A cold one with Luc Robitaille
Talking Kingly glory, top fighters, and the fame game
Posted: Thursday November 15, 2007 1:57PM; Updated: Friday November 16, 2007 10:53AM
Over a pre-game beer in the Grand Reserve Room at Staples Center, I recently had the chance to talk to Hall of Fame-bound and current L.A. Kings President of Business Operations Luc Robitaille. Reminiscing about the golden age of the old Forum Club, a mid-90s Hollywood hockey hot spot, we talked Kings history, the team's current roster of promising young talent, marketing (a major part of Luc's new gig), and his desire to bring back the buzz to a team that is now playing second fiddle to the defending Stanley Cup champion Ducks down the road in Anaheim.
Perhaps most intriguing to me was Luc's frank discussion of being a family man in the sometimes selfish occupation of a professional athlete. I, of course, inquired about the greatest fighter to ever share Lucky Luc's ice. As we sat down to chat, former Kings owner Bruce McNall, the man who brought Gretzky to LA, wandered over, thus amping my blast from the past.
John: You know, seeing Bruce McNall brings me back to '93 and, some would say, the glory days of the Kings. Do you think about the past at all?
Luc: It's always about the present, and what we can do for the future. In the early nineties, Bruce created something special here. How can we bring that back? I try to learn from the good things that were done.
John: Well, we are sitting here in the GRC. I know you're trying to recapture the old days of the Forum Club, where you had to get through three or four bodyguards, you had to know somebody. The players and coaches would come back and Hollywood's Who's Who were up there along with some pretty ladies. Can you speak about what you're trying to do here with the Kings?
Luc: That's what we're trying to do. It's a little bit different at the Staples Center. At the Forum it was easy. We're trying to recreate it here because it's a great room, the Grant Reserve Room. We've had players come out. We've had [musical] performances after the games and so forth. Right now we're starting to get fans who are calling about it and starting to hear about it. We're going to throw a couple of big charity events in the next few months. We're doing one for the fire victims. The bottom line is our players like it. This is LA. There's no other city like it. We need to go out of our way to cater to the right people.
John: I know you've been reaching out a lot to Hollywood. [Before the season-opener, Robitaille and producer Jerry Bruckheimer hosted a Meet The Kings bash at Wolfgang Puck's in The Beverly Wilshire Hotel that was attended by Constance Zimmer, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Mary Hart, Tom Arnold and other notables, including Kings all-timers like Marcel Dionne.]
Luc: A lot of guys in Hollywood are huge Kings fans. We're hockey people and we give entertainment. Hollywood understands things like mixing music with an event, mixing lighting and so forth. We're just at the infancy stage of working with that, but I really think going forward this could make a difference. It could help the NHL altogether.
John: I actually went to Game One of [last season's] Stanley Cup Final and I sat next to Mr. Bettman. It was all I could do to restrain myself [laughs] about some of the marketing choices the NHL's made in the last few years. What specifically do you think the NHL could really do for outreach?
Luc: The biggest thing is you gotta find a way for people to see the game. It doesn't matter what channel it's on, it's how you market and promote it. You gotta tell people to go to a certain station, but I think we need to work harder at it. Look at the NFL. The NHL's never really done a good job of marketing players. People on the inside say that hockey players are the nicest guys, but then nobody talks about them. I think we need to make sure people see our players. We have Sidney Crosby, we have Alex Ovechkin. We need a couple guys in New York and LA. For us, we have Anze Kopitar and Michael Cammalleri. The Rangers signed a couple stars in Drury and Gomez.
John: Do you think Versus has enough coverage to do what the NHL really needs to do as far as exposure?
Luc: I look at the deal with Versus as the same thing as when we were on ESPN2. When we started on ESPN2 they had, what, 50 million [homes]? The next thing you know, they were at 90, and then they forgot where they came from. We were their main sport. Versus started at about 60. Then they were around 80 and I'm hoping over the next two years we can get about a 100 million and then we'll see. At the end of the day, I think we need to market the players and people will find the channel.