When Luc Robitaille recently joined us to kick off the second season of Kings Of The Podcast, among a plethora of topics discussed were some World Junior Championship memories. In typical fashion, the Hockey Hall of Famer had a great story to share about his involvement with Team Canada back in 1986…
“That tournament changed my career, for sure,” began Robitaille. “I was lucky. To give you a quick story on this one – the year before, I had led my junior team in scoring and I was a ninth round pick by the Kings. I had like 150 points but they didn’t even invite me for the summer camp. The day before the camp started… Stephane Richer, he was invited to the camp but he knew he was gonna make Montreal’s NHL team [in October], so he didn’t want to go to camp and take up a spot. Apparently, he had shoulder surgery at the last minute too. So my junior coach, Pat Burns, he called me and said, ‘Are you in shape?’ This was, like, towards the end of July. I said, ‘Yeah!’ He said, ‘Well, if you want, you have a spot now to go to Team Canada’s summer camp. I was like, ‘You’re kidding, right? I’m gonna go!’ I literally got on a plane the next day; I think it was my second time in my life on a plane. I had to go to Bellville, then I think I landed in Toronto. I can’t remember exactly how it went.
“The camp was seven days and we had seven scrimmages in a row. I was literally the 40th guy invited. It was two teams of 20. Wendel Clark was there. Shayne Corson was too. There were a lot of great players. After the seven scrimmages, I led all of Team Canada in scoring. So, they kinda had to re-invite me at Christmas to the selection camp.
“But the funny thing about it is, when I came to the Christmas camp, all the guys there, it’s just like today, most of the guys were first or second-round picks. The day before the last roster cut, I’ll never forget — I had a meeting where coach Terry Simpson, I’m looking around the room and we’re all sitting there, two left-wingers, two centers, two right-wingers and about four defensemen. Camp had been about a week and I had sprained my ankle before camp so I was struggling all week. The coach said to me, ‘Luc, we like what we have seen out of you. We obviously really liked your summer camp. But, we need a little bit more. We need just to see a little bit more.’ I remember, I walked out of the room and I looked next to me and saw the other left-winger that was there was named Dan Gratton. He was the LA Kings first-round pick the year after I was drafted, and Dan Gratton had made Team Canada’s World Junior team the year before and they won the gold medal. So, I’m walking back to my room thinking, ‘I don’t have much of a chance here. The other guy they’re telling me they need to see more from already, he played for that team and won a gold medal last year.’ I’m competing with him. So, I’m thinking, ‘Man, that’s a lot of pressure.’
So the next day, I did the only thing I knew what to do to make the team… I got a hat trick. They kept me and they cut Dan Gratton, so that was a real career turnaround for me. It really helped me.”
And, as they say, the rest is history.
To hear more from Luc, be sure the check out his full KOTP interview below.
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