"I went," Harper says, "and by the time Cooke finished talking and I finished listening I was sold completely." Once the season began, though, the Kings lost six of their first seven games and Harper asked himself, "What have I done to deserve this?" But then the Kings set off on a winning streak, moving temporarily into first place in the West—and Harper has had no doubts since.
Like Howell, Backstrom and Pulford, Harper has had difficulty adjusting to the California life-style. "My clothing bills are way down because the kids wear sneakers, jeans, T shirts and no socks everyplace they go, including school," Harper says. "But it's such an undisciplined life for the kids. Jeffrey, who is seven, was one step from being a devil back in Montreal but now he complains that his teachers aren't strict enough with him." Jeffrey plays hockey a few days a week at the rink in Culver City where the Kings normally practice, but he and his older brother Greg, 11, have discovered there are other sports—like swimming, surfing, basketball, tennis and volleyball. Harper has, too. "See those courts over there," he said last week, pointing to an area about 100 yards from his rented bungalow. "Gladys and I play tennis several times a week. In Montreal I used to ski up in the Laurentians, on my off-days only." Gladys laughed. "And you weren't supposed to do that, either, because it was against club rules."
Harper suspects that only his immediate neighbors know who he is and who the Los Angeles Kings are. "It's so different, especially after playing in Montreal," he said. "We can go to a restaurant out here and dine in peace. In Montreal you didn't bother to go out very often, because it was a hassle."
"Oh, you've had the glory already, don't worry about it," Gladys said. "I feel sorry for the young kids on the Kings, though. It must be tough on them. They are something big back home, but out here nobody knows them. They have never had the glory." Maybe not, but if the Kings do make the playoffs Los Angeles hockey could develop the snob appeal it has never had, even though the Kings are averaging almost 10,000 fans a game. "What we need," Harper says, "is a great playoff series against one of the old teams. Then everyone out here would know what hockey is all about."