After a week of food, family and fun, we are back. Over the past days, there was some great hockey played, some interesting happenings on and off the ice, and among all of this something very significant occurred, although no one really knew how important it was at the time.
The Fabulous Forum, Jack Kent Cooke’s opulent new home for his Los Angeles Kings opened its doors to hockey fans. Despite having been playing games in the area for two and a half months, this was the moment when big-league hockey really came to California. We’ll cover the opening and present a few facts about the building that really established a hockey beach head in California.
We’ll also provide Quick Hits on the highlights of the week.
14,000 Open Forum
Over 14,000 fans showed up for the opening of Jack Kent Cooke’s opulent monument to professional sports on December 30 in Inglewood, California. The Fabulous Forum, as the building has been dubbed, is the realization of a dream of the Canadian-born sports magnate and it lived up to its advanced billing.
Unfortunately, there was a hockey game to be played as part of the event, and it was far less an artistic success. By the third period of the game, most of the assembled throng were booing a woefully inept performance by the home side as the Los Angeles Kings were shut out by the Philadelphia Flyers by a score of 2-0.
But first, the building. That it was even built was surprising to most observers in Los Angeles and around the rest of the National Hockey League. That it was finished on time was shocking. That it was accomplished by Cooke borders on the unbelievable.
When Cooke was awarded the NHL franchise for Los Angeles, building a new arena right off the bat was not a consideration. But the idea was born, at least in Cooke’s mind, when he was rebuffed by the Los Angeles Coliseum Commission after he requested a 10-year lease at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. He was quoted at the time:
“I will build my own place. It will be the finest in the world.”
Cooke got to work right away and the arena, which, by the way, is beautiful, opened only 15 months after ground was broken on the Inglewood site. He made a promise that The Forum would be open before the end of 1967 and he made good on that claim. He promised an all-round entertainment facility that would be state of the art, and it appears that he has accomplished that as well.
The Forum will host a myriad of events. The Kings and Cooke’s basketball team, the Lakers, will occupy 78 dates over the next year. Cooke says he has already reserved 1-3 days for other events. Those include concerts, boxing matches, conventions, home and boat shows and even midget auto racing.
The gates opened at 11:00 a.m. on December 30 and those that streamed into the place were suitably impressed. Even NHL president Clarence Campbell had lavish praise for The Forum:
“It’s just beautiful. This is definitelhy a classic place to present hockey. All the teams in the Western Division have up-to-date buildings. But this will be a showplace of America.
“There’s not likely to be any place quite like this. They went first class all the way in everything they did.”
Lord Thomson of Fleet, the British publishing giant and a long-time associate of Cooke’s was on hand for the opening:
“It’s quite outstanding. It’s the most beautiful arena I’ve seen. It takes someone with his guts to do something like this himself. He’s quite a salesman, you know. He’s a wonderful salesman and I’ll bet this will be a good investment for him. And despite what you may hear, this is his – it’s his money tied up in it.
“He’s a perfectionist – too much for my way of thinking – but this is a beautiful place.”
The opening had an abundance of star power befitting a California “happening.” Master of ceremonies was Lorne Greene
, himself a Canadian and star of the television series “Bonanza.” Other Hollywood types on hand were Jim Backus, Robert Morse, Jack Palance and Janet Blair, to name a few.
The American national anthem was sung by Harve Presnell, the Broadway star of “The Unsinkable Molly Brown. Jackie Shabbasian, a music teacher in Los Angeles, handled the Canadian anthem with a stirring performance after taking a hard fall when the carpet upon which she walked on the ice slipped under her feet. Greene helped her up and the show went on.
Others participating in the opening ceremonies included Campbell, William Shea of New York, Lord Thomson, Inglewood Mayor William Goedike, Forum architect Charles Luckman, coach Red Kelly’s seven-year-old daughter Casey, and Lew Ream, president of Atlantic Richfield Co., who made the dedication speech.
The Forum is quite a remarkable edifice. There is plenty of room for patrons: 15,048 for hockey, 16,602 for basketball, 17,526 for boxing and more than 18,000 for conventions.
It’s built in a perfect circle with an outside height of 75 feet. It is 80 feet from the floor to the cable-supported roof inside. There are two underground levels and six above ground. There is parking for 3,600 cars on site, but almost unlimited spaces next door at Hollywood Park Raceway.
The foyers are carpeted in orange tones and orange and yellow variations are used inside the arena. That area is oval-shaped, with seats rising high on the sides. The slope on the sides is very steep, affording great views from almost any angle. There are no view-obstructing pillars or posts. There are 21 drinking fountains, eight bars and the scoreboards are state-of-the-art.
While the building itself was the rightful star of the show, the Kings wasted an opportunity to win over the huge number of neophyte hockey fans who packed the place. The home side offered very little in resistance to the visiting Philadelphias. They did manage 25 shots on the Flyers goal, but rookie Doug Favell was stellar between the pipes for Philly and denied the few really good scoring chances the home side produced.
The Kings ineptitude was such that by the end of the game, the majority of cheers reserved for the home team at the game’s outset had been converted to jeers.
Cooke was hugely disappointed at the outcome of the game and vowed his club would be both a financial and competitive success in the very near future.
- Bobby Orr made a surprise return to the Bruins lineup after being out for several weeks with a broken collarbone. What fans didn’t know and were later informed of was the fact that Orr also suffered a dislocated shoulder at the same time as the collarbone injury.
- Fine young Detroit forward Paul Henderson tore muscles in his shoulder on the weekend and will miss about two weeks.
- NHL president Clarence Campbell wished Montreal Canadiens coach Toe Blake a Merry Christmas by adding an extra $200 to the fines he was assessed for being ejected from a game in Boston on December 13.
- The line of Frank Mahovlich, Dave Keon and George Armstrong accounted for all the Leafs goals in Toronto’s 3-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings.
- Another wild brawl in Boston – this one between the Oakland Seals and the Bruins. Even Seals coach Bert Olmstead became involved, wandering onto the ice and directly into the fray when he felt fans were becoming involved in assaulting his players
- True to his name, Noel Picard scored a goal on Christmas Day (a goal for Picard is a rare occurrence at the best of times) as the St. Louis Blues blanked the Minnesota North Stars 1-0 in Minneapolis.
- Rochester captain Don Cherry wishes a very Merry Christmas to Bob Ellett of the Cleveland Barons during a Christmas night American Hockey League game in Cleveland.
- Minnesota North Stars hope they have found the scoring punch they have been seeking after a nine-player trade with the Rochester Americans of the AHL. North Stars acquired forwards Jean-Paul Parise and Milan Marcetta, along with a player to be named later from Rochester. In return the Amerks will get forwards Ted Taylor, Duke Harris, Len Lunde and Murray Hall, along with defenceman Don Johns. Goalie Carl Wetzel will also be loaned to Rochester for the balance of this season. Players such as Taylor and Harris are termed to be officially “on loan” to Rochester, which enables them to be sent to the AHL without having to go on NHL waivers. Several teams are protesting the move.
- Maple Leafs general manager-coach Punch Imlach badly wanted Parise. He made a substantial cash offer to Rochester general manager Joe Crozier for the winger, but was turned down. Crozier preferred the offer of six players who will help the struggling AHL club immediately.
- NHL president Clarence Campbell criticized Oakland Seals coach Bert Olmstead for “traipsing on the ice at the slightest provocation” during the bench-clearing brawl in Boston the other night.
- Former Black Hawk Phil Esposito scored three goals to lead his new team, the Boston Bruins, to a lopsided 7-2 win over Chicago at the Boston Garden.
- Minnesota North Stars captain Bob Woytowich, not known for his pugilistic abilities, nonetheless showed up for battle with New York Rangers tough guy Reggie Fleming. The results were predictable, but Woytowich stood out on defence the rest of the game as the North Stars tied the Rangers 3-3 at Madison Square Garden.
- The Penguins and Seals played the first 0-0 tie in the NHL this season at Pittsburgh. Gary Smith earned his first shutout of the season for Oakland, while for Penguins goalie Les Binkley it was number three.
- Gilles Tremblay scored three goals to lead the Montreal Canadiens to a 6-2 win over the visiting Minnesota North Stars. The line of Jean Beliveau, Tremblay and Claude Provost had a big night with four goals and seven assists for 11 points.
- The New York Rangers, playing below expectations lately, have called up forward Camille Henry and goalie Don Simmons from Buffalo of the AHL. Backup goalie Gilles Villemure was sent down to Buffalo to get some much-needed playing time. Henry, 36, returns to the NHL team he once captained.
- Red Wings general manager Sid Abel says he hasn’t heard a thing from retired goalkeeper Roger Crozier since he left town and returned to his home near Bracebridge, Ontario. “Right now I wouldn’t know where to write to get hold of him.”
- Fines totaling $1,450 have been levied against members of the Boston Bruins and Oakland Seals for that Christmas night brawl in Boston. Biggest loser was Seals coach Bert Olmstead, whose pocketbook is $250 lighter today. Olmstead can be seen in the centre of the picture below, participating in the festivities.
- Buffalo television station WBEN-TV has bowed to public pressure and will show the CBS broadcast of the Philadelphia Flyers – Los Angeles Kings game this Sunday. The station had previously said they would be showing bowling and collegiate basketball instead.
- Chicago Black Hawks moved into a first-place tie with the Bruins in the NHL’s Eastern Division after a 3-3 tie with the New York Rangers in New York. Bob Nevin scored at 9:33 of the third period to lift the Rangers into the tie.
- Frank Mahovlich scored three goals to lead the Toronto Maple Leafs to a 8-1 pasting of the St. Louis Blues in Toronto. Blues coach Scotty Bowman lifted starting goalie Seth Martin half-way through the game while trailing 5-0, enabling rookie netminder Don Caley to make his first NHL appearance.
- Minnesota North Stars pulled off a big upset, edging the Bruins 5-4 before a packed house in Minneapolis. Parker MacDonald scored the game-winning goal for the Stars with less than five minutes to play.
- One of the National Hockey League’s all-time greats, Charlie Conacher, passed away in a Toronto hospital. He was 58. Conacher, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and a five-time NHL all-star, was the right winger on the famed Toronto Maple Leafs “Kid Line” of the 1930s.
- Philadelphia Flyers continued their fine play of late as they drubbed the slumping Los Angeles Kings 9-1 in Philadelphia. Brit Selby fired a pair of goals for the Flyers. Wayne Hicks and Larry Zeidel each netted his first of the season as well.
- Eddie Giacomin had to make only 22 saves as the New York Rangers blanked the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs 4-0. Rod Gilbert, Jean Ratelle, Vic Hadfield and Larry Jeffrey took care of the Rangers scoring. Gilbert and Ratelle were on the ice for all four New York scoring plays.
- Flyers defenceman Ed Van Impe had surgery on his broken cheekbone yesterday. He’ll be out of the lineup for about two weeks.
- Mark Howe, the 11-year-old son of Red Wings superstar Gordie Howe, scored four goals to lead his Detroit bantam team to a 5-1 win over Sarnia and the A Division championship at the Riverside Bantam tournament in Windsor, Ontario.
- A group of Canadian businessmen has announced the establishment of the Charlie Conacher Research Fund to help cover cancer research costs in honour of the late Toronto Maple Leafs hockey great.