As the NHL descends on Lake Tahoe, Nevada on February 20th and 21st for a pair of outdoor games, the Royal Flashback takes a look at the LA Kings first-ever outdoor game.
The LA Kings played the Anaheim Ducks at Dodger Stadium on January 25th, 2014, and it was a spectacle for the ages. Even though they lost 3-0, it was a night that no Kings fan would forget any time soon. Although this game might be the topic of a future Royal Flashback article, this one is about the LA King’s first outdoor game – which took place on September 27th, 1991, against the New York Rangers.
The game took place in the parking lot at Caesars Palace Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, and was the idea of President and COO of Caesars World Sports Rich Rose. The NHL enthusiastically embraced the idea and lined up the popular Rangers to play the Kings, who had the sports most famous star in Wayne Gretzky. An NHL size rink was built with seating for 13,000 spectators, the site of that rink is now the Neptune Pool.
To help protect the ice from the searing desert sun, a large tarp was hung over the ice surface. The tarp would come crashing down on the ice the morning of the game, putting the contest in jeopardy. Ice crews worked double-time to get the ice ready, and with a game-time temperature of about 85 degrees, the league decided the game could go on.
In true Vegas fashion, the game, of course, had some pageantry – with the national anthem singer dressed as Cleopatra and the Zamboni driver dressed as Julius Caesar himself.
With ice conditions less than optimal, and since it was only a preseason game anyways, the Kings and Rangers players decided to take it easy on each other. Cans of dry ice were used for the several necessary ice repairs throughout the game – and to top it all off, a swarm of locusts arrived during the game, with some of them actually getting stuck in the ice!
Despite the challenges, the game was a success. The sold-out crowd witnessed a 5-2 Kings victory, with Gretzky scoring the final goal. In 2021, we take outdoor games for granted, but in 1991, it required some innovation.
Adding to the fun, a video camera was attached to LA Kings goalie Kelly Hrudey‘s helmet for the game, giving the television audience a “goalie’s eye” view of the action. Again, in 2021 camera angles like this are commonplace, but in 1991 this was a major technological advance – and it was another first in a game full of firsts.