THERE USED TO BE AN ARENA – KEMPER ARENA
The Kansas City Scouts of the National Hockey League played in Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri, for two seasons – 1974-75 and 1975-76 – before moving to Denver. They were not very successful, to say the least, winning only 27 games, losing 110 and tying 23 in those two seasons.
Kemper Arena was built in 18 months in 1973-74 at a cost of $22 million. It stood on the site of the former Kansas City Stockyards, just west of downtown. Capacity for hockey was 17,647.
The Los Angeles Kings played a total of four games in Kemper, winning three and losing one. One Kings’ win especially stands out in my memory.
The date was March 30, 1976, and the Scouts were in the midst of another terrible season in which they wound up losing 56 games, and winning only 12. However, on this night the Scouts jumped out to a 3-0 lead over the Kings on goals by former King Randy Rota, Denis Dupere and Jim McElmury in the first 8:21 of the game against Kings’ goalie Rogie Vachon. The Kings then started a comeback on goals by Tommy Williams and Larry Brown. After K.C. took a 6-5 lead at the end of the second period, the Kings next scored two consecutive goals by Mike Corrigan and Bob Murdoch to take a 7-6 lead. This upset the Scouts fans that proceeded to litter the ice with game programs, beer and soft drinks.
Our broadcast location in Kemper was in one of the suites just at the top of the lower bowl with the fans seated down in front of us. At the time I said on our radio broadcast, ‘This shows the mentality of these fans, stupidly littering the ice with debris.’ The fans could hear our comments and I heard one fan say in a loud, gruff voice, ‘Did you hear what he said about us?’ I looked down and this angry man, about – 6’5” – stood up and came toward our booth. He didn’t go in to the aisle, instead he just started stepping over the backs of seats to get to us. He leaned on the short glass in front of me and stared at me from about a foot in front of my face. I wasn’t sure what he was going to do, perhaps throw a soft drink in my face or something worse. My partner, Dan Avey, was swinging his hand held microphone as if he was ready to use it to hit the fan. Dan then told a little usherette to go get security. She left and never returned, nor did security. I had to look around the fan to do the play-by-play and I was determined not to let him distract me.
When Williams scored his third goal of the game to give the Kings the lead, I really poured it on, just to upset the fan even more. By this time he was spitting mad and in his frustration he tore up his ticket stubs, threw them at me and said, ‘I’ll see you later.’ You could come into our booth from the concourse so I spent the rest of the game alternating between calling the play-by-play and looking over my shoulder but my “friend” never showed up. The Kings won the game 8-6 in their final appearance ever in Kemper Arena.
The new Sprint Center in Kansas City opened in 2007, managed by the Kings owners, Anschutz Entertainment Group. Kemper Arena still stands and in 2013 will be the home of the Kansas City Renegades of the Champions Professional Indoor Football League.
The Scouts played only two seasons in Kansas City before moving to Denver to become the Colorado Rockies of the NHL. After six seasons in Denver, the franchise moved to New Jersey and became the very successful New Jersey Devils.