Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ice Hockey In Sweden

Slighty larger than California, latitudinally aligned with Alaska, and with a population numerically akin to North Carolina, this Scandinavian stronghold bordered by Norway, Finland, and the Baltic Sea is best known for producing reliable cars, self assembly furniture, marvelous meatballs, and beautiful women.

The quaint country of 9.2 million, however, is also a hotbed of ice hockey winning Winter Olympic gold in two of the past four tournaments (1994, 2006) and supplying the NHL with over 5% of its skaters.

Last month we visited the northern outposts of Örnsköldsvik and Umeå for a preseason festival featuring four teams (Modo Hockey, Skellefteå, Luleå, Björklöven) from the nation's top two leagues (Elitserien, HockeyAllsvenskan) to learn more about the country's puck rich culture.

In the coming weeks we'll describe the local league system and live game experience and take you behind the scenes at Modo Hockey to explore their close knit relationship with the Vancouver Canucks, meeting players who have skated with both clubs (Markus Näslund, Josh Green, Tomáš Mojžíš) and introducing you to some of their top tier homegrown talent (Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Peter Forsberg, Victor Hedman).

Next stop, Sweden.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

2009 NHL Preseason Schedule Visits New Markets

This year's NHL preseason schedule has half the league facing off in eleven non-NHL North American cities. Of these fifteen traveling teams, one has four such games (NYI), two play thrice (LAK, TBL), three play twice (OTT, EDM, PHO), and nine play once (VAN, FLA, PHI, TOR, SJS, CGY, BOS, MTL, COL). Here's a closer look at the pairings and places.

Date: -Teams ---------- City
9/14: NYI v. VAN ---- Terrace, BC
9/15: FLA v. OTT ---- Halifax, NS
9/17: PHI v. TOR ---- London, ON
9/17: LAK v. SJS ---'- Ontario, CA
9/19: CGY v. NYI ---- Saskatoon, SK
9/20: EDM v. NYI --- Saskatoon, SK
9/20: BOS v. MTL --- Quebec City, QC
9/21: OTT v. TBL ---- Saskatoon, SK
9/22: LAK v. NYI ---- Kansas City, MO
9/22: PHO v. TBL --- Everett, WA
9/23: PHO v. TBL ---' Loveland, CO
9/24: EDM v. TBL --- Winnipeg, MB
9/26: COL v. LAK ---- Las Vegas, NV

Throwing a bone to some undersized markets while test driving a selection of expansion and relocation possibilities, the league has conveniently sent a few financially troubled teams (NYI, TBL, PHO) on a beauty contest to venues that may one day be home.

No surprise that Hamilton didn't make the cut this year. Perhaps next season they'll have a team of their own.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Rob Blake Interview - Pro Camp Sports

Last week we met with Norris winner (1998), Triple Gold Club member, and 20 season veteran Rob Blake at Gold's Gym in Venice Beach to discuss his off-season training with T.R. Goodman, rookie residence with Wayne Gretzky, and love for surfing. These are his stories.

Q: Tell me about training with T.R. Goodman at Pro Camp Sports.
A: Well they’re pretty grueling early morning circuits non-stop for an hour. But you know there’s nine or ten of us out there and it’s kind of a competition. I’ve been doing it for 15 years now. It’s kind of the pre-game ritual I do before training camp every year.

Q: How many weeks do you spend at Pro Camp?
A: I start right away here when I get home. Now the kids are in school so I’m not back until the beginning of June. But I’m here from June right on through training camp.

Q: Is the workout this intense every morning?
A: This is the month of August so he turns it up. You know before it’s weight training and preparing you for these circuits and then the month of August is all these circuits. High tempo and high reps. It keeps your heart rate up for an hour pretty good.

Q: Does T.R. split you guys up by position, seniority, or something else?
A: Kind of seniority now. You pick your times. They've got an early morning group going at 6am so those are the young guys usually. The guys who have been around for a while take the 8am spot.

Q: Tell me about living with Wayne Gretzky when you moved to LA?
A: Well just being able to be around him and seeing how he acts as a professional I mean that's the thing you want to learn the most. The hockey skill and talent will come but learning how to be a professional prolongs your career. Being surrounded by him, Tony Granato, Marty McSorley, Charlie Huddy, and Jari Kurri, guys like that help you become a better professional.

Q: I understand you’re an avid surfer.
A: Yeah.

Q: What kind of board do you ride?
A: Well I’ve got a few different ones. Anywhere from 10’ down to 7’. And now we do a lot of stand up paddle surfing (SUP) with the bigger board. That’s more of a hobby in the summer. We kind of put it after this. We’ll go home and if it’s nice out we’ll go out and surf or paddle. It’s a little extra workout.

Q: Where are your favorite breaks?
A: I go right in front of our house. We’re in Manhattan Beach. So for the most part we go there. If we take trips we’ll go down to San Onofre, which is down by San Diego, or El Salvador. A friend of ours has a place down there.

Q: Who do you paddle out with?
A: Most times Glen Murray and Nelson Emerson. Sean O’Donnell will come out sometimes too. We have a little local group. There’s a few neighbors that go out too. We kind of take that to ourselves there.

Q: Did Paul Kariya used to surf with you?
A: He did. When we’d go down south we used to surf with Paul a lot. Joe Sakic was down there. There was quite a few guys that used to make the journey every once in a while.

Q: Who’s the best surfer in the group?
A: Glen Murray is pretty good. Paul won’t let me say that though. Paul would like to say him for sure.

Q: Describe the transition from Los Angeles to Colorado to San Jose.
A: I mean, you know a few different types of organizations. Playing in California is one thing where you’re surrounded by hockey when you’re at the rink but outside of that there’s not a lot of it. When you go to Colorado it’s more of a sports town, a hockey town, and people outside of the rink would recognize the hockey. Plus they had a franchise that was at the top of the game at the time. You know, winning two Cups and being that competitive for five or six years. It was a fun atmosphere.

Q: What are the next steps for the team in San Jose?
A: Well we got to figure out a way to get through the playoffs. I mean we’ve got a strong team, you have to be to win a Presidents' Trophy. But the matter that counts is the playoffs and we got to find a way to do that.

Q: Have you guys got a spot for Chelios on the blueline?
A: I hope so. I hope so. He could definitely add a lot to our team for sure.

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

T.R. Goodman Interview - Pro Camp Sports

On an early August morning at Gold's Gym in Venice Beach we spoke with famed trainer and founder of Pro Camp Sports T.R. Goodman about his reputed off-season regime for NHL athletes and his top-tier clientele. These are his stories.

Q: Is Pro Camp just for hockey players or do you train other athletes?
A: Well at this time of year it’s just hockey but at different times we’ve had NFL guys and all different kinds. Sometimes we prepare businessmen that we have as clients during the regular part of the year to be able to try and come out here and workout with the pros. So sometimes there's just regular fitness people that are looking forward to the challenge.

Q: Is it the same program for each athlete or is it sport specific?
A: Some things are similar because your shoulder joint is your shoulder joint whether you’re a hockey player or a baseball player. But as you project the training out let’s say from the first week to the twelfth week then things start to change because the needs and requirements for a baseball player are somewhat different than they are for a hockey player. I mean shooting the puck is obviously not the same kind of shoulder rotation as it would be for a baseball player swinging the bat or throwing a baseball. So certain things have to change but in the beginning a lot of things are similar.

Q: Who are your favorite athletes to train?
A: Hockey players by far.

Q: What’s the class size you shoot for out there?
A: It’s not really the size of the class, it’s more the matchups. You take a guy like Rob Blake who’s been in the league a while, he’s got some individual awards and has won a Stanley Cup, and you put him next to Chris Chelios who’s six or eight years older, has got two more Norris trophies than he does and two more Stanley Cups. It gives him something to shoot towards. Not having that would make it more difficult for me to take a guy like Blake and always put something in his face to motivate him to strive for a higher level. So it’s more of a combination of that than it is trying to get a certain number of people.

Q: As a former college hockey player do you ever skate with these guys?
A: I used to skate with them at least a couple times a year but I don’t skate more than that usually. After college I didn’t do anything for like ten years. I didn’t even look at a hockey game until I started training Chelios and Alan May. Then I said, you know, maybe I should watch again and see if there’s things that I could pick up that would make the training a little more specific. And then I started to play in the leagues again out here to try to get used to seeing how the workouts would feel in my body. Once I got a sense of that I just stopped. You know, it’s time to turn the page in life.

Q: How many students do you have right now in Pro Camp?
A: About 15 to 20. Somewhere in that range.

Q: How many weeks or months does the program last?
A: Some guys get here in May. It depends on when they’re done in the year. Some guys get here in June. We go all the way until the end of August. Some guys will stay through the first week of September.

Q: Who are some of your favorite students and why?
A: You got to say Chelios because his competitive drive is a blessing. It’s a blessing for me because it helps to create an atmosphere that would be difficult for me to recreate on my own. You know, like I say you take an older veteran like Sean O’Donnell or Blake and when they think that they want to jack off you got somebody like that who comes in and it just elevates the thing for everybody. Rick Tocchet was one of my favorite guys to work with because his intensity was equal to Chelios but his strength was even greater. He was great to have. I mean there’s been so many great guys over the years. If there’s some guy I don’t like I just don’t work with them. So it’s a difficult question to answer because each guy brings their own things that make them special and make it fun to look forward to having them here.

Q: You were talking about matchups with Blake and Chelios. Do you pair players by position to motivate one another?
A: Sometimes positional but it’s more intensity level. One of the mistakes I made was putting Chelios and Tocchet together. That was the worst mistake I could ever make because they’re so competitive and they would be going back and forth and they would lose all sense of technique and form. They were just pure intensity. So from that standpoint it was really cool. But if you have a guy who needs to learn intensity and you put him with a guy who’s intense it helps him learn that. And usually people that are really intense need to learn how to be a little bit more calm and calculating. So if you put them with somebody who’s not as intense they’ll learn that. You know, it helps to balance them out. So there’s a lot of chemistry to it.

Q: How does a hockey player crack Pro Camp?
A: Usually guys call. If they’re new, they can come as long as they get here early enough. You know the body has to go through a couple months of preparation before they do the high intensity stuff that we’re doing now. There’s no way somebody can just come out here and do it. It’s not possible.

Q: I understand the hour long outdoor circuits are split up by strength, speed, and endurance?
A: Yeah there’s three different types of circuits.

Q: How do you decide which player does what circuit on any given day?
A: You know guys like Blake and O'Donnell, guys that have been in the league for a while, they’re already big enough and strong enough for the most part so they do a higher percentage of endurance circuits than they would the strength circuits because I don’t want them to go to camp any bigger or heavier. Whereas younger kids will sometimes do a higher ratio of strength circuits because they still need to have an increase in strength and body weight.

Q: So individuals in the same class may be performing separate circuits?
A: Yup.

Q: Are you a fan of any NHL team right now?
A: It’s funny but over the years I've learned not to root for any team but to root for players instead. I mean there’s times when I have two guys in a game and they’re opposing each other . How do you deal with that? And then the next year they’re on a totally different team. So you learn not to get an allegiance to teams but more just to make sure that your guys don’t get hurt and to make sure they play well.

Q: Is there an evening shift where you guys go out and party together?
A: Not so much. Yeah you get friendly for sure. You've got to figure I've seen Blake from being a guy that was just a young freewheeling kid to being a husband to then being a father. Seeing his whole evolution as he's grown up. Yeah you learn to develop friendships with people after a while.

Q: In an earlier circuit session this morning your associate was really barking at the class whereas the session you ran with the veterans was quite quiet. Why the difference?
A: Yeah, those other guys are younger. You know, you've got to have different styles. Frankie used to be drill instructor and so he still brings a lot of that kind of stuff to it. The group that you saw with me was consisted of a lot of veterans. They’ve been through this, they know what it is, and they pretty much just need to know the next exercise. They don't need motivation. They don’t need any real hype. If I’m calm it helps them to stay calm. That's the way I look at it. With younger guys you want to remind them why they’re here. It’s difficult if you haven’t been through it before so it’s good to get that enthusiastic energy from somebody.

Q: Are these guys done for the day after their hour long circuit or will they get on a bike or go skating?
A: Yeah they'll go and get on the bike for a while. Then a group of those guys are going to eat and then they’ll go skating.

Q: Do you communicate with the players during the season?
A: Yeah there’s lots of talk. I can tell just by watching them if they’re not doing some of the exercises I’ve assigned them. And then I call them and we talk about it.

Many thanks to T.R. for speaking with us. Keep up the good work!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

T.R. Goodman's Pro Camp Sports

Each year at season's end a couple dozen of the NHL's elite take up residence at the Mecca of Bodybuilding in Venice Beach to prepare for the upcoming season with famed trainer T.R. Goodman at Pro Camp Sports.

An ice hockey alumnus of Trinity College's Bantams, Goodman embarked on his personal training career in 1985 creating Pro Camp Sports in 1992. His reputed three phase summer Hockey Pro Camp includes repairing trauma from the prior season, strength building, and a month of high tempo circuits, focusing on mental preparation and nutrition throughout.

The most punishing portion of the program takes place in August when the hour long circuits commence. Arriving as early as 6am, athletes are assigned one of three routines - speed, strength, or endurance - to round out their assets. The circuits typically involve a handful of exercises that are performed for approximately two minutes each before transitioning to the next without a break. When the hour is up the finest athletes in the world stagger from the outdoor space drenched and ragged.

The elder statesman of Hockey Pro Camp, client #2 behind Alan May, is Chris Chelios. At 47 years, the Malibu Mobster is the oldest active player in the NHL and second eldest to ever skate in the game (behind Gordie Howe). He credits his 18 years with Goodman for his longevity (currently 4th all-time in regular season games played at 1644) and performance in the league.

Current and former Hockey Pro Camp clients include Mario Lemieux, Rob Blake, Mattieu Schneider, Sidney Crosby, Anson Carter, Chris Simon, Sean O'Donnell, Matt Greene, Josh Green, Shawn Horcoff, Jeremy Roenick, Rick Tocchet, and Glenn Murray. When not training NHLers, Goodman turns his attention to athletes of other disciplines including tennis (Jennifer Capriati, John McEnroe), surfing (Laird Hamilton), volleyball (Gabrielle Reece, Randy Stoklos), baseball (Gabe Kapler), football (Willie McGinest, Brian Kelly), and fighting (Fernando Vargas, Wallid Ismail, Mark Kerr). He also finds time to train a few local celebrities as well (James Caan, Ray Liotta, Owen Wilson, Jeremy Piven, Justin Timberlake, Frank Gehry).

To read an interview with Pro Camp Sports founder T.R. Goodman visit the weblink here. To visit or contact Pro Camp Sports click here.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Science of Hockey Exhibit

Searching for the largest interactive ice hockey exhibit in North America? Look no further than the Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana, California.

Located on the second level of the aptly coined Cube, above the bed of nails and earthquake simulator, this permanent exhibit installed last Spring divulges the scientific secrets behind the coolest game on earth.

With sixteen interactive offerings and enough NHL memorabilia to soothe the most frenzied of fans, the 3,000 square foot Science of Hockey has something for everyone. Climb aboard the Zamboni ice resurfacer, take a shot on J.S. Giguere, skate with Ryan Getzlaf, stop Scott Niedermayer, visit the Ducks dressing room, spend two minutes in the penalty box, practice your best John Shorthouse or Randy Moller broadcast reading a science themed script over a selection of plays, and so much more.

Ringing in at $2.5 million, of which eighty percent was endowed by the Samueli Foundation and the Anaheim Ducks Foundation, the Science of Hockey is a first class educational experience for curious minds of all ages. Open until 5pm everyday and located a mere 3.1 miles from The Pond, it's the perfect warmup to an evening with the 2007 Stanley Cup champions.

For more information on visiting the Science of Hockey click here.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Hockey Giant

Nestled in the bosom of the OC two blocks from Disneyland, Angel Stadium, and The Pond lives the nation's top retailer of ice hockey and roller hockey equipment. All Hail Hockey Giant.

Celebrating a recent move to an even bigger retail space, the veteran pushers of more puck product than any other are throwing a Grand Opening Party flush with player appearances, raffles, and ridiculous deals. With that in mind, there's no better time to suit up for the season than this Labor Day weekend at Hockey Giant in Anaheim.

If you can't make it to this Costco of hockey gear in person, check out their weekly specials and clearance items online. There's a Canadian site too for all you frostbacks who don't want to pay in greenbacks. Still not convinced? Sign up for their weekly emails and see for yourself.

Hockey Giant. Just another reason ice hockey in California is here to stay.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Pete Demers Interview - 2009 Hockey Fest

Matching the iron man mark of baseball's Cal Ripken, Jr. to the game, trainer Pete Demers spent 2,632 consecutive regular season games stitching, stretching, and strengthening Los Angeles royalty. We spoke with Pete at Hockey Fest '09 about his decades behind the bench tending to everyone from Gretzky to Goring. These are his stories.

Q: What’s the most common injury in the NHL?
A: We have a lot of groin strains at training camp just from a lack of flexibility. And you have a lot of sore backs in hockey too with the guys bent over skating. We do a lot of core strengthening exercises with the big ball these days. Backs and groins are key. Also, with today’s skates fitting so tight we get a lot of what we call lace bite where you bend your foot. It’s tendinitis. We treat that by making sure the skates are dry and using gel pads underneath the tongue. That’s a real common injury in hockey. Then we get a lot of wrists. We tape a lot of wrists. But ice is the key. We use so much ice. I still get calls all the time for injuries and I just tell them to ice it down.

Q: How has technology changed your job over the years?
A: Well the game has changed so much. We have an extensive injury analysis system and we’ve just added a lot of staff. When I started out the trainer was the trainer, equipment manager, strength coach, massage therapist, and physical therapist. Now we have all those people in place rather than just one or two guys. So it’s much more specialized.

Q: Describe the injury analysis system?
A: There's a software program that all the teams use. All of the data is sent into the league and they look at the time of the game where the hit takes place assessing the equipment issues and ice conditions. That’s all put in a pot and stirred up and they get information from that.

Q: Who were the best conditioned players in your locker room?
A: Most of the players had unbelievable motivation. It's improved a lot now but when we used to do testing at the beginning of training camp the older guys on the down curve of conditioning would consistently score the best results. You could block out the names and tell who the veterans were just by looking at the test results. The rookies came in and didn't know how to train. They didn’t know what it takes. But they’re the guys at 18 to 20 years old that should be in the top of the curve as far as their fitness goes. You would think the guy that’s 34 would be winding down but he's so motivated to stay. So that's what we teach the rookies. And that’s why the Kings bring their prospects in and show them what family is all about.

Q: What’s the worst injury you ever had to address on the ice?
A: Well we had a real serious head injury a few years ago. But I think the most common injuries we have are cuts. Butch Goring had a real bad cut. He got a cut on his thigh. It went through his pants, socks, and shinpads, and he required like a hundred stitches. And then about six months later in the following season he got a skate in his eye. Butch reached around Denis Potvin and Potvin’s skate came up and hit him in the eye. We stayed in the hospital for two days with Butch monitoring his eye which they were able to save. Injuries like that are pretty scary.

Q: How would you describe Gretzky’s health on the Kings?
A: His focus was playing like everybody says. He really didn’t take his injuries very seriously. They gave him space to play out of respect but he was banged up just like everybody else. When he hurt his back we knew he needed to do some extensive work on it. So he said, OK that’s it, we’re going to do this. So he came in for twice a day treatments just like everyone else. Go home, drive back. But he was a pretty tough guy and didn’t get hurt a lot.

Q: What was Wayne like on a personal level?
A: He was a great guy. I always say the glory wore off at three o’clock in the morning when I was slinging hockey bags in Montreal in a snowstorm. I had already put 20 years in the game when Gretzky came to the Kings. We were at training camp and he came in with a little slice on his finger and I put a band-aid on it and he walked out. And I said hey that's Wayne Gretzky, I just put a band-aid on his finger. Like who can say that. From the Brad Nortons to the Wayne Gretzky, they’re all great guys. The camaraderie and sense of family we have in our game is second to none. There's no sport like it. We know this. Everyone tells us this. Hockey players are regular guys. They're fun to be around. That’s what I miss the most. The sense of family around the guys.

Q: What are you doing now?
A: I’m retired now. I’m fishing and traveling. We have a house in Nova Scotia where I’m going to go for September and October. It’s fun.

Many thanks to Pete for speaking with us. Enjoy the retirement.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Bob Miller Interview - 2009 Hockey Fest

Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2000 as a recipient of the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award, this SoCal 70 year-old continues to report to work in the press box bearing his name fulfilling his lifetime contract as the Voice of the Kings. Spanning his legend from Staples Center to Tinsel Town, Bob Miller was even bestowed a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2006, one day after his inaugural literary offering.

Embarking on his 37th season behind the mic, the silver-tongued storyteller shared his favorite Kings moments with onlookers at Hockey Fest '09. Afterwards we spoke with Bob about superstition, esteemed colleagues, and the lost art of radio play-by-play. These are his stories.

Q: Do you have any game day rituals or superstitions?
A: Sometimes. You know, if we’ve won three in a row I’ve got to take the same route to the game. But I don’t consistently do that.

Q: Are you friends with CBC Sports broadcaster Bob Cole?
A: Oh yeah. I met Bob Cole in 1973, his first year on Hockey Night in Canada. His was one of those voices like Mel Allen doing the World Series. You grew up with that. Bob’s got some quirks when he's doing the game. He unzips his pants, undoes his belt and everything. And he’s pounding the desk all the time. Marc Crawford told me a great one because Marc worked with him after he got fired in Colorado. He was doing color on Hockey Night in Canada. He says my first game was with Bob Cole. And Bob Cole said, young man, I know you know a lot about hockey but when that puck crosses the blueline, you shut up.

Q: How about the famed Vancouver Canucks broadcaster Jim Robson?
A: Ah Jimmy, good friend. And really a great announcer. Well loved in Vancouver. Too bad he kind of left early in his career. I’m not sure why. I feel bad for a guy like that because now Vancouver is better. I mean he had some lean years up there with 8,000 people in the Pacific Coliseum. A good guy. I don’t see him too often. Once in a while he’ll poke his head in when we’re up there and say hi.

Q: Discuss the disappearance of the traditional radio play-by-play style as television takes over. Why do certain TV broadcasters insist on sharing tedious tangential tales instead of describing the play in front of them?
A: Certain TV producers think that because it’s on TV you don’t have to talk very much. In my opinion, in hockey, yes you do. I can’t even watch a game, and I know a lot of the players, and tell you who has the puck all the time. It’s changing and you can’t see who it is. I want the announcer to get me into the game. If I’ve got a game on TV and the two guys are talking about last night, I find myself reading the paper or something and all of the sudden somebody scores and there’s no setup to the play. They didn’t have you on the edge of your seat. Get me into the game.

I'm doing pretty close to radio play-by-play on TV. I just don’t have to say they’re skating left to right and all of that kind of stuff. But I just don’t know any other way. I've had people say to me I’m glad you do the play-by-play and you're not talking about this and that and something happens. Sometimes you get caught doing that because it’s so unpredictable. But you don’t want it. I don’t like that style.

I think the worst thing today is young kids don’t listen to radio like I did. Somebody said the game on radio in your mind is better than anything you’ll see on TV. And if the radio guy is good, you’re picturing a catch or a goal that’s often better than it really is on TV.

Radio is the announcers medium. Television is the director’s medium. Radio you talk about whatever you want to talk about. Television you talk about what that director just put on the screen. So he's got control over what you’re talking about. In radio nobody is in your ear telling you what to do. You’re doing the game and you’re in charge. It’s so much fun.

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

Ray Ferraro Interview - 2009 Hockey Fest

Last weekend savvy storyteller Ray Ferraro dazzled attendees of Hockey Fest '09 with his tales of hockey past. Afterwards he spoke candidly about Dany Heatley and his broadcasting career. These are his stories.

Q: Heatley has been portrayed in the media as a bad guy. Is he toxic?
A: First of all, not only have I been in the locker room with Dany, I've roomed with him on the road. I know him really well. The people that are talking that he’s toxic don’t know shit. There’s all kinds of rumors about Dany off the ice. Everybody does whatever research they do. I've known Dany for almost ten years now. He had to mature. Absolutely he did. And he’d be the first guy to tell you that.

Q: If Sharks GM Doug Wilson asked you if he should trade for Heatley, what would you say?
A: I’d say absolutely. He had a terrible year last year because he wasn’t in shape. He signed a $45m contract and he kind of went on what I like to call the 'Summer of Dany'. You know, he had a lot of fun. He was going to ball games and he was half of step out of shape when he got to camp. And so he had a terrible year. He scored 39 goals.

Check all the rosters. How many teams have an extra 39 goal scorer around? And two of the previous three years he got 50. The guy can play. The guy’s a one shot scorer. A lot of teams don’t have a one shot scorer. Calgary does, Iginla. Anaheim has Getzlaf. Minnesota doesn’t. LA doesn’t. Phoenix doesn’t. Dallas doesn’t. I mean you go through the teams, how many guys scored 50 goals last year. There was one. It’s hard to score.

A guy can be divisive. It really can happen. Sean Avery is divisive. Dany Heatley’s not.

Q: Can Dany Heatley go back to the Ottawa locker room?
A: He's going to have to if they don’t make a deal. Hockey players are a funny bunch. They’re pretty forgiving. They may not understand why he requested a trade. If Dany has to go back to Ottawa I’m sure he’s going to have a meeting with the guys. He's going to have to mend the fence. It’s going to be on him to mend the fence. But once the fence is mended and the season starts it’ll be fine. The biggest mistake that happened is that thing went public. Lots of guys ask to be traded. And you never know about it. As soon as it gets public it gets messy. And that’s kind of what happened.

Q: As a player were you able to forgive other players for this kind of stuff?
A: Sure. I have for sure. I’ve been on teams where you had to do that. I don’t care what any of my teammates do off the ice, what car they drive, I could care less. I want to know when I come to work that the team comes first and they’re coming to work. Not all 20 guys love each other. There’s personalities that clash. There’s different ways of doing things. But at the end of the day if you believe that your team is the greater good, as corny as that sounds, then you’re fine. Like I said, Dany has to mend some fences there if he has to go back. I’m sure Ottawa feels in a bind too. If you don’t make a deal you've got to bring him back. And you got to hope that he plays for you.

Q: Will the fans forgive him?
A: Wait until he scores his first hat trick. If I were a fan I’d be pissed off too. Wait a minute we just signed this guy for a long time and now he wants to be traded out of here? I’d be upset too.

Q: What’s your career goal in terms of broadcasting?
A: I love what I’m doing now. When you work on a national broadcast it doesn’t matter who wins. And I like it. I like the challenge of learning about the other players. I’d like to find a way to travel less. But to be honest, I really like the way I’m currently constructed. I do the TSN stuff plus I’ve got the radio stuff in the afternoon. So I really like what I do. I get to do half a dozen pay-per-view games when my schedule allows too.

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

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Dean Lombardi Interview - 2009 Hockey Fest

On the final day of Hockey Fest '09 Kings GM Dean Lombardi shared his vision for the franchise - build through the draft, create a winning culture, improve each year - and took questions from the faithful. With one of the league's youngest rosters showing improvement in each of his three years ('07, '08, '09), in terms of wins (27, 32, 34) and points (68, 71, 79), the seeds of success are being sewn in Los Angeles.

Clear on the direction of the Kings, we asked Dean about his thoughts on NHL participation in the Winter Olympics and pitched our 'percentage of current salary cap' player contract proposal. These are his stories.

Q: Brian Burke recently suggested that suspending the NHL season to have players participate in the Winter Olympic Games hasn't been worth it, noting that he "wouldn't be surprised if this is the last Olympics where the NHL participates." How do you feel about the break? Is the disruption justified for the better good of the international game?
A: Boy that’s a tough one. I tend to agree with him. I didn’t expect this question. I didn’t give a lot of thought to it. I think I’m trending towards what he’s saying. It’s one of those issues that has so many pros and cons. It’s a tough call but I think I’m trending his way.

And I’m not sure the Olympics has the same panache when the pros are involved. You know, you see it in baseball and basketball. It just doesn’t resonate like it seems it should or used to. It’s almost like an All-Star game of guys from different countries. I don’t know how to define it but it doesn’t seem to have the feel to me with the pros that it’s a really special event. And it’s hard to believe that I’m saying that because it’s the Olympics but from an emotional standpoint I just don’t see a gold medal as huge. It seems almost a bigger thing in the World Junior tournament.

And then you look at what it does to the season. I think it is too long for the players on your own team. And then you go to the business side, taking the NHL away at that time of year which is a critical part of the year where we’re on the front page. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. So I tend to agree with Brian. But the biggest thing is the Olympics doesn’t resonate with me with the pros like it seems that it used to. I don’t know what your generation thinks but it’s kind of the way I feel.

Q: You spoke earlier of the difficulty of planning player costs years ahead without knowing where the salary cap is going. Has there ever been talks among the NHL governors to have player contracts drafted as a percentage of cap rather than fixed dollar sums when the CBA is up for renegotiation? We already know that 20% is the most you can pay a player so why not represent all player salaries in terms of a percentages rather than promising fixed dollars with an uncertain budget?
A: Hell of an idea. No. That’s way too smart. It’s a hell of an idea. I mean, it’s funny you say that because you’re absolutely right. When you’re building under a cap it’s not the dollar figure it’s the allocation of resources. So when we do things internally that’s how we do it. Everything we do internally is based upon that. But in terms of actually doing the contract on that? I’ll give it to you. It’s a good idea. Why not. That's the way we’re actually planning our payroll. I guess you’re right it would take out the uncertainty. So good one. That makes a lot of sense and would make our job a lot easier to stay within the cap. It’s a heck of an idea.

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

Ron Hextall Interview - 2009 Hockey Fest

Last weekend famed Flyers goalie turned Kings Assistant GM Ron Hextall spoke with us at Hockey Fest '09 about controlling his temper, fighting Garth Snow, and his respect for Chris Chelios. These are his stories.

Q: Discuss the transition from starting goalie to Assistant GM. How have you channeled the intensity and aggression of your on-ice game to the boardrooms and war rooms of front office existence?
A: All I can say is thank god I don’t carry on like that in the office.

Q: So you don’t carry on like that in the office?
A: Oh heck no. Dean does more of that than I do. Way more. It’s funny, my career was over and I was thinking what do I want to do. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to stay in the game. I had been in Philadelphia a long time and Bob Clarke said what do you want to do. I don’t really know, I said, I kind of like the management side of things. As players you sit down there and the managers are sitting around talking about who’s going to get traded. I was always intrigued by it.

I started out as a Pro Scout and worked my way up to Director of Pro Hockey Personnel. I was in Philadelphia for seven years and I felt like I needed to move up. I was a three man behind Clarke and Paul Holmgren and I learned an awful lot. Quite frankly I felt like Clarke and Holmgren would be in Philadelphia forever. Sure enough, two months into my tenure here Clarke stepped back.

But I don’t look back. I've learned a lot being in LA. I think for my career personally to come to another organization and learn how another organization operates, to see a team where this team is at in the rebuilding process, I’d never been through that before. Not only on the ice but the whole infrastructure of the hockey operations staff has been changed here. To be involved in the interviewing and hiring of people, allocating jobs and roles, it’s been very educating whereas in Philadelphia everything was in place. They had a contending team every year and the staff has been there forever. There's just a camaraderie and everybody fit. So to come here the dynamics were just totally different for me. It helped to round out my hockey background.

Q: For three seasons ('95-'96, '96-'97 , '97-'98) Garth Snow was your goaltending partner in Philadelphia and now he's a GM as well. Is there a rapport there?
A: Oh yeah. We talk quite a bit. Dean talks to him quite a bit too. I usually call to needle him more than anything else. He's at a similar point that we were two years ago. He's behind us because we have a little more of an experienced team. But in terms of the building process he's about where we were a couple of years ago. It’s going to be a tough year. He's got some kids coming up. I think he realizes where he's at.

Q: Both you and Snow were known to get involved in a fight now and then. If the two of you ever squared off who would win?
A: Oh I’d kill him. I’d kill him. He knows that.

Q: I understand that Chelios lives in Los Angeles in the off-season. Are you friends despite your famous fight in 1989?

A: No, we’re not friends. I've talked to him a few times. You know what, honestly, when the game's over, when your career’s over, you look back at guys like that and you respect them more than anyone else because he is a competitor. He’s one of the top competitors in the league. I look at a guy like that, would I like to have played with him? Damn right I would have. Those guys that are competitive, there's a respect there even if you can’t stand the guy. There's a respect there that never goes away. When I was standing at the bench in Detroit two years ago when we were in town who comes over to talk to me? He does. It’s in the past.

Q: So it all stays on the ice?
A: Absolutely. Absolutely.

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

Terry Murray Interview - 2009 Hockey Fest

Crossing paths with Kings coach Terry Murray at Hockey Fest '09, we took the opportunity to ask him about the career arc of his former goaltending tandem. These are his stories.

Q: For two seasons ('95-'96, '96-'97) you coached both Garth Snow and Ron Hextall in Philadelphia. Did you ever imagine that these hard-knuckled netminders would one day become potential employers?
A: It’s pretty interesting how it all unfolds. When you’re coaching teams you look at players and personalities and you’re often sitting down and having a beer with your GM and he's asking you about so and so. What do you think, is this guy a player that could work in the organization when he's done. Those conversations are always happening.

It’s important that you have like a minor league hockey system. You have to replenish. You've got scouts that move through the system and management that moves through. Time moves on and there has to be someone to step in and take over. I think when you look at Hextall in particular, you always had a feeling there would be something he'd do to stay involved post career. And here it is today and I’m working for him. It’s kind of interesting how it all plays out.

Q: How has Hextall channeled his on-ice intensity to the front office?
A: Well I think he’s handled the move with a great deal of control. I think the intensity is still there but as you mature you may put a little bit of a governor on some of that and then direct it in the right direction. Hex has done a great job. He’s very insightful and very thoughtful.

Q: Are you in touch with Garth Snow?
A: Yeah, I stop by and say hello as I do with all the players that I coached. It doesn’t surprise me that he's in the position he's in. It happened a lot quicker than I thought. From his playing days directly into that role was pretty incredible. It’s a big jump and I’m sure it was pretty intimidating for him. You know, he's a very intelligent guy. He's got a degree in sports management and that's the field he wanted to get into post career. Probably just happened a little faster than he thought.

Q: I’ve always heard Snow was popular with his teammates.
A: Yup. He was great in the locker room. He’s that chirper in the dressing room. He’s always rubbing guys. He's always got the quick line. He knows everything that's going on with every player on the team and he uses that to his advantage to really get some jabs in. He just kept everybody loose all the time. On the other side of it he’s competitive like Hex. He loved to battle and compete. Sometimes he even liked to drop his gloves and go at it like Hex did. I think he was a little bit better of a fighter than Hex was.

Q: What was Hextall like in the locker room?
A: He was very quiet, very intense. But when the time was right he was able to throw a few jabs and keep everybody loose.

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