This weekend, the Kings hosted their third annual Hockey Fest at Staples Center. It sold out to 3,000 fans and was an opportunity to interact with the Kings players and staff. The organization and fans recognized those who lost their lives in the September 11 terrorist attacks and the players who lost their lives this off season, including those involved in the tragic Yaroslavl Lokomotiv plane crash by observing a moment of silence.
First up on the agenda was the State of the Kings, where fans were able to ask questions to Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi, Assistant GM Ron Hextall, Head Coach Terry Murray and VP of Hockey Operations Jeff Solomon. Bob Miller, who hosted the panel, got the ball rolling with the question everybody had on their mind: Drew Doughty. Lombardi seemed more interested in whether or not Heidi Androl would be coming back for another season with the broadcast team, which got some laughs out of the crowd. Much to the dismay of many (male) fans, Bob announced that Heidi would not be returning, yet would still be involved in the Kings organization. As for the Drew Doughty situation, Lombardi’s answer was not more revealing than what we already knew. He did, however, sound confident that Doughty would be in Los Angeles for a long time. There were also questions regarding the health and fitness of other players, namely Anze Kopitar and Dustin Penner. Good news on both: Kopitar has been having a successful rehab and Penner is in great shape. Another concern fans wanted addressed was the power play. Off-season additions of Mike Richards and Simon Gagne; shot-mentality and net presence? Dean Lombardi’s recipe for power play success. There was also a question regarding leadership and Terry Murray made one thing certain: Dustin Brown will remain the Captain.
After the State of the Kings, the players, staff and broadcast crew were introduced in pep rally fashion. Dustin Brown gave a speech with some encouraging words about the progress the team has made and the excitement inside the locker room. Players are getting serious about winning, and, in his words: “this is our time.”
Next on the speaker series was the Meet the New Kings panel with Ethan Moreau, Colin Fraser, Simon Gagne and Mike Richards. Nick Nickson, the Kings’ radio play-by-play announcer, hosted the panel. Nickson took the first half-hour of the session to ask some questions to the new players to get the fans familiar with them. Some of the questions included their idols growing up, first hockey memories, thoughts on current Kings players and who they were most looking forward to playing with.
A less serious panel was the Kids Press Conference with Jonathan Quick, Kevin Westgarth, Kyle Clifford and Matt Greene. This session was more aimed for the younger fans, but fans of all ages got a lot of enjoyment out of it. Questions ranged from favorite color to who has the best dance moves. Heidi Androl hosted the panel and had to keep reminding the players to keep it clean. Nevertheless, the panel was still hilarious. Kyle Clifford was proposed to; a four year old just wanted to tell Jonathan Quick that he loved him; Kevin Westgarth led the crowd in singing Happy Birthday to a fan and Matt Greene had wisecracks about everything.
The final speaker series was a Miracle on Manchester Q&A session. I didn’t get to see this panel, so I can’t write a proper recap. Fans were also able to take a tour of the locker room, get autographs from current players and alumni and skate on the ice at Staples. Throughout the day, there was a youth hockey game and a shootout showdown judged by Dustin Brown, Davis Drewiske, Anze Kopitar and Jarrett Stoll. Players from youth hockey teams got to show off their skills in a shootout to try to win tickets to a Kings game this upcoming season. The day ended with a hockey game featuring the LA City Fire Department. The Kings also unveiled LAFD jerseys that are being auctioned off. All proceeds from those jerseys are to benefit the Widows, Orphans and Disabled Fireman’s Fund. Overall, the event was a lot of fun and a great way to kick off the season after a long, emotionally draining summer.