SUN Hockey Pool

King finds self in NHL's war room

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:50 PM ET

As a player he was old-school, running over opponents instead of going around them, using his fists on occasion.

But nine years after his playing career ended, former Winnipeg Jets captain Kris King finds himself in the technologically advanced world of the NHL’s “war room.”

Working under NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell as the vice-president of hockey operations, King is surrounded by video screens every night in an effort to, among other things, keep a lid on hockey violence.

“Some people laugh when I say I’m involved in disciplining players, helping suspend people for breaking rules I spent 15 years breaking myself,” King said.

With 2,030 regular-season penalty minutes under his belt, King can only imagine if a team of video cops had been watching his every move.

“Man oh man, I would have been in big trouble,” the 44-year-old said.

King recalled getting into trouble once when he got a few late shots in on Doug Zmolek during a fight.

Handed a match penalty, he was basically suspended for three days while the tape of the incident was shipped to New York, where then-disciplinarian Brian Burke finally got a look at it and decided King did nothing wrong.

“Now we’re pulling clips off these databases of the game that’s live and sending them to Collie on his computer wherever he is,” King said. “He opens his IPad and watches it and decides right away, five minutes after the incident, whether he needs a hearing or not.”

It took King a little more than five minutes to decide he liked Winnipeg.

Traded from the New York Rangers along with Tie Domi right after Christmas in 1992, he landed at the airport and was immediately greeted by a parka-wearing John Paddock, the Jets head coach.

“He threw me the keys to a K-car that wouldn’t start,” King said. “I got to the hotel, sat there and shook my head. Got to the rink early. Nothing seemed as cold as that walk from the parking lot. Then walking in and seeing Craig Heisinger, our trainer, in shorts. I just wondered what the heck would be next.

“Other than that, it was nothing but great memories.”

If you’re looking for a blueprint of how to unify a team in a small, cold market, the product of Hornepayne, a northern Ontario mining town, has it.

“We’d get babysitters and put the kids to bed, and the husbands and wives would go tobogganing,” King said. “We’d rent a bus and go ice fishing, which would turn into a touch football game in the middle of a field somewhere. Every weekend game we’d make it mandatory that you’d have to go to some guy’s house after the game. We went out of our way to make sure this team was close.”

While he also played in Detroit, New York, Phoenix, Toronto and Chicago, King says his three-plus years with the Jets were his favourite.

“Winnipeg had so many things for us to do. It was just taking advantage of it.”

He still does, often visiting his favourite Manitoba fishing lodge during his time off in summer.

But ice fishing is out. His winters are booked. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I feel very fortunate,” King said. “I love coming to work.”

paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca


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