LOS ANGELES — With National Hockey League teams opening rookie camps this week, and with training camps opening next week, the 2013-14 NHL season is just about upon us, and our focus will, of course, quickly turn to the teams and their players.
But before Frozen Royalty begins its coverage of the 2013-14 Los Angeles Kings, starting with Friday’s media day during their Rookie Camp (players are expected to be on the ice at 10:00 AM today at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, California), there is one bit of news left from their 2011-12 Stanley Cup Championship to catch up on.
As many are aware, former Kings greats Marcel Dionne and Rogie Vachon each received a Stanley Cup ring from the team during the opening day festivities on January 19, 2013, at Staples Center.
As reported in this space last February, Dionne said that receiving the ring was, “…the closing chapter in my hockey life.”
Vachon said that, “…I had absolutely no idea, no clue, that it was coming. It was just incredible.”
Another Kings alumnus had to wait just a bit longer for his Stanley Cup ring, one who worked 2,632 consecutive games over 34 seasons with the Kings (37 years with the franchise), and was as deserving as anyone.
That Kings alumnus is none other than retired head athletic trainer Pete Demers, who got his start with the Kings organization back in 1971, when he became the head athletic trainer for the Springfield Kings of the American Hockey League, which was the Kings’ AHL affiliate, at the time.
Last week, his Stanley Cup ring finally arrived, just a bit later than anyone hoped.
“I had been waiting for the ring for a long time because the San Francisco Giants won the World Series—Tiffany was all tied up with their World Series rings, and there was a big backlog for any additional rings the Kings wanted,” Demers explained. “So my ring went on the back burner. But last week, it arrived in Cape Breton.”
Demers spends his summers in Nova Scotia.
“I had it shipped there because of the significance of hockey in Canada, and because of all my friends there,” Demers beamed. “I put that ring on wherever I went, and people saw it. I showed it around pretty well.”
Demers, who was named as an athletic trainer honoree in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007, noted that when the package containing the ring arrived, he did not open it right away. But when he did…
“I had tears in my eyes,” he said. “We live our lives in the locker room on emotion, and that was a pretty emotional moment.”
As they were for Dionne and Vachon, Kings President/Business Operations Luc Robitaille, and now-former Kings Governor and Chief Executive Officer, Anschutz Entertainment Group Tim Leiweke were behind the move to get a Stanley Cup ring for Demers.
“The players got theirs [on opening day],” said Demers, who retired in 2006. “Rogie and Marcel got theirs during that ceremony—they were a significant part of our team. But I got a phone call in February from Luc Robitaille, saying, ‘we’re going to get you a ring.’”
“That was Luc’s doing, but Tim Leiweke had his fingerprints on it,” added Demers. “A couple of days later, Luc called me to get my size. But when he called me, he said, ‘Tim is in London, but he called me today to ask if your ring had been ordered,’ so Tim played a big part in it as well.”
Seeing the 2011-12 Kings win the Stanley Cup had Demers overflowing with pride.
“I was there when [Kings captain Dustin Brown] came in [as a rookie in 2003-04],” Demers noted. “He’s a character guy. He plays with heart. I took care of him, so that was a proud moment for me when he lifted the Cup.”
“That’s what it’s all about, and that’s what we work for our whole lives,” Demers added. “In a typical season, you start in the summer. Players are working every day on their conditioning. Then they go to training camp—that’s a long, grueling time. Then exhibition games, and the regular season.”
“The travel, the injuries, you’re away from home. To see that Stanley Cup raised by your own team, that’s what it’s all about. That’s what makes it all worthwhile.”
After the on-ice celebration once they had won the Stanley Cup on June 11, 2012, the celebration moved into the Kings dressing room, a private affair for the players, coaches, and selected team staff. But a few others were invited, including Demers.
“Tim Leiweke brought me down to the locker room, and told me to go in,” said Demers. “I was right there with the guys, and so many of them came to me and said, ‘Pete, this one’s for you.’”
Demers had a bottle of Budweiser beer that he had saved from the Kings’ 1993 Stanley Cup Final, one that he vowed not to open until the Kings won the Stanley Cup.
19 years later, during the locker room celebration, Demers finally got his chance to open that bottle and pour it into the Stanley Cup.
“The beer actually tasted good,” he said. “I poured the beer into the Stanley Cup. Jarret Stoll poured it down the hatch, and he knew the significance. They all did. They were all quiet for a second—somebody explained it. ‘Pete’s got this beer that he saved since 1993.’”
Demers was humbled and honored.
“It’s their show,” he stressed. “I’m retired, and for them to bring me in there, and allow me to share that moment with them—that was a special moment, about as good as it gets.”
Demers never thought that the Kings would fail to win the Stanley Cup while he was working.
“It’s just like fishing,” said Demers. “Every time you go out on the boat, you’re going to catch that big one. That’s what motivates you. But sure…whoever thought that I’d work all those years and not get a Stanley Cup ring?”
“Every year, when training camp starts, you think, ‘this is going to be our year,’” added Demers. “That’s what motivates you—that competition and drive.”
“It was disappointing that we didn’t do it in 1993. But it was well worth the long wait until 2012, and that’s because of the reception my team gives me, to make me a part of it.”
Indeed, Demers continues to play an active role with the Kings, and they have kept him involved.
“A lot of times, after working so many jobs, when you’ve finished a job, that’s it,” Demers noted. “You go home. You’re retired. But I’ve been very, very fortunate that the Kings kept me involved with the Los Angeles Kings Alumni Association. I do lots of stuff. I really enjoy doing that, and I remain a part of it.”
“I would rather have been the trainer for the team [when they won the Stanley Cup], but that’s not tainted at all, because of the warm feeling that my team gives me every time I walk in the door,” Demers added. “I just feel, so much, [like I’m] still a part of it. It’s not like that in business, and hockey has changed now. It’s a real business. But the Kings have preserved their heritage, and they’re working on it more and more.”
Although Demers has only been back home in Los Angeles for a little over 24 hours, as of this writing, you can bet he will be showing off his new jewelry to his friends, family, and probably anyone else, for that matter, as soon as he gets the chance.
“I’m going to wear this ring with pride,” he said.
Given the strong sense of pride that Demers displayed throughout his Hall of Fame career with the Kings, that should come as no surprise whatsoever.
Stick tap to photographer David Sheehan (@calishooterone on Twitter) for his contributions to this story.
Frozen Royalty’s Exclusive Series on Pete Demers
- Retired Athletic Trainer Pete Demers Goes From Stick Boy To 34 Years With Los Angeles Kings
- LA Kings Retired Trainer Pete Demers Had To Be A Jack Of All Trades
- LA Kings Trainer Emeritus Pete Demers On The Evolution of Treatment, Strength And Conditioning
- Retired LA Kings Trainer Pete Demers Dealt With A Cast Of Characters Right From The Start
- LA Kings Retired Trainer Pete Demers Dealt With Much More Than Injuries To Players
- Wayne Gretzky’s Arrival Changes Everything For LA Kings And Retired Trainer Pete Demers
- LA Kings Retired Trainer Pete Demers Was Honored To Serve On International Stage
- Los Angeles Kings Retired Head Athletic Trainer Pete Demers Is A King For Life
- From Blimp Rides To Breaking Televisions To Waxed Doughnuts, LA Kings Trainer Emeritus Pete Demers Has Seen It All
- Retired LA Kings Trainer Pete Demers Recalls Record-Breaking, Injury-Filled Seasons, 2001-02 to 2005-06
- LA Kings Retired Athletic Trainer Pete Demers Looks Back At Controversy Surrounding His 2006 Departure
- Honored In Obscurity: Los Angeles Kings Retired Athletic Trainer Pete Demers
- Frozen Royalty Audio: Interviews From The Pete Demers Series
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