Marching orders for Olympians Jack Johnson, Evan Lysacek and Mirai Nagasu
On one sheet of ice Thursday were the Kings, who will send five players to the Vancouver Games on three teams. On the other rink were figure skaters Evan Lysacek and Mirai Nagasu, part of the U.S. figure skating delegation. Upstairs in the viewing area was 1992 women's figure skating gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi, who was there to do an interview in her role as a correspondent for NBC's "Today" show.
Staying on the Olympic theme, Kings defenseman Jack Johnson said he has arranged to charter a plane and fly to Vancouver so he can march with the U.S. team in the opening ceremony, to be held a week from Friday. The Kings play next Thursday and Saturday, and club executives gave him permission to skip what's likely to be a light practice so he can travel to Vancouver on Friday morning and return Friday night.
Because the NHL will continue its contests through Feb. 14, Johnson is likely to be the only player on the men's team who will march in the opening ceremony at BC Place. The women's team will be there, and men's team General Manager Brian Burke has said he will march, but Johnson said Kings teammates Dustin Brown and Jonathan Quick declined his offer of a lift to Vancouver to march alongside him.
That didn't deter Johnson from following his Olympic dreams.
"I’ve watched them before, and it’s part of the experience of the Olympics," he said of marching in the opening ceremony. "It’s unfortunate most hockey players won’t get to do it, but the stars kind of aligned for me to be able to do it."
"We don’t play that day. The Olympics happen to be only a two-hour flight away, and I figure it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I’m going to take every advantage of it I can."
Johnson also said he offered a ride to Ducks winger Bobby Ryan, who declined with deep regrets. Johnson doesn't mind going alone.
"I think everyone knows how big the Olympics are. No matter where you go in the world, if you walk in someplace and say you’re an Olympian they know what you’re talking about," he said. "It’s a huge thing. I’ve watched opening ceremonies, closing ceremonies. To be selected to be in the Olympics, I’d like to march in with the other athletes from my country."
Teammate Drew Doughty, who will play for Canada, said he will wait to travel to Vancouver until the Olympic break begins.
"I don’t think I’m going to charter a plane up there. I don’t think that’s on my list to do," he said.
"Obviously I’d love to be a part of that opening ceremony. It's a pretty big part of the Olympics. Unfortunately I’m not going to be there ... but nothing much I can do."
Lysacek, who is scheduled to appear Thursday on the "Tonight Show" with Jay Leno, said he plans to march in the opening ceremony, especially because he has modeled some of the clothing that U.S. athletes will wear. "We were the first to see the opening ceremony outfits, and I want to be part of it," he said. "We've been thinking of ways to work it in with my training."
Nagasu, of Arcadia, also plans to march in the opening ceremony.
More about the Kings soon at www.latimes.com/sports.
-- Helene Elliott
Photo: Evan Lysacek performs at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Spokane, Wash., on Jan. 15. Credit: Rick Bowmer / Associated Press