Kings broadcaster Daryl Evans goes through a ritual every April that’s as inevitable as paying income tax but far more pleasant.
When spring comes and the thoughts of hockey fans turn to the playoffs, the thoughts of Kings fans turn to the “Miracle on Manchester” playoff game against the Edmonton Oilers. It was a singular moment for the Kings, and for their fans it has come to symbolize hope in the face of overwhelming odds.
Tuesday will be the 30th anniversary of the Kings’ remarkable comeback victory over the powerful Oilers in that playoff game. Evans, who scored the winner in the 6-5 triumph, is sure to be fielding even more calls and questions than usual about his role in that historic moment.
“At times it seems like it was so long ago but when this time of year comes around, that seems to bring it back to the forefront and seem like it was just yesterday again,” said Evans, who is in his 13th season as the Kings’ radio commentator and also serves as an executive of their training facility in El Segundo. “It was more than half a lifetime ago for myself.
“I think because at this time of year it becomes that much more magnified and makes it easier to reflect upon and makes the time seem like it’s gone quick.”
Evans, 51, said there were several factors that made the moment special for him and the Kings. They trailed, 5-0, after two periods and gradually chipped away until they pulled even with five seconds left in the third period. Evans, one of three rookie forwards sent out for a faceoff early in sudden-death play, rifled a shot that eluded Edmonton’s Grant Fuhr 2:35 into overtime.
The Kings went on to win the best-of-five series but lost in the next round to Vancouver. Evans led the Kings in playoff scoring that spring with five goals and 13 points in 10 games.
“The Forum unofficially held about 200,000 people that night from everybody who said they were at the game,” Evans said. “But I know there’s a great number of people that still do follow the team that were either at the game or were watching it on TV and remember who they were with or where they were watching it and special things like that. I think that just goes to show you the loyalty of some of the fans that we have, how much they can remember a moment like that, exactly what they were doing. It just shows you how special those people are. They were a part of it in their own way.”
But he was undeniably the star, and a day hardly goes by without someone asking him about that game and that goal.
“It’s something that I’ll always be able to cherish. I think I’ve learned to appreciate it more in the years as it’s passed,” Evans said. “There were so many things, aside from being down the five goals in the game and coming back and winning it. It was also against a team that we’d played during the season and 48 points separated the two teams. It just brings out that much more how unbelievable it was.
“It’s great having people reflect upon it and remember it. There are a great number of people who do. And I think it’s important also for the young players growing up in California and the Los Angeles area that they understand and know a lot of these things. I remember when I was a young kid growing up in Toronto, there were only six teams in the NHL at that time and you used to remember great individual moments. This wasn’t only just a great moment in Kings history, it’s one of the greater moments in the history of the game, something that’s never been done in postseason play.”
Evans ended his career in Europe and went on to become a successful car salesman before rejoining the Kings’ organization and taking on many roles, including as an active charity fundraiser. He said he didn’t watch a tape of that game for many years but has seen it a lot the last few years when he speaks about it at fan gatherings and other events.
“For the longest time I didn’t know who I had lined up beside at the faceoff circle. That was something that got pointed out to me later and I could never have told you,” he said, laughing.
“And it happened to be Kevin Lowe [of Edmonton]. He mentioned it to me when we crossed paths about five, six years ago. I never knew that.
“There are probably things I could still learn from watching it, things you didn’t pay that much attention to. One thing for sure, it’s still exciting.”
Evans’ celebration of the goal is almost as memorable as the goal itself.
He did a pirouette that would make any figure skater proud and skated around with his arms upraised. Was it planned?
“Oh God, no. I was never one for the big celebrations. And that was just sheer emotions, one of those things that you really never think about, especially coming off a faceoff,” he said. “There’s no time to even think about the shot. It was just close your eyes and hope it hits the net. It found a hole over Grant Fuhr’s shoulder.
“I don’t even know what I saw first -- the puck going in the net or people’s arms going in the air. Something like that is spur of the moment. You don’t even know what you were thinking at that time. Just that little twirl down the ice at the end of it, that was just happiness. You don’t know what to do and you just want to celebrate in some fashion and that’s the way it came out.”
And that was only Part One.
“I remember after we went off the ice after the celebration and we came back on the ice for the three stars, and the ice was just covered with all kinds of stuff,” he said. “And I guess I proceeded to do almost the same type of thing -- I went out and did spins and pirouettes and how I didn’t step or fall on something I have no idea. I was skating on air at that particular sequence.”
After that he went to call his parents back home in Toronto to share his joy with them. It was about 4 a.m. Eastern time by then but that wasn’t the biggest problem: his father answered the phone but didn’t know the Kings had won because he had turned the television off after two periods.
“They thought we were getting killed and they didn’t want to watch the third period,” he said. “So I told them that we won, 6-5, in overtime. By that time my mum’s on another phone and I woke the whole house up and I had to tell the story all over again.
“It was pretty neat telling them that. Unfortunately they missed it live but they too have seen it numerous times over the years.”
No matter what the Kings do in the playoffs this spring -- they face Vancouver starting on Wednesday at Rogers Arena -- they’ll have a tough time eclipsing the memory of that feat in 1982.
“Over the years, being able to cross paths with people who were at the game and can remember it, who were young then and are adults now or were adults and are older now, it’s really neat because they all have their different versions of it as well,” Evans said. “I love hearing their stories just as much as listening to my own.”