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Work rarely stops for Kings' executive Robitaille

Thursday, 10.29.2009 / 3:40 PM / Hall of Fame

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

As president of business operations for the Los Angeles Kings, Luc Robitaille constantly is on the go.

"It's not an eight-hour day, I can tell you that," Robitaille told NHL.com.

For Robitaille, who oversees all day-to-day business operations for the organization, including ticket sales and service, global partnerships, marketing and promotions, fan development and community relations, group sales, finance, broadcasting, communications, the Kings' Web site and human resources, each day begins early and ends late.

"When you're a player, you play the game, get ready for practice, and in the summer, worry about training," Robitaille said. "When you're on the business side, you just work. It's funny because there's more work to do in between games than during games -- it's a reverse world. I remember I used to think if we win, the people will come. But when you wind up on the business side, you realize there's a lot more to it."

Robitaille is no different now than he was when he entered the League as a wide-eyed rookie back in 1984-85. The ninth-round selection (No. 171) was considered by many to be a poor skater, but he proved them all wrong during an illustrious 19-season career in which he not only became the Kings' all-time leader in goals (557) but the highest-scoring left wing in NHL history (1,394 points).

The passion and dedication he exhibited on the ice back then has followed him to the front office as an astute businessman -- something he yearned for even before retirement in 2006.

"I always felt like I wanted to know how a franchise was run all the way around," he said. "I was fortunate to play with the Red Wings, Kings, the Rangers and the Penguins and it was always a great feeling knowing the perception around everyone. People were going to work as hard as they could to achieve one common goal -- to see the success of their franchise through. I was very impressed with that."

Now, 'Lucky Luc', who's set to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Nov. 9, is running his own show, and hockey in Los Angeles has become the beneficiary.

One individual not surprised with Robitaille's smooth transition from player to front office is Detroit Senior Vice President Jim Devellano, who had the Montreal native on his team for two seasons -- including a Stanley Cup in 2001-02.

"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. "It doesn't surprise me how successful he is now. The first thing that strikes you when you meet Luc Robitaille is his personality -- he's very personable and upbeat and I'm not surprised he would work for the Kings in a business, PR-type situation, because he's very popular in L.A. and he can do a lot for that organization."

Since assuming his position in May 2007, the Kings have flourished on the business end. The team's global partnership division set a franchise mark in annual revenues last season and the Kings also have increased their number of sellouts at Staples Center each season since Robitaille took over.

"It's been a long time that our team hasn't had much success, so we took the time to award our fans for staying with us and teaching them what we're doing -- in being patient and growing from within," Robitaille said. "We want to be good for 10-plus years and not just for one good year, and I think our fans understand that. Our young guys played well last year, and obviously this year, we're excited about what's going on."

The Kings' roster averages 26.2 years of age, including 11 players 25 or younger. But contained on that roster are a number of superstars in the making.

Robitaille also was the driving force behind this past summer's L.A. Kings Hockey Fest '09, an event at L.A. Live that will become a summer staple for the organization moving forward.

"Hockey Fest is important because if you go to Montreal or Edmonton, you're talking about hockey in July and August like it's no big deal," Robitaille said. "In the U.S., it's not the same, you're not talking about hockey until it actually starts, so for us, it was important to bring back our alumni just to show the tradition of our franchise and enable our fans to interact with the alumni, and at the same time, our young players. And probably the third thing I felt was important was having it in August over an entire weekend. We got a lot of coverage, were in the paper and received positive reaction."

Robitaille also helped implement a new Kings Royal Service Program, and he has been at the front of a revamped Kings Community Relations department, including the team's strategic Kings Care community partnerships -- highlighted by the organization's $500,000 commitment to the Children's Hospital Los Angeles blood program. He's also directed the re-organization of the L.A. Kings Alumni Association.

"We're working on different promotions and different ways to sell our team and I think that's been one of the main reasons for our increased ticket sales and fan base," Robitaille said. "Our new sales are really up, but we've been working hard on it -- we're six months ahead of where we were in the past."

The 43-year-old Robitaille admits early front-office experience in the United States Hockey League helped prepare him for a future spot in NHL management. In July 2006, Robitaille was named president of the USHL's Omaha Lancers. Today, he's part-owner.

"In my first year of retirement I was very involved with (Omaha) and I got to learn the business in a quick way there," he said. "That prepared me at a time when I was a consultant with the Kings -- it allowed me to see the next level. There are obviously a lot more people who play for an NHL team, but the premise is pretty much the same.

"Basically, people are selling tickets, you have marketing, you've got game entertainment and run a couple of small broadcasts. If you can manage the budget the best you can, you can have some success."

Robitaille makes it sound so easy, but obviously it has taken a lot of hard work to achieve what he's done in such a short period.

Contact Mike Morreale at mmorreale@nhl.com
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