Playing Robitaille's retirement was a dream gig
Posted: Wednesday January 24, 2007 5:47PM; Updated: Wednesday January 31, 2007 1:35PM
I cannot remember the day I became a fan of the Los Angeles Kings. I can remember the Triple Crown line of Marcel Dionne, Dave Taylor and Charlie Simmer; the mania in the man who was Dave "Tiger" Williams; and the first Emperor, Rogie Vachon.
Back in the day, I was the kid scalping nosebleeds, then sneaking down between periods to watch Jay Wells, Larry Playfair, Garry Galley, and Jim Fox. I saw Daryl Evans score the unthinkable, and I was a one of the seven- to eight thousand who showed up on a typical purple and gold night when the Lakers were out of town.
I dug the Pumper Nicholl Kid.
When Moses came to Cali and Tinseltown became hockey town, I was lucky enough that pops could afford Senate Seats at the Fabulous Forum. I saw Magic on Mondays and Greatness on Wednesdays. As time moved along, I embraced Jari K., Tony G., Larry Legend, Marty Mac, and the entire new and improved court. (The latter to such a degree that I named my band Five for Fighting after a McSorley - Bob Probert discussion).
During the Campbell Conference Finals in 1993, a buddy and I followed Barry's Boys to Toronto by spontaneously boarding a red-eye to JFK, pinching a hopper to Buffalo, and rent-a-wrecking to the old Maple Leaf Gardens for Game 3. Barely making face-off due to a dispute at the border relating to a prior Mr. McSorley and Mr. Wendel Clark will fest, I was christened by 15 pitchers of beer from the Leaf Colonnade section on our way to a 4-2 victory.
That was my favorite King moment.
I was also at the first game ever played by Luc Robitaille.
A lot was said about Luc Robitaille in the weeks leading up to the retirement of his jersey at Staples Center on January 20. The left wing's career has been dissected, resurrected, deconstructed, corrected, seconded, and sold by much smarter hockey heads than me.
That said, speaking on behalf of the core fans who have grinded with the Kings for decades (including my Mom), frankly, we just love Luc Robitaille. And it's not the goals, the playoff runs, and the Magic Johnson smile...
To truly understand why, look no further than last Saturday's ceremony at Staples. In fact, you never need to have seen Stacia's husband play one game.
If I may approach the bench...
Like most ceremonies, the Kings brought in former coaches, players, and team personnel to share in the event with the Robitaille family. As someone who's been to a few of these things (I do live in L.A., for God's sake), I'm used to the typical: Thank the fellow multi-billionaire teammate, shout out to the coach, fan love speech, grab the keys to the truck or rocking chair...tip it, flip it, drop it, plaaaaaaaaay ball.
This was not that.
This one was typical Luc.
Forget the notes, forget protocol, forget the 10 grand per minute penalty for pushing back face-off. Just a joyous trip down memory lane, thanking and appreciating every teammate, coach, trainer, commissioner, friend, and Zamboni driver who'd come to share in his moment on the melting Staples Center ice. Luc's every word bearing the same selflessness and childlike humanity that we've seen from the Lucky one throughout a career and a quarter of a life.
Yes the goals helped...but that wasn't it...not by a long slapper...
On opening night 21 years ago, if you had told #20 (you would have had to speak French) that he would one day have his jersey racked next to his budding mentor Marcel, The Godfather of LA Hockey, Rogie, The Ultimate King Dave, and Dream Teammate #99, I doubt you would have gotten much more than that smile and possibly a little roll of the eyes.
Hell. . .if you would have told a certain Paul McCartney want-to-be in row 3B -- who was hiding out from the ushers -- that in two decades he would be playing his songs to a ballroom loaded with almost every King mentioned on this page while honoring one of LA's finest gentleman and athletes, well, it's likely that you had just gone a few rounds with a Tiger...or had taken a Jimmy Carson laser off your noggin.
Still...these are the Kings.
And they're known for producing a Miracle or two.
Musician John Ondrasik is the creative force and voice of the platinum award-winning band Five for Fighting. His SI.com column will appear each month during the NHL season.