CALGARY, Canada — Although Jerry Buss sold the Kings in the 1980s to focus on his ownership of the Lakers, the news of his death this week struck a chord in the hockey world.
Charlie Simmer, who was a member of the Kings’ famed Triple Crown line and is now an analyst on Calgary Flames TV broadcasts, said he was saddened to hear of Buss’ passing and offered his condolences to the Buss family. Simmer said he and Buss socialized “quite a bit,” and he had great respect for Buss’ business sense.
“He was the first to admit that he didn’t know much about hockey, but he was around a lot and really enjoyed it,” Simmer said before the Kings went through an optional skate in advance of their game against the Flames on Wednesday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
“I think he was amazed at what hockey players did, and the sport. The big thing for him was basketball, but as a hockey owner he was great. They put in incentives for us — there were a couple of trips to Hawaii that the team took. He definitely wanted to make sure that hockey survived in LA, and he was a great personality to have associated with the team.”
Simmer was struck by Buss’ down-to-earth demeanor.
“I don’t think I ever saw him in a suit. There was always a sports coat and dress shirt, but jeans,” Simmer said, smiling at the memory. “And obviously the entourage was always around him, male and female.
“One thing that was great was that he made a point to make sure the guys were included in social events he partook in. I remember going to Donald Sterling’s birthday party and it was like a five-day event. Maybe five is an exaggeration, but I know it was at least three, and one party was in Beverly Hills and one was at the beach house in Malibu.
“It was really unique for a kid from a small town in northern Ontario to be introduced to all kinds of personalities in show business and all kinds of businesses. It was a lot of fun to be around.”
Simmer said he still follows the Lakers but hadn’t been aware that Buss was ill. He said it was characteristic of Buss to not want anyone to know about the cancer that eventually led to his death.
“That’s just the way he was. He wanted to be strong at anytime, whether with his family or his appearance,” Simmer said.
“It’s always neat to see people that you know who have been successful, be successful in the sporting world and still see the passion that he had. Again, his main love was basketball, but he did have a passion for hockey. It was fun to be associated with him.
“It’s sad that this has happened. And I pass on my best to his kids, because we got to know them very well too, on the trips, and them being part of the business. It was one big family.”