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There's no doubting Robitaille's credentials

Thursday, 10.29.2009 / 1:30 PM / Hall of Fame

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

"When I came into the League I just wanted to play and was fortunate they put me on the same line with Marcel Dionne. Marcel said, 'Go to the net, kid, and I'll find you,'" Robitaille said. "So I just found a way to the net."
-- Luc Robitaille

Luc Robitaille believed in himself at a time when no one else really gave him much of a shot.

While he did possess a wonderful set of hands around the goal, he also was thought to be too slow a skater. As a result, he fell to the Los Angeles Kings in the ninth round (No. 171) in the 1984 Entry Draft -- five rounds after the club had plucked a multi-sport high school standout from the Boston area named Tom Glavine.

"I refused to listen to that," Robitaille said. "I mean, I just played the game, tried to improve every day and tried to help the team win. My motivation was playing in the NHL, so all I cared about was that I was on (the Kings' draft) list and, from there, it was up to me.

"Maybe, sometimes, it didn't look good out there or it didn't look fast, but I knew, no matter what, I was always giving my best and that's the reason I played so long."

As it turned out, "Lucky Luc" would become the highest-scoring left wing in NHL history, with 668 goals and 1,394 points in 19 seasons, starting with the Kings in 1986 and finishing with them in 2006. Even today, Robitaille remains the only rookie to lead the Kings in scoring over an entire season (45 goals, 84 points). He ranks third all-time behind Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy for consecutive 40-goal seasons with eight, and he scored at least 20 goals in his first 11 seasons in the League.

"On the lighter side, the good thing about me is I never had a step (quick move up ice), so I never lost it," he said. "That's why, maybe, I was able to play 19 years."

For almost two decades, Robitaille was a model of consistency on the ice.

On Nov. 9, he'll be rewarded when the kid from Montreal is inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. He'll join fellow inductees and former Detroit Red Wings teammates Steve Yzerman and Brett Hull, two-time Norris Trophy winner and Rangers teammate Brian Leetch, and New Jersey Devils executive Lou Lamoriello, who was elected in the Builder category. It's considered the finest class since 2007, when Scott Stevens, Al MacInnis, Ron Francis and Mark Messier were honored.

"Well, I don't know," said Robitaille, when asked to compare his Hall class with '07. "That was an impressive group. Those guys were players that I looked up to and I know the impact they had on their teams. To even be mentioned along the lines of that group is very special, I think, for any one of us."

The eight-time NHL All-Star considers his Hall induction the "capper" on a splendid career.

"I didn't set out to do that, but to end up there is certainly something that no one can ever take away from you," Robitaille said. "To get in the Hall is amazing. I remember watching the draft when Stevie (Yzerman) was drafted and hearing about him and I was fortunate to play with (Yzerman, Leetch and Hull), so I know what kind of people they are. It's a privilege to be going in with them, but the thing is, we all love the game so much that this is no doubt the greatest honor."

In his first season with the Kings, in 1986-87, Robitaille became the first King to win the Calder Trophy as the League's rookie of the year.

"When I came into the League I just wanted to play and was fortunate they put me on the same line with Marcel Dionne. Marcel said, 'Go to the net, kid, and I'll find you,'" Robitaille said. "So I just found a way to the net. But at the end of the day, I always felt it was about winning. As I got older and my scoring slowed down, I felt I became a better defensive player."

He was joined by fellow Hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky in 1988 and the pair helped lead the Kings to the club's only trip to the Stanley Cup Final, in 1993. That season Robitaille, who served as captain, set NHL records for most goals (63) by a left wing -- a mark that stood until Washington's Alex Ovechkin surpassed it in 2007-08 -- and for most points (125) by a left wing, a mark that still stands.

He posted 14 points and was 5-3 in his eight All-Star Game appearances, scoring in every contest except the 1993 game in his hometown of Montreal -- when his team suffered a 16-6 shellacking.

"You know, I remember that game well," he said. "Every time we turned around the puck was going into our net. It was absolutely amazing. It was one of those games where nothing went our way. It was just sad in a way."

His All-Star Game debut in 1988 in St. Louis was a little different.

"I was named on the starting roster and was going to play with (Jari) Kurri and (Wayne) Gretzky and that was the thrill of a lifetime," Robitaille said. "I remember in the morning skate Glen Sather said to me, 'You'll do the first shift with Wayne and Jari and then you'll get off the ice.' He said, 'You're not playing on that line, kid.'

"Then he put me with Denis Savard and Glenn Anderson and they said, 'Kid, get open, we'll get you the puck.' They kept feeding me. They kept saying, 'Kid, we're going to get you that car.' Unfortunately for me Mario (Lemieux) got 3 goals on the other side."

Robitaille finished with 2 goals and an assist in the '88 mid-season classic, but the Wales Conference won in overtime, 6-5, as Lemieux notched a hat trick and 3 assists, and took home the car awarded to the game's MVP.

Robitaille, whose playing career included stints with the Penguins, Rangers and Red Wings, now serves as the Kings' president of business operations. He and his wife, Stacia, also are founders of the charity Echoes of Hope -- an organization created to help at-risk youth build bright, successful futures.

Winning his first Stanley Cup with the Red Wings in 2001-02 is another Kodak moment in Robitaille's career. In fact, Robitaille, Hull and Yzerman will become only the third trio inducted in the history of the Hall of Fame to have played on the same Cup winner.

"Winning that Cup in Detroit is something I'll cherish forever," Robitaille said. "I do remember someone asking me at the time that they thought there were probably 10 to 11 potential Hall of Famers on the team, so it certainly was something very special."

Detroit Senior Vice President Jim Devellano recalls what a pleasure it was to have Robitaille on that Stanley Cup winner.

"We only had the good fortune of having Luc with us for two seasons at the end of his career, but the wonderful thing about that was we won a Stanley Cup and I know how appreciative Luc was to have done that with us," Devellano told NHL.com. "The first thing that strikes you when you meet Luc Robitaille is his personality -- he's very personable and upbeat."

Personable, upbeat and now enshrined at the Hockey Hall of Fame forever.

Contact Mike Morreale at mmorreale@nhl.com
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