Stars and over 300 penalty minutes when they moved to Dallas for the 1993-94 season. However, He only played 10 games with the Rangers to finish out that season and didn’t see much ice time.
Meanwhile, on the left coast, the trade paid dividends.
It seemed at first that Ferraro was the headline, but unbeknownst to everyone when he first arrived, Norstrom would be the real story. Unable to crack the starting lineup of the Rangers, the defenseman would ultimately become one of the greatest captains in Kings’ history.
Ferraro was a gritty forward who in four years and 197 games with the Kings scoring 48 times and notching 98 points. Laperriere was a checker, an agitator, a fighter, and a fan favorite. He spent nine years with the Kings, played in 595 contests during which he sat for 1,017 minutes in the penalty box. The final player was Lafayette, who in four years with the Kings only suited up for 94 games
A Favorite Son Comes Home
Just before training camp was about to begin for the 1997-98 season, the Kings and Rangers swapped Kevin Stevens for Luc Robitaille.
Robitaille, a five-time First-Team All-Star and the 1987 NHL Rookie of the Year for the Kings, was coming off two pretty good seasons with the Rangers while Stevens was looking like he was slowing down, numbers-wise for Los Angeles. Stevens hadn’t scored more than 40 points and was fighting some injuries in the five seasons leading up his trade. Robitaille was still putting up numbers but management felt Stevens would be a better fit with his size and power.
Luc Robitaille (Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE)
Los Angeles’ fans were happy to have Robitaille back where he belonged.
Hollywood Says Goodbye
Sean Avery, known more for his mouth, his outlaw attitude, and his 667 penalty minutes in 218 games with the Kings, had overstayed his welcome in Los Angeles. He was kicked off the team with three games left in 2005–06 for refusing to participate in a drill and arguing with assistant coach Mark Hardy at practice. He was allowed back but continued to roil teammates as much as opponents, even going as far as making fun of Dustin Brown’s speech impediment.
On Feb. 5, 2007, the Kings decided enough was enough and shipped Avery to the Rangers. The Rangers, in turn, sent Jason Ward, Mark Marek and Marc-Andre Cliche to the Kings.
Sean Avery (Icon SMI)
Avery’s best season with the Rangers consisted of 57 games 33 points and 154 penalty minutes during the 2007-08 season.
While Avery’s production numbers were not the strongest, the trade still worked out in favor of the Rangers. Ward played a whopping seven games and tallied one assist. Cliché played one game and Marek played even less.
But such is the price of peace in the locker room.
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