Los Angeles Kings HockeyFest 2009 Opens

LOS ANGELES — The dreaded lull is coming to an end.

For hockey fans, the period immediately following the July 1 unrestricted free agent signing spree through the opening of National Hockey League team training camps is usually so slow in terms of news that desperate hockey fans will eat up just about anything that’s published or broadcast, no matter how ridiculous, outlandish or just downright phony it might be.

Logo courtesy Los Angeles Kings
Thankfully, we are now about one week away from the opening of rookie camps across the league, with training camps opening a week later.

Here in the Los Angeles area, hockey fans are getting a head start on ending the dreaded lull.

For all of you Los Angeles Kings fans out there, unless you’ve been marooned on a deserted island, stuck in the middle of the Sahara Desert, on a long backpack trip through a wilderness area, or just taking a vacation from all things hockey, you have certainly seen and heard the total media blitz (television commercials, radio spots, Kings officials talking it up on radio interviews, newspaper and web stories) about the Los Angeles Kings HockeyFest 2009.

HockeyFest is a three-day hockey “extravaganza” in which the Kings will celebrate the game of hockey with their own fans and hockey fans in general.

The event opened on Friday night with Kings players, alumni, coaches, front office staff and special guests in the Nokia Theatre at LA Live, across the street from Staples Center in Downtown Los Angeles.

Saturday features a Kids Press Conference and an NHL Experts Panel. The highlight of the day will likely be a speakers series featuring the Triple Crown Line of Marcel Dionne, Charlie Simmer and Dave Taylor, one of the all-time great forward lines in NHL history.

On Sunday, Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi, Vice President/Assistant General Manager Ron Hextall and head coach Terry Murray will engage the crowd in a question and answer session about the team and its current direction. The day will also feature a session entitled, “Growing Up Kings,” featuring Kings alumni.

Sunday’s highlight will undoubtedly be “Bob Miller’s One-Man Show,” featuring the long-time “Voice of the Kings” who will tell stories about his experiences in broadcasting.

With Miller’s 36 years of experience, he has a ton of great stories from his time as the Kings’ play-by-play man. If you have read his book, Bob Miller’s Tales of the Los Angeles Kings, (and even if you haven’t), you know what a great storyteller Miller is. If you can only attend one session during HockeyFest, this is the one to attend.

Another highlight of the weekend is that seventeen NHL trophies and other memorabilia from the Hockey Hall of Fame will be on display, with the notable exception of the Stanley Cup, which is currently with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

If all that sounds boring to you (for children and teenagers, it probably does), and for anyone who wants to get an idea of what it is like to play the game, don’t worry…HockeyFest has something for you, too, including hockey video games, a street hockey tournament…you can even put on the pads and find out what it’s like to be an NHL goaltender.

For more details and the complete schedule, click on: HockeyFest 09 Schedule.

Kings President/Business Operations Luc Robitaille was pleased to see a nice crowd on hand, even though Southern California is being ravaged by several wildfires once again.

“I’m really excited,” said Robitaille. “We’ve got fires everywhere and to see this kind of crowd—we sold a ton of tickets but we were kind of nervous to see if they’d show up. But then I looked out I couldn’t believe the crowd we had.”

“It just shows the support this city has for our team,” added Robitaille. “It’s certainly something the players—they’re very young, but they’re starting to understand that when they turn it around, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

For the Kings, who continue to struggle to keep their heads above water in terms of relevance here in Southern California, HockeyFest is one effort aimed squarely at putting the Kings in the forefront, at least for a weekend.

“It’s one of those things, as an organization, that we [must] stay relevant during the summer,” Robitaille stressed. “Hockey fans are hockey fans. They love everything that has to do with hockey. So we really felt that by doing this, we’d really please our fans.”

“We started talking about it two years ago when we were talking about doing some kind of event in the summer,” Robitaille elaborated. “We had our draft party [in 2008] and our fans loved it. We were looking to do something else, but at the time, the [Nokia Theatre] had just been built, the hotel wasn’t in. To tell the truth, we were thinking at first to start it next year. But then we started asking around, we did some research and our fans were excited about it.”

“We said ‘well, it makes sense for the team.’ There’s a lot of great, young players who have only been with us a year, so we thought, ‘why not do it this year,’ knowing that next year, we’ll be able to do it in the hotel next door.”

But for the Kings, who plan on holding HockeyFest annually, the event is not just for their already-hooked fans.

“This is about anyone who’s interested in hockey and, at the same time, anyone who’s interested in sports because the greatest thing about hockey players is that they’re reachable. You can talk to them, just to understand our game,” said Robitaille. “We’ve got a lot of interactive games. Anyone who wants to try, for example, [to find out] what it feels like to be a goalie, can do that this weekend.”

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