Editor’s Note: In homage to “Who Wore it Best?” the NHL-produced series featured on both NHL.com and the league’s broadcast partners, JFTC continues its regular feature highlighting the top players to wear each sweater number in Los Angeles Kings’ franchise history. Check back to our first edition for a discussion of the selection process.
It was certainly no shock to learn that all 15 players to have worn the no. 1 sweater with the LA Kings were goaltenders. More surprising, but still conforming with anecdotal experience, our research showed that 100 of the 102 players to wear sweater numbers 2 through 6 were defensemen. The forwards finally break through with the no. 7 sweater, as 14 of the 17 players to wear the Kings’ no. 7 were either centers or wingers. It was not until late in the 1993-94 season when Jim Paek, the ninth player to wear the no. 7 sweater in team history, was acquired from Pittsburgh that a Kings’ blueliner donned the no. 7 (Fun fact No. 1: Paek is the the only Korean-born player in Kings history).
The first Kings player to wear no. 7 was Terry Gray. Gray was acquired from the Red Wings organization in the 1967 Expansion Draft. He appeared in 65 games for the club that inaugural season, including Opening Night in Long Beach against the Philadelphia Flyers. Gray tallied 12 goals, 15 assists, and 27 points that initial campaign, along with 22 penalty minutes and a minus-3 plus/minus rating. He lasted only one season with the Forum Blue and Gold before being traded to St. Louis for Myron Stankiewicz (Fun fact No. 2: Stankiewicz never played for the Kings, as he was claimed the following day by the St. Louis Blues in the “inter-league draft”).
Upon Gray’s departure, the no. 7 sweater was assumed by Bryan Campbell, who had actually worn no. 12 for the club that first season (Fun Fact No. 3: Campbell played 93 games for the Kings over three consecutive seasons before being traded to the Chicago Blackhawks in February, 1970. During those three seasons in Los Angeles he wore four different numbers) .
The record for most games in Kings history while wearing the no. 7 sweater is held by Mike Murphy (673). Murphy also tops the club’s no. 7 career charts in goals (194), assists (263), points (457), penalty minutes (442) and shots (1518). Tomas Sandstrom leads the rankings in shot percentage (16.6) and points per game (1.081). Derek Armstrong heads the plus/minus list with a +13.
During the 1990-91 season, Tomas Sandstrom lit the lamp 45 times while wearing the no. 7 sweater. He also collected 45 assists and 89 points. Each of those individual marks still stands as tops among players in Kings history while wearing le chandail numéro 7. Murphy’s +32 in 1974-75 is the top single-season plus/minus rating among players to wear the no. 7, while the 133 penalty minutes racked up by Phil Sykes in 1986-87 is tops among single-season time spent in the sin bin. Interestingly however, that amount only ranks as the 72nd highest single-season PIMS total in franchise history.
The number 7 sweater is currently vacant. It was last worn by Oscar Fantenburg, who wore it for 73 games over two seasons with the club before being traded to the Calgary Flames heading into the 2019 trade deadline. Of the 17 players to wear no. 7 in team history, nine were born in Canada, two in the United States, one in the United Kingdom (Kevin Brown), one in Finland (Sandstrom), one in Sweden (Fantenburg), one in South Korea (Paek), and two in the former Czechoslovakia (Jaroslav Bednar in the present day Czech Republic and Andrej Sekora in current Slovakia). Four players apprenticed in the NCAA before turning professional.
Who wore No. 7 best?
Mike Murphy — (1974-1983)
The Toronto-native played right wing for nine seasons with the Kings after coming to Los Angeles from the New York Rangers early in the 1973-74 season. Murphy helped the club end a four-season playoff drought, playing 53 games, scoring 13 goals and 26 assists. The following season, Murphy finished second on the team in goals (30) and points (68), contributing greatly to a club which set still-standing franchise records for wins, ties and points percentage (.656).
As noted above, Murphy dominates the career scoring charts for Kings players while wearing no. 7. More impressive is that despite nearly 40 seasons having passed since his retirement, his numbers still rank highly among the franchise’s all-time leaders. Murphy ranks 11th all-time among all Kings’ players in games played (673), 10th in goals (194, second among right wingers behind only Dave Taylor), 12th in assists (263) and 13th in points (457).
Despite being just 25 years old and and having played only one full season with the club, Murphy was named team captain prior to the 1975-76 season. The incumbent, Terry Harper, was traded to the Detroit Red Wings as part of the Marcel Dionne deal. Murphy captained the Kings through the 1980-81 season, a period during which the Kings made the Stanley Cup playoffs every year.
With age and injuries taking their toll, he handed the “C” to Dave Lewis prior to the 1981-82 campaign, after suffering a knee injury that would limit his action that season to 28 games (Fun fact No. 4: Dustin Brown holds the record for team captain longevity, having worn the “C” for eight season between 2008-09 and 2015-16).
A self-described grinder, Murphy made his only All-Star appearance in 1980 when he substituted for an injured Dave Taylor at the game played at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena. He was twice honored as the Kings Unsung Hero Award winner (1976-77 and 1979-80).
Murphy retired from the NHL after the 1982-83 season. Roger Neilson took over the Kings’ bench after Don Perry was fired 50 games into the 1983-84 season, and hired Murphy as an assistant coach. The following season Murphy was retained as an assistant coach when Pat Quinn took over the Kings bench from Neilson, who was not rehired.
During the middle of the 1986-87 campaign, Quinn was suspended by NHL President John Ziegler, after he was found to have signed on Christmas Eve to become General Manager and President of the Vancouver Canucks as soon as the current season ended. The then-35-year-old Murphy assumed the head coaching position, leading the club to its first playoff appearance in four seasons. However, 27 games into the following season, with the Kings mired in the Smythe Division cellar, Murphy himself was replaced behind the bench by Robbie Ftorek (Fun fact No. 5: Before Ftorek was hired, General Manager Rogie Vachon served as interim coach for one game, a 10-3 road loss to the Washington Capitals).
Murphy's career record behind the Kings bench was 20-37-8. Despite this lack of success, his leadership skills and knowledge of the game led to assistant coach positions with the Vancouver Canucks, Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs. He was named head coach of the Maple Leafs beginning with the 1996-97 season, but was let go after two seasons ending with Toronto manning the Central Division basement.
Murphy has worked as an executive in the NHL’s corporate offices for approximately 20 years. He currently serves as the NHL’s Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations, where he most notably supervises the Situation Room in Toronto, overseeing video replay and any other issue that might arise during games. In 2019, he was named to the 18-member Hockey Hall of Fame Selection Committee.
Agree or disagree with the selection of Mike Murphy as the Kings’ “No. 1 of No. 7s?” Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below or hit up Mark on Twitter at @DevoreOnSports. Stay safe, and as always, Go Kings Go!