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Category: Luc Robitaille

NHL Governors approve realignment to four conferences

Kings-ducks1_600

The NHL’s Board of Governors on Monday approved a major realignment that will divide the 30 teams into four conferences and ensure every team will play each other at least twice a season.

Under the current division-driven setup teams in the West and East often went years between visits, preventing fans from seeing favorites and hindering the league’s promotional efforts. Commissioner Gary Bettman used his considerable influence to persuade some reluctant governors of Eastern Conference teams to agree to extra travel for the greater benefit of the league.

The NHL Players’ Assn. must offer its input into the plan before it can go into effect. That's expected to happen before next season, though it might be delayed until 2013-14.

As recommended, the top four teams from each of the four still-unnamed conferences will qualify for the playoffs. The first two rounds of the playoffs will be contested within each conference, with the No. 1 team playing the No. 4 team and the winners then facing each other. The four conference champions would then play each other and the winners would advance to the Stanley Cup final.

“We like the fact that every team on the East Coast will come to L.A.,” said Luc Robitaille, the Kings’ president of business operations and their representative at the governors' meetings in Pebble Beach.

“We think it’s a great thing for our fans and a great thing for us.”

A spokesman for the Ducks said they also voted in favor of the plan.

The realignment, the first major change for the league since it went to six divisions for the 1998-99 season, will abolish those divisions in favor of four conferences. The proposed new conferences are:

  • Kings, Ducks, San Jose, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Colorado and Phoenix.
  • Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Minnesota, Nashville, Columbus, Winnipeg and Dallas.
  • Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Boston, Buffalo, Florida and Tampa Bay.
  • Philadelphia, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey, Washington and Carolina.

In the seven-team conferences, teams would play each other six times, three home and three away. In the eight-team conferences, teams would play each other five or six times a season on a rotating basis.

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Helene Elliott: Proposed NHL realignment is terrific improvement

--Helene Elliott

Photo: In the new conference alignments, Teemu Selanne (left) and the Ducks will still be a primary rival of Brad Richardson and the Kings. Credit: Jake Roth / US Presswire

Three pennies for their thoughts as Kings prepare for season

Kings.logo Where better to spend a warm summer day than in a hockey rink?

The Kings gave media and a few season-ticket holders a chance to get into the cold Wednesday at Staples Center and witness the red and blue lines being painted onto the newly laid ice surface. The ice looked clean and bigger without the usual advertisements painted on — those will come later — and it was fun to watch workers fill in the lines and extend the red and blue stripes.

The process of rebuilding the ice surface began at about 6 a.m. Wednesday and was expected to be finished Wednesday night. It will then require a few days to set before anyone can skate on it.

While that was going on, Bailey, the Kings’ mascot, planted three pennies at center ice for good luck. Luc Robitaille, the Kings’ president of business operations, said one was an 1893 penny to commemorate the year the Stanley Cup was donated by Lord Stanley of Preston. Robitaille said the second penny was placed by Bailey and had personal meaning to the costumed mascot.

“I talked to Bailey’s handler, because Bailey doesn’t talk,” Robitaille said. “And I heard they were putting in a 1993 penny. I asked why and they said that’s the year we went to the finals, and I said, ‘That doesn’t make sense. We lost. We’ve got to put something that means something to us that we’ve won.’ So he put something that was personal to him that was meaningful about a championship, and I did too.”

What was Robitaille’s choice? A penny from 2002, the year he won the Cup with the Detroit Red Wings.

I also had a chance to ask Chris McGowan, the Kings’ chief operating officer, whether they plan to change their marketing/promotional/advertising strategies if the NBA lockout idles the Lakers and Clippers for a while. Will the Kings try to win over basketball fans? Can they?

Continue reading »

Former Kings draft pick Tom Glavine hasn't left the ice behind

GLAVINE Any discussion of the Kings’ atrocious drafting in the bad, old days inevitably raises one topic.

In the fourth round of the 1984 draft they picked a kid named Tom Glavine, five rounds before they got around to selecting a left wing by the name of Luc Robitaille.

That Robitaille kid went on to a Hall of Fame career and Glavine, a high-school hockey player of great note in Massachusetts, turned to baseball. Not a bad decision, though: He won 305 games, two Cy Young awards and was an All-Star 10 times.

He hasn’t forgotten his hockey roots, though, and he’s trying to organize investors who will keep the Thrashers in Atlanta, where Glavine lives and coaches youth hockey.

Once a hockey guy, always a hockey guy.

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-- Helene Elliott

Photo: Tom Glavine in 2006. Credit: John Bazemore / AP

Kings -- and their fans -- will be in the black for Game 3 at Staples

Photo: Kings mascot Bailey high-fives center Jarret Stoll during a recent home game. The Kings will be wearing their alternate black jerseys for Game 3 when they welcome back Stoll to the lineup. Credit: Kirby Lee / US Presswire

The Kings will be wearing their black alternate jerseys for all postseason home games and have put out the word to their fans to wear black Tuesday night for Game 3 against the San Jose Sharks. The series is tied at one game apiece.

Fans also are encouraged to be in their Staples Center seats by 7:15 p.m. for the start of a pregame show, while every fan in attendance will receive a “Back in Black” rally towel.  (But will black rally towels have an impact?)

Luc Robitaille, Kings president of business operations, said he is looking for "the ultimate home-ice advantage."

"We want everyone to be at Staples Center early," he said, "and we want everybody at Staples Center to be loud tomorrow and Thursday."

The club also plans to hold a Fan Fest beginning at 4:30 p.m. and a "Beard-A-Thon" during the postseason, where fans are encouraged to grow their own playoff beard and help raise money for the Kings Care Foundation.  

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Kings' Jarret Stoll to return, Oscar Moller to sit

--Debbie Goffa

Photo: Kings mascot Bailey high-fives center Jarret Stoll during a recent home game. The Kings will be wearing their alternate black jerseys for Game 3 when they welcome back Stoll to the lineup. Credit: Kirby Lee / US Presswire

Kings 1, Buffalo 0 after one; Luc Robitaille's thoughts on Pat Burns

The Kings scored the only goal of a physical and penalty-punctuated first period.

Dustin Brown, who grew up about three hours away in Ithaca, N.Y., and left tickets for members of his wife’s family for Friday's game, beat Ryan Miller cleanly with a hard shot that sailed over the goalie’s right arm at 4:57. The two were teammates on the silver medal-winning U.S. Olympic hockey team at Vancouver in February — and a third teammate, Jack Johnson, picked up an assist on the play. Anze Kopitar, whose homeland of Slovenia didn’t qualify for the Olympics, also had an assist.

The Kings had a five-on-three power play that lasted 45 seconds but couldn’t capitalize. They were 0 for three overall, while the Sabres were 0 for two.

The Sabres held a moment of silence before the game in memory of Pat Burns, the three-time coach of the year honoree who died of cancer Friday.

Luc Robitaille, the Kings’ president of business operations, played three seasons for Burns with Hull of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and they remained friends over the years. Robitaille said he had remained in touch with Burns’ family recently.

"He meant a lot to me," Robitaille said by telephone. "He was my coach in juniors and we stayed close.
"He fought for a long, long time. The doctors weren't giving him this long. Definitely the last little while it was really, really hard. He wanted to enjoy every moment but it was hard for him. They were getting ready.

"This is a big loss for the world of hockey."

We’ll have more later at www.latimes.com/sports

--Helene Elliott, in Buffalo

Luc Robitaille agrees to contract extension with Kings

The Kings' Luc Robitaille, president of the club's business operations, has agreed to a multiyear contract extension. Tim Leiweke, Kings governor and chief executive of parent company AEG, made the announcement. 

The Kings also promoted Chris McGowan to chief operating officer.

Robitaille is in his fourth season with the Kings' front office since retiring as a player after the 2005-06 season. 

"We gave Luc the ability to gain experience and learn these past few years and he has done a fantastic job," Leiweke said.  "The L.A. Kings are fortunate to have the depth and experience with Luc on the business side and Dean Lombardi on the hockey side.  We are excited to have this kind of consistency and respect league-wide.”

Robitaille, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, is the highest-scoring left wing in NHL history and the all-time Kings leader in goals scored.  He played 19 seasons in the NHL –- including 14 with the Kings -- and had 1,394 points (668+726=1,394).  In 159 playoff games, he had 127 points (58+69=127). He won the Stanley Cup while with the Detroit Red Wings.

-- Debbie Goffa

Brunch with Tim Leiweke and Gary Bettman: Kings will be players

Tim Leiweke, governor of the Kings and chief executive officer of their parent company, AEG, told an audience at a draft day brunch Friday that while he’s proud of the five titles the Lakers have won since they became part of AEG’s empire, a Stanley Cup championship for the Kings would be a pinnacle.

Kingslogo “The foundation of AEG is the Kings and until we win the Stanley Cup our job is not done,” he said during a panel discussion in which he shared the stage with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Hall of Fame forward and Kings business executive Luc Robitaille, and Hockey Canada executive Bob Nicholson.

Toward that end, he said the Kings have a lot of salary cap room and that when the NHL’s free agency period begins Thursday, “if the right guy is there next week we’re going to fill a hole. ... The balance here is not to win once in a while.”

And, he said, he'd like to have “back-to-back parades” with the Lakers to celebrate their respective league titles. He also said the Lakers built their current team around two trades -- for Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol -- and that the Kings have similar franchise cornerstones in place now. “We could have added major free agents two years ago and it wouldn’t have mattered,” he said. “Now you look at our team and the job Dean [Lombardi, the general manager] has done and there’s a lot to get excited about.”

Leiweke can’t identify players the Kings might pursue until July 1, but with Patrick Marleau off the market the biggest name will be high-scoring winger Ilya Kovalchuk. If he’s reasonable and doesn’t try to break the bank, he could be their quarry — and he’d fit well on a team that’s weak on the wings.

With Kings broadcaster Bob Miller moderating the discussion, the chat was fairly lively and covered many subjects, including the NHL entry draft Friday and Saturday at Staples Center. Bettman said the league should have brought the draft here “many years ago,” to which Leiweke responded that Bettman would have the next five years “to make up for lost time.” 

Both Leiweke and Robitaille hinted they’d like to have the annual outdoor Winter Classic here — which isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds -- but Bettman was a killjoy there, saying he’d like to see how it’s possible to have ice when the temperature is 80 degrees.

Bettman answered some questions from an audience that included local business leaders and some of the Kings’ business partners, but he offered no news on any front. 

The league doesn’t favor relocation and isn’t considering expansion, but if that were to change there are “at least a couple of places in Canada that could support a team.” The decision on whether to allow NHL players to participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics is still being studied and can’t be decided until it’s collectively bargained with the players’ association.

When asked for an update on the league’s TV rights deals with NBC, Versus and ESPN, he said, “Who?” pretending not to know what ESPN was. “It’s good to be on ESPN if you get the proper treatment you deserve,” he said.

He praised NBC’s storytelling capacity and said the NHL doesn’t have to “apologize” for Versus. But he added that broadcast negotiations will come up next year and he’s looking forward to those.
More later from the NHL draft

--Helene Elliott

Rob Blake ends NHL career; former King praised as 'elite-level player' with 'a blue-collar heart'

Elliott_400 Rob Blake officially ended an NHL career that began more than 20 years ago with the Kings, announcing his retirement Friday during a news conference in San Jose.

Blake, who turned 40 in December, played 1,270 NHL games, including 805 with the Kings. While in L.A., he was a four-time all-star, a key member of the 1993 team that lost to Montreal in the Stanley Cup final and won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman in 1998.

He remains the Kings’ leader among defensemen in games played (805), goals (161), assists (333), points (494) and power-play goals (92). Among all Kings players, he ranks fourth in games played, seventh in assists, seventh in points, fourth in penalty minutes (1,231) and fourth in power-play goals.

"I have very fond memories of L.A.," said Blake, the Kings’ fourth-round pick and 70th overall in 1988. "I was fortunate they gave me an opportunity to play. My first partner was Larry Robinson. I played with Tony Granato, Wayne Gretzky, Marty McSorley and had an opportunity to learn so much."

He ended a distinguished career with 240 goals, 537 assists, 777 points and 1,679 penalty minutes -- and a Stanley Cup championship with Colorado in 2001. He also won an Olympic gold medal with Canada in 2002 and a world championship in 1997.

"He’s an elite-level player, but he’s got a blue-collar heart," Doug Wilson, the Sharks’ general manager, said during a news conference attended by several current Sharks. Also in the audience were Granato, former Kings teammate Glen Murray and Kings development executive Nelson Emerson, Blake’s teammate at Bowling Green and with the Kings. Joe Sakic, Blake’s teammate in Colorado, offered a video tribute that praised Blake’s contributions to the Avalanche’s success.

Blake, the Sharks’ captain last season, said that as the season evolved he knew his career was winding up. Though he said he was in good shape and felt fine, “it just seemed like the right time” to retire. “I’ve enjoyed the 20 years, but it’s time to move on to a new step,” he said.

He said he hopes to be involved in hockey again but has no immediate plans beyond spending time with his wife, Brandy, whom he met while playing in L.A., and their two young children. “I envision being in the game many more years,” said Blake, who has long had a home in Manhattan Beach.

Despite the memorable hip checks he dished out -- he was one of the league’s best in his prime -- and his skills in quarterbacking the power play, he’s despised by many Kings fans because of the circumstances surrounding his two departures from the team, in 2001 and again in the summer of 2008. He was loudly booed each time he returned with the Sharks the last two seasons, but did he really deserve that treatment?

To recap: Blake was poised to become a free agent in the summer of 2001. Distracted by contract talks, he briefly relinquished the captaincy before the 2000-01 season began and after the Kings had given him a take-it-or-leave-it offer. He was seeking $9.6 million annually, which the team resisted paying, saying it would have been a quarter of the payroll; the Kings were offering slightly more than $7 million a year.

Then-General Manager Dave Taylor made a last-ditch attempt to sign him, but Blake remained determined to test free agency for the first time. Kings ownership then told Taylor to trade Blake rather than letting him walk away with no return. The team dealt Blake and Steven Reinprecht to Colorado for Adam Deadmarsh, Aaron Miller, Jared Aulin and first-round draft picks in 2001 and 2003. Blake went on to win the Cup with the Avalanche and re-signed with the team, playing four more full seasons.

He returned to the Kings for the 2006-07 season and became a mentor to the young players, even taking Jack Johnson to live with him and his family. Hip surgery in the spring of 2007 slowed Blake considerably and, knowing his time to win the Cup again was limited, he left after the 2007-08 season for San Jose, thinking the Sharks were closer to a championship than the Kings were.

Blake played each of the last two seasons under one-year contracts; the Sharks were upset in the first round of the playoffs in 2009 and lost to eventual champion Chicago in the West finals this season.

The Kings haven’t said anything about retiring his number or otherwise honoring him soon, but they probably will in a few years, and they should. Blake left the first time because he wanted to test free agency, which came later in a player’s career under the old collective bargaining agreement than it does now. The Kings wouldn’t pay him what he wanted, and he left and won the Cup. So did Luc Robitaille.

Blake left the second time because he thought the Sharks were closer to winning the Cup than the Kings, who were then in the early rebuilding stages. He didn’t win the Cup in San Jose, but it’s not his fault Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley develop hollow spaces where their hearts should be once the playoffs begin.

His current and former teammates respected him -- Robitaille offered this tribute -- and in a sport where the team ethic means so much, that says a lot.

-- Helene Elliott

Photo: Rob Blake in 2006. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho.

Luc Robitaille to be honored in Montreal

The Kings' Luc Robitaille, who was inducted into the hockey Hall of Fame in November, is receiving another honor Wednesday morning in a ceremony in Montreal.

Yvon Vallières, president of the National Assembly of Quebec will award the Medal of Honour of the National Assembly to Robitaille, president of business operations for the Kings who also has been honored by the L.A. City Council.

“This is a tremendous honor and not one that I take lightly,” said Robitaille of the National Assembly award.  “I am also thrilled to have my family as part of this special event in my native Quebec.”

-- Debbie Goffa

Luuuuc! Robitaille gets a tribute at home -- and a bobblehead

Lucrobitaille_586

Former King Luc Robitaille, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame last month in Toronto, had a chance today to thank the fans who had adopted him as their own through the 14 seasons he played here.

Robitaille was honored by the Kings in a pregame ceremony that included a donation of $25,000 by the club's management to Echoes of Hope, the charity for which Robitaille and his wife Stacia work so earnestly. Fans at Staples Center received bobbleheads of Robitaille -- wearing the old gold-and-forum-blue jersey colors.

"The bobblehead -- it's the same size. The head is really big," said Robitaille, now the Kings' president of business operations. "It's a little too close to reality."

On a more serious note, Robitaille was glad of an opportunity to personally thank Kings fans for their cheers over the years.

"It's great to do it one more time here in L.A. with all the fans that supported me throughout my entire career," he said. "Even when I left here the fans of L.A. have always supported me."

He was wearing his Hall of Fame ring for the occasion -- but he said he might put it away for safekeeping.

"I banged it the other day so I figured, no, I can't wear it every day," he said, laughing.

More on the Kings' game against the Blues later at www.latimes.com/sports.

-- Helene Elliott

Photo: Luc Robitaille takes part in holiday tree lighting festivities at L.A. Live on Thursday night. Credit: Michael Buckner / Getty Images

Luc Robitaille makes a splash at L.A. City Hall

Lucrob_240 The Los Angeles City Council today honored former hockey great and L.A. Kings executive Luc Robitaille, praising his Hall of Fame career and the work he’s done for children and families in need both in Southern California and Hurricane Katrina-ravaged New Orleans.

Councilman Greig Smith thanked Robitaille not only for being one of the King’s most prolific scorers, but for working with at-risk children at an ice rink in the San Fernando Valley, saying he provided positive activities and alternatives they otherwise would not see.

"That’s what separates the great players from the not-so-great players. They’re willing to give back to the communities they worked in and are stars in," Smith said.

Robitaille played for the Kings for 14 of his 19 NHL seasons and during his career scored 668 goals and racked up 1,394 points, the most ever by a left wing in NHL history.

A ninth-round draft pick in 1984, he was inducted into the hockey Hall of Fame earlier this month.

"I was very fortunate to live my dream," the soft-spoken Robitaille told the council at City Hall after receiving an official proclamation from the city. “It’s been a great ride to live in Los Angeles."

Robitaille retired as a player in 2006 and now serves as the Kings’ president of business operations.

After receiving the City Council honor, Robitaille made another big splash at City Hall. He adopted the city’s “dog of the week,’’ a mutt from the city animal shelter that Councilman Herb Wesson brought in to encourage pet adoptions.

-- Phil Willon

Photo: Luc Robitaille today in a ceremony at the Hockey Hall of Fame. Credit: Courtesy of the Kings.

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