Monday, August 31, 2009

Dustin Brown Interview - 2009 Hockey Fest

Last weekend a bronzed Dustin Brown dropped by Hockey Fest '09 with an extra five pounds of summer muscle and a closely cropped dyed-blond coif. We spoke with the Kings captain about the Los Angeles locker room, his hockey influences, and surfing. These are his stories.

Q: Who are the vocal leaders in the Kings room?
A: Greene’s pretty vocal. O'Donnell says some stuff every once in a while. It’s kind of a communal effort between myself, O'Donnell, and Greene. I kind of stay on the more serious side of things. When something needs to be said I’ll say it. Greene’s more of the rah-rah guy. We have a bunch of guys. Kopitar’s kind of a mix between a rah-rah guy and a quiet guy. We’ve been together for a while so everyone’s comfortable stepping up and saying what needs to be said.

Q: Who are the class clowns on the Kings?
A: I’d say Doughty. He’s one for sure. Greene for sure. Those are the two I can think of right now.

Q: What's coach Terry Murray’s demeanor in the room?
A: He's more of a quiet serious guy. That was a welcome change. Andy Murray would yell a lot. That can be intimidating for a young guy coming in. With all the young guys we had Terry was a really good fit. For them to come in and know they could make mistakes and get corrected on it but not get benched or screamed at is a huge help for them as a player. For guys like me he’ll come and talk to me after. Or he’ll make an example of me, because I was one of the veterans or leaders, and then come to me after and say I just needed to make a point. He’s really good about communicating with the players.

Q: Does GM Dean Lombardi come down to the room very often?
A: Not really. I think he calls a lot of people up to his office and has a meeting with them individually. My relationship with him has changed quite a bit. From a leadership role he wants me to have the pulse of the team and he asks me a lot of questions. I’ve been with him for quite a while now so we’ve gotten to know each other personally which makes it a lot easier. I remember the first time he called me in. You know, the GM, you don’t want to talk to him. Now if something needs to be fixed or corrected it’s a pretty open dialogue between me and him.

Q: Who are your hockey influences?
A: Gretzky and Forsberg. Forsberg plays more of my type of game than Gretzky does. Obviously my parents. And there’s one youth hockey coach, Tom Veneteran, who kind of guided me with my hockey from a young age which was a huge help.

Q: Are there any current players you model your game after?
A: Not really. I try to take bits and pieces from numerous players and kind of make it my own game. It’s hard, you don’t see a lot of guys in the East. Every once in while you’ll go over there and be surprised by certain players. I just sort of cut and paste different things from each player.

Q: Tell me about Chelios’ role at the US national team training camp.
A: He was kind of behind the scenes. Obviously everyone knows who he is and what he’s done for US hockey. You look back at the 1996 World Cup, he was a huge part of that. He’s been a big part of US hockey and a big players advocate, making sure things are done right for the players and by the players. For US hockey I think there’s a youth movement going on and it’s nice to have a guy that's been through all this and is a big part of US hockey. He connects us to the past. We have a pretty good program but we’ve only won two Olympic medals and the last one was 30 years ago.

Q: Do you surf?
A: Occasionally.

Q: Who do you paddle out with?
A: Well right now I have one of the prospects Corey Elkins living with me. We went to the beach yesterday and got thrashed pretty good.

Q: Where did you go?
A: We were in Hermosa.

Q: What type of board do you ride?
A: Kind of a hybrid. I don’t know. It’s not a longboard or a shortboard. I’m not great with the surf lingo.

Many thanks to Dustin for speaking with us. Best of luck this season.

Rob Scuderi Interview - 2009 Hockey Fest

Last weekend stay-at-home blueliner and Stanley Cup champ Rob Scuderi attended Hockey Fest '09. Signed by the Kings on July 2nd to a four year $13.6m deal, Scuderi brings his team leading +23 rating and consecutive Cup Finals appearances to a franchise in desperate need of defensive responsibility and playoff experience.

We asked The Piece about the logistics of hosting and hoisting the Cup, his Game 6 save, and decision to sign with LA. These are his stories.

Q: How did you spend your day with the Cup this summer?
A: I had it on July 17th. We took it for a couple pictures in the morning at my father's police department where he worked and then my mother’s high school where she taught chemistry. I brought it to a local rink where I played when I was younger. A lot of kids came out to see it and I signed some stuff. And then I took it to the beach and we had a beach party for the rest of the day. So it worked out great. We had a really good time.

Q: How was it decided when players would have their day with the Cup?
A: It’s kind of a strange pecking order between veterans picking some of their dates and then where it’s going. It’s based more on location. It came to the East Coast for two weeks and the guys living on the East Coast kind of battle it out for which dates you get based on who has more seniority and things like that. I couldn’t complain. Some guys got it on a Tuesday. At least I got a Friday.

Q: Was Cup's keeper Phil Pritchard there?
A: We had Mike Bolt. I think they have four or five guys. He was really great all day in terms of helping us out, knowing the best ways to do things, and taking pictures. He was awesome. So it was great to have him around that day.

Q: Did anyone pee in the Cup when it was with you?
A: No. Not with Mike around. He’d knock your block off. Nah, it was a lot of fun but a very easy going party with close family and friends.

Q: In Game 6 of the Cup Finals you saved a tying goal in the dying seconds of the third period. Did Fleury buy you a beer afterwards?

A: No. He's the type of guy who always apologizes for being out of position or letting in a goal. So I was glad that I could help him out. He's bailed me out enough times, saving my butt over mistakes, so I think we’re more than even.

Q: When the Penguins won the Cup was there a discussion as to how the hardware would be passed from player to player?
A: It’s basically based on experience. How long you've been in the league, how many games you've played, things of that nature. Everyone has a feel for kind of where they are. Most of the guys respect the veterans and the fact that they’ve been able to play in such a good league for so long so that's why they get it first. And it basically works its way down to the younger guys and the guys with less experience.

Q: So everyone just found a place in the line?
A: Yeah. You’re kind of standing there and you’re looking, saying well I’m in front of him and probably behind these two guys. So that's basically what happens. Everyone’s going to get their time with it. I think it’s just a way to kind of respect the older guys and what they’ve done.

Q: How did you pick Los Angeles as a destination in free agency?
A: When it came down to it money was a factor but the money was about the same everywhere. I think the biggest thing for me is that this group has a chance to turn it around. Just like you've seen with Pittsburgh and a team like Chicago. When you look at this group and the pieces that they have, they’re right there. I’d just like to be a part of it.

Q: What other teams were you considering?
A: There were a few - Montreal, Minnesota - all quality organizations. But when I took a step back and kind of looked at it I thought this would be the best place for my family and for my career.

Many thanks to Rob for speaking with us. Best of luck this season.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Los Angeles Kings 2009 Hockey Fest

Tied with Phoenix for the NHL's second longest active playoff drought (6 seasons) behind Florida (8 seasons), Los Angeles has been looting the annual NHL Entry Draft as of late and appears poised for improvement.

To celebrate what they hope will be a breakthrough season in their rebuilding process the team is staging an inaugural interactive extravaganza two weeks prior to training camp. Behold Hockey Fest '09.

Facing off on Friday August 28th with player appearances and a musical performance, Hockey Fest '09 at L.A. Live hits its stride on Saturday August 29 and Sunday August 30 with an action packed program including a seven part speaker series featuring roster royalty from the franchise's 42 year history, 17 NHL trophies (excluding the Stanley Cup), the debut of EA Sports' NHL 10, a street hockey tournament, autograph sessions, game worn memorabilia, and a beer garden.

Friday August 28th: 6pm-10pm
6pm-10pm: Kick off party with the team, alumni, and Eddie Kowalczyk

Saturday August 29th: 9am-6pm
10am-11am: Kids Press Conference hosted by Heidi Androl
(Anze Kopitar, Matt Greene, Wayne Simmonds, Teddy Purcell)
12pm-1pm: NHL Experts Panel hosted by John Buccigross
(Ray Ferraro, Jim Fox, Kelly Hrudey)
2pm-3pm: The Enforcers hosted by Nick Nickson
(Stu Grimson, Brad Norton)
4pm-5pm: Triple Crown Line hosted by Bob Miller
(Marcel Dionne, Dave Taylor, Charlie Simmer)

Sunday August 30th: 9am-3pm
10am-11am: Kings Hockey Operations hosted by Daryl Evans
(Dean Lombardi, Ron Hextall, Terry Murray)
12pm-1pm: Bob Miller’s One Man Show hosted by Bob Miller
2pm-3pm: Growing Up Kings hosted by Jim Fox
(Luc Robitaille, Bernie Nicholls, Mark Hardy)

Other attendees include Bob Berry, Gary Edwards, Rogie Vachon, Jamie Storr, Nelson Emerson, Glen Murray, Russ Courtnall, Jamie Kompon, Peter Demers, Gene Carr, Mike Murphy, and Ian Turnbull.

Desperately trying to translate their maxim of "Pride=Passion=Power" into performance, points, and playoffs, the Kings will settle instead for promotion this weekend at Hockey Fest '09. Other teams would be well served to take a play from the Kings marketing manual and offer such inexpensive access to the hockey heroes of their hometown faithful.

For live updates from the Fest all weekend long follow @puckreport on Twitter. Three day passes ($45-$60) and single day tickets ($17-$37) may be purchased here with complete schedule information residing here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Of Kings, Seals, Sharks, and Ducks

Preceded by the pros of the PCHL and WHL, the NHL made its California debut in their league-doubling 1967 expansion when two of the six new squads (California Seals, Los Angeles Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, St. Louis Blues, Minnesota North Stars) landed in the Golden State. 23 years later, two more were added (Anaheim Mighty Ducks, San Jose Sharks) two years apart. Today three remain.

Winless in their sole Cup appearance (1993) and six seasons separated from the playoffs, the Kings are best known for the biggest playoff game comeback in NHL history (Miracle On Manchester), the high scoring Triple Crown Line, and snatching and crowning the game's leading man (Wayne Gretzky).

Bearing three names (California Seals, Oakland Seals, California Golden Seals) before becoming Cleveland's Barons (1976) and folding into the Minnesota North Stars (1978), the Seals never won a playoff round nor managed a winning regular season record in their terse nine year tenure.

An only child of the 1991 expansion, the Sharks have reached the playoffs with 70 percent success and last year claimed the Presidents' Trophy for the league's best regular season record. Oddsmakers list the Sharks as California's team to beat.

Launched in 1993 alongside the Florida Panthers, Disney's Mighty Ducks realized their Bad News Bears destiny a decade later in a Game 7 loss in the 2003 Cup Finals to the New Jersey Devils. Upon removing the "Mighty", the Ducks immediately returned to the Finals and won the Cup in 2007.

Of the 82 combined seasons of NHL hockey played in California (Kings 41, Seals 9, Sharks17, Ducks 15), the state has yielded 39 trips to the postseason (Kings 18, Seals 2, Sharks 12, Ducks 7), three trips to the Stanley Cup Finals (Kings 1993, Ducks 2003, Ducks 2007), one Stanley Cup win (Ducks 2007), and one Presidents' Trophy (Sharks 2009).

In terms of California firsts, the Seals renamed (>1967), relocated (1976), and folded (1978), the Kings made the Finals (1993), the Ducks won the Cup (2007), and the Sharks took the Presidents' Trophy (2009).

All three California teams appear poised to perform this season.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ice Hockey In California

Better known for its liberal leanings, congested freeways, and sun-drenched shorelines, you might be surprised to learn that the Golden State is intimately intertwined with the Coolest Game on Earth.

That's right. Stashed safely behind its first line industries of Hollywood, high tech, and wine, the country's largest economy and most populated state has a rich history and active role in ice hockey.

On top of its three NHL franchises (Kings, Sharks, Ducks) California is home to Frank Zamboni's famed ice resurfacer, the largest interactive hockey exhibit in North America, the top retailer of ice hockey gear, a pre-season hockey festival that rivals the NHL's All-Star weekend, a famed off-season training camp for the league's elite, and is a wrist shot away from manufacturers providing over half of the sticks in the NHL.

In the coming weeks we'll take you behind the scenes at Zamboni, the Science of Hockey, Hockey Giant, Hockey Fest '09, T.R. Goodman's Pro Camp Sports, and the Warrior and Easton stick manufacturing facilities, meeting the players and personalities en route.

Buckle up. The California hockey vacation starts now.