Manor Hiller Returns to the Scene of the Crime (So to Speak) in Calgary

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Hockey has a magical way of connecting the dots. Look no further than Patrick Kane scoring the overtime winner in his return to Chicago over the weekend as just the latest example of how the hockey universe often works.

On Tuesday night, Jim Hiller will likely be looking for some cosmic intervention, as he touches down in Calgary as an NHL head coach for the first time.

It may in fact stir up some memories for the 54-year-old former right wing.

To set the scene, back on Oct. 6, 1992, Hiller made his NHL debut wearing an LA Kings uniform, as they took on the Flames inside Calgary’s Saddledome — the same building where the two clubs will square off tonight.

For those who may quickly look up stats and say, ‘He only played 40 games for the Kings before he was traded to Detroit, what’s the big deal?’… It’s a very big deal to Hiller.

Although his NHL playing career was rather short, lasting a mere 23 games more after leaving Los Angeles, his time with the Kings has remained near and dear to his heart even all these decades later.

“I went on to play for other teams and coach for other teams, but for me, it was [always about] the Los Angeles Kings,” he said soon after being named the team’s newest bench boss earlier this month. “It was my dream to get drafted to the NHL, never mind playing. To be drafted by Los Angeles, that was pretty special, so that has never left me. Never left me one bit. That was my club.”

The story actually began more than three years earlier, long before that night in Calgary.

At the 1989 NHL Draft, in round 10 (something that doesn’t even exist anymore), Kings General Manager Rogie Vachon — at the urging of Western Scouting Coordinator Al Murray — selected Hiller from the Junior A Melville Millionaires. He then cut his teeth at Northern Michigan University for the next three seasons, leading the team in points while serving as captain his final year there.

After signing his first pro contract with the Kings in the summer of 1992, Hiller burst on to the scene soon thereafter.

He led the Kings in preseason scoring with five goals and 13 points over eight exhibition games. Remember, that was a club that featured Luc Robitaille, Jari Kurri, Tony Granato, Tomas Sandstrom, and slew of other offensively gifted players.

With a healthy mix of nerves and excitement, Hiller skated at right wing on a line with Robitaille and Robert Lang for his NHL debut in Calgary.

Hall of Fame defenseman Paul Coffey opened the scoring for LA. However, a pair of Flames power play goals had the home team leading midway through the first period. Calgary’s initial marker with the man-advantage came with with Hiller in the penalty box for holding (yes, his first NHL penalty).

Peter Ahola tied things up for LA at 17:43, followed by a Marty McSorley and Craig Berube fight right off the ensuing faceoff.


Calgary regained the lead early in the second frame, only to see McSorley bring things even once again with a goal of his own just a few minutes later.

Knotted at three goals apiece heading into the final frame of regulation, not much was really settled in the next 20 minutes. Calgary’s Gary Roberts looked to have given the Flames a win when he scored at 18:27 of the third period, but not so fast. With Joel Otto subsequently called for holding, the Kings went back on the power play, where Granto managed to tie things up with less than a minute remaining on the play clock.

Once overtime came around, Sandstrom finished things off, giving the Kings a 5-4 victory and a nice ‘W’ in Hiller’s debut as a player.

He even made the local Calgary Herald the following day:

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Hiller would participate in a rematch with Calgary at the Fabulous Forum nine days later and record his first game winning goal.

Come late January, he’d suit up for his last game with the Kings — that’s right, against the Flames. They perfectly bookended his time playing in Los Angeles.

The next day, Hiller and Coffey were traded in a package for Jimmy Carson, Marc Potvin, and Gary Shuchuk.

Now, in one of those full circle hockey moments, he returns to face the Flames yet again; this time standing behind the bench in Calgary instead of sitting on it.

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