Ed Hospodar, Marcel Dionne

New York Rangers defenseman Ed Hospodar fights with Kings great Marcel Dionne during the first period of Game 2 in the preliminary round of the 1981 Stanley Cup playoffs. There were 15 separate fights and a playoff record for penalties in Kings' 5-4 victory. (Los Angeles Times / June 2, 2014)

 "If the referee goes by the rule book now, there will be nobody left to play the hockey game." — Bill Chadwick, New York Rangers television analyst

The ice at the Forum was so crowded that night in 1981, it looked like the rink at New York's Rockefeller Center in December. This, though, was far from a pleasure skate.

The Kings and New York Rangers had beef. It was the last time the two teams met in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and Game 2 of the first-round series was a red-meat moment. The first period was extended, unofficially, for eight minutes as players from both teams scrapped.

"I don't remember too much from the 1980s, but I remember that big brawl," said Mark Hardy, a Kings defenseman that season.

It was a different NHL, far removed from what will occur in the playoff reunion when the Kings and Rangers face off Wednesday in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final at Staples Center.

Back in 1981, the Kings seemed to be on the rise, having finished that season with the league's fourth-best record. Their Triple Crown line — Dave Taylor, Marcel Dionne and Charlie Simmer — was the most potent scoring trio the NHL had ever seen.

"Watching them was like watching Picasso paint," said Bob Berry, the Kings' coach from 1978-81.

It was also an era when the joke "I went to a boxing match and a hockey game broke out" was fitting. The Kings and Rangers provided that punch line during a best-of-five "preliminary round" series, won by the Rangers in four games.

"There was a lot of havoc in that series," Hardy said. "It was nasty."

The Kings, and their fans, could only think what-might-have-been. Simmer missed the series, after breaking his leg late in the season. The Rangers had barely made the playoffs but showed up in Los Angeles ready to send a message.

"They were obviously looking to stir things up," Taylor said.

When it was over, the Kings were left with a false spring, and they missed the playoffs three of the next five seasons.


"Dave Taylor skated up into the Rangers' zone. This is what started this whole mess. The Kings go off at the other end of the ice, but Taylor kept skating." — Chadwick.

Skating into an opponent's zone, causing a little chaos, was Taylor's job. It was part of what made the Triple Crown line such a problem for opponents and, at times, Kings teammates.

"Those guys all had white tape on their sticks," Hardy said. "I'd take a shot and think I'd scored. One of them would come to the bench and show a black mark on the tape and go, 'No, no, I touched it.'"

Taylor had sympathy for others on the team trying to score.

"They not only had to get the puck past the goaltender, they had to get it past the three of us," he said.

Dionne was already a star when the Kings acquired him in 1975. He arrived a week after Kareem Abdul-Jabbar came to the Lakers. Both teams were owned by Jack Kent Cooke, who craved marquee names for a Hollywood market.

The other two were finds.