Noah Clarke became the first native Southern Californian to play for and to score a goal for the Los Angeles Kings. The assists on that first NHL goal (March 12th, 2007) were credited to Dustin Brown and Jaroslav Modry, but, as NHL.com reported at the time, the credit goes to Wayne Gretzky and the Anaheim Ducks.
Clarke, from La Verne, was the first Southern California-born player in the Kings' 40-year history. There had been, at that time, a total of 19 Southern Californians in the NHL.
"I think it's the Gretzky effect," former Kings player and manager Dave Taylor said. "It started when Wayne came here in the late 1980s. I mean, if you look at the number of rinks that we had then compared to today, I'd say we went from a handful of rinks to maybe 25 in the greater L.A. area. So that just means there's a lot more kids playing."
Clarke realizes the long odds he had to overcome to go from the beautiful beaches to the NHL.
"I remember going to pee wee and bantam tournaments and people kind of sneered and said, 'Aw, California kids can't play hockey.' It's still not a hotbed, but I think you see more and more California kids coming up now," Clarke said. "When the Mighty Ducks started out, all these rinks started popping up in Orange County. So it just led to more ice time for California kids to play."
Those odds did prove to be too big, ultimately. The Colorado College grad was drafted by the Kings 250th overall in 1999. He toiled in the minor leagues, appearing for NHL call ups totalling 21 career games (20 with LA, 1 with New Jersey) over six seasons before heading overseas to extend his career.