When it comes to the long and storied career of Luc Robitaille in Los Angeles, one could go on for days and days reliving the highlights of his time with the Kings – all the way from his playing days on the ice to leading the business side of the organization in more recent years. However, there might not be any better place to start than a scouting report narrated by Nick Nickson during a televised game 30 years ago. Playing on March 1, 1985 in Edmonton, this was the update on Robitaille, then just an NHL prospect:
Fast forward to later today, and the player nicknamed “Lucky” soon after NHL legend Marcel Dionne took a liking to him as a rookie, will be immortalized with a statue outside Staples Center. To hear him tell it, Robitaille might be the only person in hockey surprised this honor has finally arrived.
“I really thought I was done [being celebrated],” he said, during an informal gathering with the media earlier this week. “Last year, when Dan Beckerman [AEG CEO] asked me about it, I was shocked, I was taken aback. Anytime your CEO wants to talk to you one-on-one, you don’t know what you’ve done wrong. Most of the time, that’s what you think first. Then, when he mentioned what he wanted to talk about, I didn’t even know what to say at the time. I said, ‘You know me, I’m all about the Kings. I just want the kings to be relevant. We just need more hockey guys out there. Whether it’s me or another guy, as long as we have more hockey guys, I’m happy. So, I’ll take it, if it’s me.’ “
Of course, Robitaille needed a statue. He is the NHL’s all-time leading scorer among left wings, has scored more goals in a Kings uniform that any other player, has his jersey number retired inside the arena, and is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
“I loved to play the game. I love the Kings, I love working for the Kings [and] I love what we’ve accomplished. To have turned this franchise around, as a group – everything that we’re doing, we’re not perfect, but we’re trying to be perfect. And to me, that’s what makes it a lot of fun to be part of,” he continued. “In ‘92-93, I really thought we’d be right back the next year. That’s how hard it is to win a Cup. We didn’t even make the playoffs for five or six years after that, I think. It’s special as a player and I’m glad I got to win it as a player because I feel like what I learned, when I won, I was able to even bring it in the front office. To have my name on the Cup twice as a King is just as special as if I would have been a player at this point. I think that I learned what it took as a player. You have to know what it takes to really know how to become a real champion. I take those values and lessons that I learned, whether when I was in New York or even for a short time in Pittsburgh, and certainly in Detroit. I take a lot of pride in the fact that we’re building our organization and we’re getting to be one of those top organizations now.”
Although he has known about the statue since last summer, the official unveiling prior to tonight’s game vs. the Penguins will still bring a tinge of surprise for Robitaille.
“I still haven’t seen it,” he shared. “When Dan Beckman and Mike Altieri [Kings VP] asked me what I wanted to do, I told them I didn’t want to see it, I didn’t want to know. ‘You guys do it and I’ll see when it comes out. Just do me one favor, show it to my wife. If my wife agrees with it, I know it’s all good.’ So they showed it to her a couple times and at one point she told me it was pretty cool… so, it’s going to be pretty special to see it come out and truly be the first time.”
In addition to his wife, Stacia, Robitaille will have several other family members in town for the special honor, including his father, brother, and sister. Even with all the planning and preparation going on this week – not to mention the countless other celebrations of his career that have taken place since retiring in 2006 – ol’ No. 20 couldn’t help but think back to when he was a teenager and just dreaming of playing in the NHL.
“I was 13 years old, I remember in 1979 I had a picture of Wayne Gretzky in my room and I would watch him. Every time I could see Edmonton I had to watch Gretzky. And now there’s the Gretzky statue and it’s [going to be] Gretzky and me. It’s kind of weird,” he continued. “[The players represented in the other Staples Center statues] are legendary; Jerry West, all those guys. They’re worldwide known athletes and they’re very special people. What they’ve meant to city is truly incredible. To be there amongst that group, it’s kind of hard to describe the feeling; I don’t even know what to say except that it’s very humbling and very special.”
In the end, Robitaille just wants everybody to know one thing, he still has more work to do when he gets back to the office on Monday.
“There is a lot more to accomplish. We love what we’ve done here with the Kings. We have a lot more to give. As an organization, we have a lot more to accomplish. I love the feeling that when people talk about the Kings they’re passionate about it – fans and now the players want to play here. We are slowly but surely becoming a first class organization. To me, it’s an amazing feeling right now, and it’s something we’re going to keep pushing for many more years,” he said. “I don’t know [which Kings player will be next to get a statue], but I do believe there is room for a few more people. The Kings have been so relevant. Staples Center wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the Kings.”
3 MUST-READ ROBITAILLE ARTICLES:
Word Association with Robitaille – Luc on His Teammates
Robitaille Lays Out AHL California Story – Past, Present, Future
Robitaille on AHL Reign, Kings, preseason, and more
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Luc was the first Kings prospect that I religiously followed. In those days I read The Hockey News cover to cover and they always listed the scoring leaders for the junior leagues. Luc and his linemate were always near the top that year. He always loved the game. Whether he scored a goal in a 7-1 romp or a playoff game winner, he celebrated like he just won the lottery. Congratulations Luc!!