Luc Robitaille, an eight-time NHL All-Star, lived the dream every aspiring young hockey player around the world envisions.
And after considering himself one of the lucky ones to play the sport he loved for 19 illustrious seasons, "Lucky Luc" was determined to assist those less fortunate. That's the reason he and his wife, Stacia, created Echoes of Hope in 2007 -- a charity to help nurture the lives of at-risk and emancipated foster children by providing the necessary resources, skills and support they need to reach their potential.
"Following Hurricane Katrina (in 2005), me and my wife started our own foundation (Shelter for Serenity) and actually went to New Orleans, picked up a bunch of families and brought them back to live in our house in Utah," Robitaille told NHL.com. "We wanted to provide them a chance to restart their lives. But during this process, we realized that the people most affected and in need of help were the children. The kids were the ones at risk since they came mostly from poor families."
According to the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund, Juvenile Justice Study Committee, within 18 months of emancipation, 40-50 percent of foster children becomes homeless. Additionally, in a 2002 report on the Survey of the Needs of Emancipated Foster/Probation Youth, 65 percent of children leaving foster care needed immediate housing upon release. The Robitailles hope their efforts can reverse this alarming trend.
"The biggest thing my wife and I have always been involved in were foundations, and whether we were given time or money, we always wanted to do something that would touch us," Robitaille said. "When we got involved with the families from Katrina that certainly made a big difference in our lives. Because of that, we saw the huge need in the U.S. for help with our kids. We're helping the kids that want to go to school and are willing to work hard -- we give them a push.
"All of us have had success in life, but we've always had someone help us along the way. Whether it was a coach or a parent, we've had someone support us. A lot of these kids just need advice or someone that will listen to them. It's not because they don't want to succeed -- it's because they can't. They don't have the means to do it and that's what Echoes of Hope is all about and can provide these children."
Luc and Stacia have two sons, Steven and Jesse.
The Los Angeles Kings honored Robitaille's playing career by retiring his No. 20 jersey during a pre-game ceremony at Staples Center on Jan. 20, 2007. His number hangs in the rafters alongside other Los Angeles greats Wayne Gretzky (99), Marcel Dionne (16), Dave Taylor (18) and Rogie Vachon (30).
"It wasn't about scoring goals, it wasn't about money, it wasn't about fame," Robitaille said. "I just wanted to play hockey. It was like a dream to me. My first game (against St. Louis) is the one I'll never forget. I watched the game so much growing up and to be playing was simply incredible."
Playing on a line with Dionne and Bryan Erickson in his NHL debut on Oct. 9, 1986, Robitaille scored the first goal of his career against Blues goalie Rick Wamsley on the first shot of his first shift 16 minutes into the opening period of a 4-3 loss at The Forum. He would conclude his legendary career 10th in League history with 668 goals.
"I've had a very good life, but if I could make a difference in the life of someone else who really needs it, that would be even more rewarding for me and my wife," Robitaille said.
He still enjoys watching the game, which he admits certainly has progressed since his early playing days.
"I have noticed two major changes from when I began in the late '80s," Robitaille said. "First, I think it's great that players from all over the world are now routinely picked by NHL teams at the draft. It has created a fast and exciting game to watch. Also, I feel the goaltending has improved tremendously. When Patrick Roy first came into the League and exhibited that butterfly style, that literally changed the game. But back then, when you had a two-on-one with a pass across, it used to be a slam-dunk score. Now, you have to put it top corner or else you'll be stopped."
For more information on Luc and Stacia Robitaille's foundation, please visit www.echoesofhope.org.
Contact Mike Morreale at firstname.lastname@example.org