January 17, 2014 11:36 am

20 years later, Northridge quake memories remain fresh

Like anyone and anything associated with Los Angeles, the Kings were tied to the Northridge Earthquake, which struck at 4:31 a.m. on January 17, 1994 near the intersection of Reseda Boulevard and Saticoy Street in the San Fernando Valley and remains the costliest seismic disaster in the history of the United States.

Iceoplex, the team’s practice facility at the time, was less than four miles from the epicenter, and several Kings lived in the southern San Fernando Valley communities of Encino and Tarzana, among them Wayne Gretzky, Jarri Kurri, Dave Taylor and Luc Robitaille.

Other than ceiling tiles that had fallen on Iceoplex’s main sheet of ice and repairs to a wall lining the second ice sheet, there wasn’t any significant damage to the team’s facility.

“We did a lot of charity work and that was it,” Robitaille recalled. “It scared the bejesus out of my wife because we were living in the Valley.”

The team was in Dallas at the time following a flight the night before from Philadelphia when they were awoken by the distressing news.

Dave Taylor, who was out of action with a concussion and was at home in Tarzana when the earthquake struck, recalled the impact the disaster had on families that were over a thousand miles away from the team. Now the St. Louis Blues’ Vice President, Hockey Operations,Taylor recently shared some of his memories of the night of January 17, 1994 with LA Kings Insider.

“Obviously girlfriends and wives and everybody was home, and the families were at home, so any time you hear something like that, the magnitude of that earthquake – there’s damage, obviously, there were some deaths from that – so everybody was worried. I guess I was fortunate that I was home and with my family when it happened, but that would be a lot tougher on the players when they were on the road.

“I was injured. I was home, and I live in Tarzana, so it was pretty scary when the earthquake happened. It happened early in the morning. I just remember it was real dark, and I tried to get up in my bedroom, and I kept falling back on my bed. It really felt like somebody had a hold of the house and was just bouncing it. It just seemed to be so much noise. I thought the back of our house had fallen off, and then when it finally stopped, we all realized it was an earthquake. We were pretty lucky at our place. We had a few small cracks, the cosmetic stuff by the doorways and stuff, but no real damage.”

“It seemed like it came from Northridge, and there was one fissure that ran almost straight south, and there were houses in our neighborhood that were literally off their foundation, and I remember when we had our pool put in, which is probably 25 or 30 years ago, there was a lot of rock when they were digging the pool, and the builders said if we ever had an earthquake, [we’d] probably be OK here because the pressure seems to move through the rock, where when you have sand, it almost liquefies, and you could have a lot of shifting.”

“We didn’t have any power there for a couple of days, and I remember driving down to Ventura Boulevard. We had a lot of supplies. We had water at our house, and it was interesting because there was a lot of damage on Ventura Boulevard. There were a lot of windows that were out, so there a lot of businesses that were closed for a short time, and all the water was gone out of the stores there, but you could drive over the hill down to Santa Monica and really get anything that you needed.”

One of the more harrowing recollections of the quake came from Brian McClary, the NHL’s security representative with the Los Angeles Kings. A Los Angeles police officer at the time, McClary was outside, at a Tommy’s Hamburgers near the intersection of Van Nuys and Victory Boulevards, when the quake struck.

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