EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – For Luc Robitaille, this is about seeing a task through to the end.
He’s had the goal of helping the Los Angeles Kings win the Stanley Cup for nearly three decades—dating all the way back to the 1984 draft when the team selected him 171st overall. Even after finishing a Hall of Fame playing career, which included three separate stints in Los Angeles, he’s remained a fixture in the organization by spending five years as its president of business operations.
It’s a level of loyalty that tends to be difficult to find in professional sports.
“No team wanted me, keep that in mind,” Robitaille said Tuesday. “Even the Kings, I kind of question it because they drafted (former major-league pitcher) Tom Glavine before me even though he said he’d never play hockey. But that was the team that wanted me.
“Your first team, if you’re here long enough right off the bat, it always becomes something kind of special.”
Naturally, the 46-year-old from Montreal has rarely experienced anything better than this: the Kings have a chance to win their first Stanley Cup at Staples Center on Wednesday night. It’s a dream Robitaille doesn’t want to wake up from.
In fact, the opportunity to experience a moment like this was a driving force behind his decision to pursue a front office career in Los Angeles.
“One of the main reasons I wanted to be involved with this team is I wanted to have an opportunity to be part of the team if and when it happens,” said Robitaille. “If we could get that one more victory, it’s going to be very special. It’s never been done before.”
It’s been far from easy. Robitaille played through a lot of losing seasons with the Kings and experienced the pain of falling short in the 1993 Stanley Cup final against Montreal.
When he moved into the front office, the Kings were mired in a stretch of eight years outside of the post-season that ended in 2010. That was a particularly tough time since the organization was trying to preach patience to its fanbase.
“When you say you’re going to rebuild, that means you’re going to lose,” said Robitaille. “You’re basically saying in a nice way that you’re going to lose. We told them that and we found a way to make our fans believe it.
“The cool thing about it is we can say today: ‘See, we didn’t lie.”‘
Robitaille believes two big turning points came when Mike Richards was acquired last summer and Jeff Carter arrived just ahead of the trade deadline. Those two fit in well with all of the homegrown players that have played big roles this post-season: Jonathan Quick, Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar, among them.
Still, there was some concern they might never get to this point.
“We’ve worked really hard on rebuilding the franchise and getting it going in the right direction,” said Robitaille.
Late in his playing career, Robitaille had to go to Detroit to win the Stanley Cup as part of the veteran-laden 2002 team. But Los Angeles remained his home and the Kings remained his team.
This is the city where he became a man.
“I was a kid that played the game—I was eight years old and didn’t speak English,” said Robitaille. “I learned to speak English, came here and I’m still here today. I’m 46 and still involved with the great game that I love and a team that I love.
“We’re one victory away from winning a Stanley Cup. It’s pretty special.”