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Anatomy of a Rivalry: How Did We Get Here?

The Phoenix Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings will renew acquaintances Thursday night. This is an in-depth look at the evolution of hockey's hottest rivalry.


There are a few words that will guarantee an instant reaction from Phoenix Coyotes fans. Wayne Gretzky, Kyle Turris, Quebec City, out-clause, Red Wings, and relocation. But none can match the visceral intensity that the following six words illicit: Los Angeles Kings and Dustin Brown.

It's no secret that Phoenix has always had a complex when it comes to Los Angeles, especially where sports are involved. The Suns have obsessed over the Lakers for decades, which made the trade of Steve Nash to the purple and gold hurt all the more. The Diamondbacks have focused on the Dodgers a great deal and it was elevated even more when the boys in blue celebrated their latest division championship in the Chase Field pool. But at the moment, there is no better Phoenix/LA hatred and anger than the one that exists on the ice between the Coyotes and the Kings.

Obviously, the Western Conference Final matchup in 2012 has a lot to do with it, but was that the genesis of the rivalry? How long has the animosity been building? Have we reached a boiling point? For the answers to these questions, let's look at the recent history between these two teams.

The Coyotes and the Kings have been in the same division since the advent of the six division set-up in the '98-'99 season. During the majority of this time, the two teams were rivals by vicinity only as they never met in the playoffs, and from 2002-2008 were among the worst teams in the league. This would all start to change before the start of the 2009 season, when the Coyotes would hire Dave Tippett as head coach and the talent the Kings had developed finally began to reach the NHL. Here are the key moments that have happened since the start of the 2009 season between these two:

  • December 10, 2009 - The Kings win at home 3-2 in a shootout. The shootout was even through seven rounds, when Justin Williams scored on Ilya Bryzgalov as the Kings' 8th shooter and then Jonathan Quick stopped Scottie Upshall.
  • April 8, 2010 - The Coyotes return the favor, winning 3-2 in LA in a shootout. Adrian Aucoin would seal the deal beating Quick high glove for his final shootout goal of the season (he went 6 for 9).
  • December 29, 2010 - The Coyotes win 6-3 in Glendale. Brett Maclean plays his first NHL game and scores on the powerplay for the Yotes.
  • January 22, 2011 - The Kings get a 4-3 win at One moment of note from this game was a Dustin Brown boarding hit on Michael Rozsival behind the Coyotes net that would go unpenalized. Let's just say this won't be the last time this happens.
  • October 29, 2011 - The Coyotes bounce back from a 2-0 shutout loss at home to the Kings on the 20th, winning 3-2 in overtime. Radim Vrbata scored twice and Daymond Langkow got the game winner from a bad angle on Quick with 48 seconds left in OT.
  • December 26th, 2011 - Things begin to heat up. Dustin Brown and Shane Doan spend the majority of the game trying to put the other five rows deep. Raffi Torres scores two goals, showing that he is an X-factor against LA, but the Kings win 4-3.
  • January 5, 2012 - The two nemeses play an intense and physical game that is 0-0 after 60 minutes of hockey. Thirty seconds into overtime, Drew Doughty drives the Coyotes net and stuffs the puck into Mike Smith's pads. Doughty hits the post, the net lifts off the moorings as the puck crosses the goaline. After review, it's ruled that the entire puck crossed the redline and the Kings get the victory.
  • February 16, 2012 - The Post Valentine's Day Massacre. This is the game that sets the tone for the rivalry to come. Less than five minutes into the game, Dustin Brown puts a hit on an off-balance Rusty Klesla. Klesla needs to be helped off the ice. The face-off following the hit leads to this: Which is followed by this: And then this: And finally this:
    In between all the fights, the Coyotes actually won a hockey game, as Radim Vrbata gets the only goal of a 1-0 win on the powerplay.
  • February 21, 2012 - Five days after the nastiness in LA, the Kings came to Glendale. LA would get the games first three goals in the opening 15 minutes of play and led 3-0 after one period. The Coyotes powerplay would answer with two goals before Justin Williams gave the Kings a 4-2 lead with 8:09 left in the second. Doan added a late period goal to make the score 4-3 entering the 3rd. It looked like the comeback would fall short until this hit by Kyle clifford on Gilbert Brule:
    The Coyotes took advantage with Vrbata getting his second powerplay goal of the evening with only 2:27 left. The game would go to a shootout, where Mikkel Boedker won it when his speed on the rush buried Quick into his own net. This huge comeback victory would continue the Coyotes amazing month as they went 11-0-1 in that February.
  • The Western Conference Finals: May 13-22, 2012 - Familiarity may breed contempt, but nothing creates a true rivalry like a playoff series. The Coyotes were advancing the farthest they had ever been in franchise history and the Kings were farther than they had been since 1993. The Kings took game 1 4-2, but things unraveled for the Yotes in game two. The Kings dominated easily, 4-0, and frustration took over as bad hits in the 3rd period would result in Martin Hanzal being suspended for game 3, a 2-1 Kings victory. Shane Doan would will his teammates to continue on, scoring the only two goals in a 2-0 game fourwin for Phoenix. Game five would be in Glendale, and was a fantastic hockey game. It was tied 3-3 after 60 minutes. The Coyotes had their chances in overtime when Michael Rozsival was entering the zone as the whistle blew for an offsides. Then disaster:

    Rozsival had to be helped off the ice. No penalty was called on the hit and the Coyotes were incensed. The momentum turned with that play as the Kings scored the series winning goal on the next shift and the handshake line was contentious to say the least as Shane Doan could be seen visibly yelling at Brown. The Kings would go on to win their first Stanley Cup.
  • January 26, 2013 - The first game between the teams after the playoff controversy. The Kings win 4-2 in Glendale thanks to two disallowed Coyote goals on questionable quick whistles. But Shane Doan did get to take out his frustration on Dustin Brown:
  • March 19, 2013 - The Coyotes travel to LA having been shutout in three straight games. They finally broke through on the scoreboard in the 3rd period, as Doan scores, ending the scoreless drought at 245 minutes and 32 seconds. Doan added another goal, 11 shots and 13 hits in one of the greatest single game efforts in team history, but it goes for naught as the Kings win 3-2.
  • September 15, 2013 - Usually, preseason games are anything but eventful, but not when these teams are involved. Jordan Nolan would deliver a questionable hit to Rusty Klesla that resulted in Klesla being stretchered off the ice. The fallout from this hit has been covered extensively here already, but there's no doubt that it just added more fuel to an already burning inferno.

Since Dave Tippett has taken over as coach, the Coyotes have gone 11-8-4 against the Kings in the regular season. The important number, however, is the 1-4 record in the playoffs. That certainly hurts the most, but has easily made this among the most contentious rivalries in the NHL and maybe the best in the Western conference.

And it's starting again on Thursday night.