Saturday, August 29, 2009

LA Kings HockeyFest 2009: Day Two - Where Art Thou?

People, people, people...

What is going on?

Kings fans are known for turning out in droves for just about any reason to get together. Minus a few thousand I've seen this weekend, most of you are missing the best event the Kings have done in the 20 years I've been following the team.

This isn't hype. Father I cannot tell a lie. I call it like I see it. I've bitched about plenty of bad decisions made by various people in the organization (both on and off the ice). This is real. Like Dustin Brown last night, I'm speaking from the heart...


Sure there were lots of autograph opportunities with current and former players. However, let's review what has easily turned out to be the shinning stars of the weekend - the various guest speaker sessions...

The first event today was for kids. I missed it. Heard it had several funny moments. Cool enough.

My rankings for the other three sessions and some recap notes:

Number Three - The Enforcers with (the lawyer) Stu Grimson and Brad Norton

Like pluggers and grinders as players, this session was solid. This wasn't your top scoring line, yet they brought it. To be fair, this session was missing that something special or somebody special, like say Marty McSorley.

Nick Nickson did a fine job as host and navigated through the fun, yet predictable, questions of does fighting belong in the league, how has the game changed, who hit you the hardest, what was your best fight, etc. It was ok, no complaints, just clearly the third best of the day. I can only imagine that if McSorley had been there the dynamic - and the stories - would have been so different. It surely would have pressed the other two sessions harder for top ranking.

Number Two - The Triple Crown Line (no explanation needed)

This was the session I was most looking forward to. It didn't disappoint. In fact, probably the only element that kept it from earning my top billing would be time. There was just too much to cover in the time allotted. They could have easily gone another hour...and still had plenty left in the tank. Minor issue and I'm sure things like this will be evaluated and tweaked as we head into dos HF next summer.

Marcel was the star of the show...I know, big surprise...and he could have gone two hours solo. He had some great stories - like the one where he tells kids he remembers every goal he ever scored in the NHL - including the one he scored off his nose. Later he provided some insight into a not so light-hearted event that took place in Pittsburgh back in January 1979 - a phone call that shook him up after the guy threatening to shoot him dead if he scored a goal. The not so fun side of being a pro athlete or celebrity...even in 1979!

There was a funny story about Luc getting into a fight on the first day of his second training camp. Seems he didn't make the team after his first camp, as most young players don't. Management told him to toughen up that year. So, he came back in year two, got into a fight on the first day of camp. Three punches later and he was done. Didn't make the team that year either. Was told to work on his skating. Camp three was the trick. Made the team and...well, you know how that story ends. HOF here he comes!

For the pen pal inclined, Marcel encourages Kings fans to send him emails and interact with him directly at

Finally, the captain. Dave Taylor is the embodiment of a King - it's so weird to hear him say "we" when talking about the Dallas Stars now. I doubt I'll ever get used to him saying those words.

Number One with a bullet - NHL Experts Panel with Jim Fox, Ray Ferraro and Kelly Hrudey

Fox is Fox. I knew what to expect going in.

Ferraro, aka The Big Ball of Hate, is solid. Was expecting funny stories and he delivered.

The intangible for me coming in, Kelly Hrudey.

I've never been a Hrudey fan. Not a hater either. It's just about honesty. He was not an elite goalie in the league. Red Light Hrudey was just the best the Kings had seen in many years and he was surrounded by a high powered offense while in LA. The real rub for me has been how history has been rewritten - as it often is - and people give him too much credit for the Kings run in 92-93. As Hrudey admitted today, he was flat awful for about two months that season. Robb Stauber is sadly overlooked as a key contributor that season, including against Calgary in the playoffs. Want me to tell you how I really feel?

That is all water under the bridge now. I'm willing to let it go.  He was so brilliant today, words can't describe it. Former athletes - hell, current athletes - can sometimes be a bore to listen to when asked certain questions. They give canned answers, politically correct answers and the like. Granted, this usually isn't the case in hockey. So, perhaps my expectations were just low based on my rant in the previous paragraph.

For me, he was the star of the show. So honest, so articulate, so smart, genuine and spoke from the heart. He was real. And the fact that he was equally impressed with Brownie's speech the night before gave me chills all over again. He believes in Dean and he believes in the Kings. FINE - all is forgiven. We can be friends.

Ray-ray had several funnies to share, including a story about Jeff Odgers and Andrew Brunette when they all played together during Atlanta's inaugural season. Odgers ran over Brunette's car with his truck in a story that you simply have to hear from Ray. Too damn funny. He also told his version of the story Luc has mentioned several times about what Luc had to do to reacquire his #20 (now worn by Ray) when Luc came back to the Kings from the Rangers.

And in a little known fact, Ray claims to have gone 1-1-12 in his NHL fights. All 12 draws were by him holding on for dear life.

More on the '93 Finals - I guess all players in the NHL use illegal sticks, most for periods one and two. Supposedly, you can roll a tennis ball under Kovalchuk's stick. When one fan asked about Hrudey's take on stickgate '93 he shared a story I had never heard before - and here I thought that whole stick debacle had been explored from all angles. Apparently, the rumor was they were going to call Hrudey for an illegal stick. However, a scout watching the Toronto series (best series ever, see yesterday's blog) noted the curve on Marty's stick. So, late in game two, it was Marty that Montreal went after. Hrudey remembers went they went into the locker room after three periods in that game, he knew they were emotionally spent. He wasn't conceding the series, just thought they'd be going home 1-1. They did.

As for Foxy, well, looks like he is still looking to acquire a game used jersey from his days in purple in gold. Looks like he kept just one and it donated to a sports museum his friend owns in Newport Beech. Admission is free, so I guess I'm going to have to go down there and check this place out. Jim says he came across one of his jerseys for sale recently, but the seller wanted $1400, so he passed. Let me do some research. Perhaps I can start a "Get Jimmy his Jersey" donation box here on the blog.

That's day two people.

All the alumni seem so blessed and honored to be there. All the fans seem to be having a great time. Smiles all around!

The air conditioned 'autograph and interactive tent' was an added bonus. News of this fest is going to spread like wild fire throughout the season and V2 next August will probably draw a jam packed crowd. The Kings are already talking about how to make next year's event even better. Under discussion is making it a two-day event by moving the Friday night festivities to Saturday evening. Sounds good.

At the Kings Care Foundation booth...I cant believe the game used Frolov jersey went for $500. Wow. Steal of the day. For you curious types, Doughty went for $2250. These were game used and autographed.

This is the BEST event the Kings have hosted in the last 20 years. I can't give enough praise to McChris and his entire staff. Truly a crowning achievement. And we still have one more day to go.

Get off the couch and come down to LA Live on Sunday. Dean and Hex are hosting a session. There is Bob Miller's one man show - not to be missed. Plus, Growing up a King with Bernie Nicholls and Luc Robitaille.

All Kings fans need to be there in person.

Or at the very least, watch it online. Free stream here.

The Mayor

Friday, August 28, 2009

LA Kings HockeyFest 2009: Day One - Offhanded Observations

It's late, so here are just a few notes on opening night of the fest:

* Overall, I give it an 'A'. Great job by McChris and his entire staff. Obviously, a lot of work (and thought) went into the event. Good job. Extra kudos to the video guys. Those were simply perfection.

* Dustin Brown's speech made me believe in him as a captain. I've always loved him as a player. Over the last year I've grown tired of people bitching about his questionable leadership skills. The story about the conversation he had with Greene on the plane home last year should have told you all that you need to know. His whole speech was incredible. "These 20 guys to my right are no longer 20 individuals..." WOW - I still have goose bumps. I'm pumped! Seemed to me to be very heartfelt. He looked deadly serious (sure he was nervous - yet, I believe he meant every word he said). It backed up what Dean told me earlier this month about how impressed he was to have so many players in town in July for their voluntary camp.

* It's about damn time they pulled so many of the alumni together. Quite impressive to see so many former Kings greats all in one place. I hope the organization treats each one of them with class and dignity all weekend. Then word will spread on what a great event it was and more former Kings will want to come next year. I know its hard because lots of guys are employed with other teams (see Gretzky, Rychel, Granato, Robinson, Deadmarsh, etc.). Still. The more the merrier.

* We all have our favorites. However, if I could pick two guys that clearly deserve to be there it would have to be Kurri and Sandstrom. Jari has to be one of the most underrated guys in league history. He scored over 600 goals in his career, yet NOBODY talks about him when discussing the greatest goal scores of all time. He had such a touch. And Sandstrom? Come on! This guy gets taken out by Craig Muni (of the hated Oilers) in the playoffs...then comes back the next game and scores a goal - WITH A BROKEN LEG! Legend status for me, right then, that night. BTW - neither of you were ever Ducks. I've blocked that from my brain. UGH, it still hurts.

* Russ Courtnall - thanks for the cup of coffee you had here. You seem like a cool guy. However, your brother...well, we still need to talk about those playoffs vs. the Kings in 1996.

* Steve Duchesne - I still want my money back. You fleeced the Kings when you signed that big money free agent contract to return in 1998. However, at Luc's retirement dinner in Marina del Rey you were a good sport about all the grief I gave you in the later years in Detroit (after you skipped town with all of that money). So, I'll give you a 10% discount on the money owed all Kings fans.

* Will there ever be a playoff series better than '93 vs Toronto? Doubt it. Funny side note on that series...back then Jim Rome just did a local sports talk show here in LA (long before he was such a big hit nationally). He had Wendel Clark lined up for an interview on one of the off days. I'll never forget he missed the interview, so they booked Coach Burns instead. When he asked what happened to Clark, Burns said he was taking a nap. I love naps too. And I know athletes play at night, so they need their rest. Still, I found it funny. Not as funny as the Cubs' Mark Grace explaining slump busters to Rome...but that's a different story.

* Great to see the team mend fences with guys like Dionne and Taylor. Theses guys are major parts of the Kings history and should be treated like royalty.

* Where's the beef? Noticeably absent during the player introductions was Raitis Ivanans. Although teams like Philly and Washington have been speculated, Dean isn't saying anything just yet. If it is Washington, somebody better tell Kip Brennan (yes that Kip Brennan). The former King, more recently of the AHL, was reportedly trying to hook up with the Caps after Brashear went to the big apple. He thinks he'd be a good fit there. Whatever.

* According to several sources, it does in fact look like the Kings are looking for one more key player before the season starts. Interesting. However, it's not Heatley (who appears headed to SJ after today's deal). And it might not involve Frolov. Even more interesting.

* did a piece on the fest - click here to read

* If you aren't lucky enough to be attending this weekend in person, the Kings will be streaming the event HERE. Super cool. Some of the sessions with former players should be amazing.

Saturday includes -
* Noon – NHL Experts Panel with Jim Fox, Ray Ferraro & Kelly Hrudey
* 2pm - The Enforcers with (the lawyer) Stu Grimson & Brad Norton
* 4pm - The Triple Crown Line (no explanation needed)

More info tomorrow after what should be another fun filled day at the fest.

The PLAYOFF PUSH began tonight.

The Mayor