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50 KINGS – Kevin Westgarth

by Deborah Lew / Los Angeles Kings

For a Psychology and Pre-Med major at Princeton University, a professional hockey career would seem like a far-flung dream. Former NHL player and LA Kings alumnus, Kevin Westgarth, should know.

Westgarth played college hockey at Princeton from 2003-2007 before signing with the Kings as an unrestricted free agent during March of 2007.

“As my career progressed and I realized what kind of player I could be, I realized I had a great chance to develop my skills: skating, passing, shooting while playing in college, and in the summer working on the more pugilistic arts – I took some boxing lessons and made sure that part of my game was ready if called upon,” says Westgarth, who remembers seeing fellow Princeton grad and Kings alumnus, George Parros, have success as an enforcer in the NHL.

“I think it just boils down to doing whatever it took to keep playing, and I was very lucky and absolutely thrilled when the Kings came calling and I was able to sign a contract and head right up to Manchester to start my professional hockey career,” says the 32-year-old Westgarth.

Reporting directly to the Kings’ minor-league affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs, Westgarth was well aware of the Kings’ struggles and significant playoff drought.

“In LA, a lack of success doesn’t particularly lead to a bigger fan base, so I think everybody involved knew and were very cognizant of trying to improve as a team, as an organization. It was exciting to be a part of,” says Westgarth, who cracked the Kings roster during the Fall of 2010.

Although he played in Los Angeles the next two seasons, many of Westgarth’s fondest memories from his time in the Kings organization came during his days with the Monarchs.

“I lived with Quicky in Manchester,” says Westgarth, referring to goalie Jonathan Quick. “It’s kind of crazy to think back on where we were at all those years ago – seems like a lifetime ago and I guess it was in a certain way. But even beyond that, there were a bunch of guys in Manchester that were coming up at the same time and a lot of the guys are still there between Jonathan Quick, Trevor Lewis, Alec Martinez…it’s pretty amazing to have had that time to grow with a number of the guys who have become part of the foundation for the Kings.”

“There were some amazing times in Manchester between all the guys, it was like a second version of college in a way,” Westgarth continues. “Everybody was in town for the same reason – to hopefully live out their dream and make it to the NHL.”

Not only did they live out that dream together, but the crowning moment came in 2012 when that group of guys who had been playing in the minors just two seasons prior, helped the Kings to their first ever Stanley Cup Championship.

Unfortunately for Westgarth, an injury kept him out for the last few months of the season and he didn’t participate in the playoffs, but he was such an integral member of the team that the Kings petitioned the NHL to have Westgarth’s name engraved on the Stanley Cup, and he of course, got his day with the trophy.

“I still pinch myself that it actually happened. Anybody who has ever put on a pair of skates or held a hockey stick, it’s a dream. Being eight-years-old and out playing road hockey with my friends you’re talking about scoring the game-winner in the Stanely Cup Playoffs, then hoisting the Cup above your heads. I certainly didn’t score the game-winner, but to be part of that was incredible,” says Westgarth.

Westgarth and his wife, Meagan, were present when the Detroit Red Wings beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2008 Cup Final, and Westgarth admits to getting teary eyed during the post-game celebration, which he stayed to watch. That experience gave the couple some perspective on the emotional magnitude of a championship.

On Westgarth’s day with the Cup, he chose to bring it to his hometown of Amherstburg, Ontario, where he enjoyed a quiet breakfast with his family, before brining it to the local arena for a charity event. He also took the Cup to the golf club he had been a member at, and hosted a party for about 60 close friends and family.

“Those times I’ll never forget, just to be able to share that with everybody that was special to me. It was a beautiful thing,” Westgarth says.

One of the most poignant memories during Westgarth’s time with the Kings came only days after the Stanley Cup win. This is how he describes it:

“I think it was about three days after we won, and most guys probably hadn’t gone to bed yet – somehow I ended up lucky enough to bring the Cup back to my house. I had this nice roof deck and there were about six or seven guys and their significant others. At one point just Quicky and I were on the roof and we had ordered pizza, and were looking out over Hermosa beach, the Cup between us, eating pizza and kind of shaking our heads looking at each other like ‘four years ago I would have never believed this would be possible.’ That was a pretty special moment.”

Westgarth concedes that bringing the first Cup to Los Angeles was significant for himself as well as the other players.

“Every win is special, there’s no question about that, but certainly to be able to see the support and interest when we did our parade around Los Angeles and the parade through Hermosa Beach, bringing the Stanley Cup anywhere you see how special it is as a trophy,” says Westgarth. “I’m sure there are people out there who have never watched a hockey game, but they know what the Stanley Cup is. I remember bringing it to Las Vegas, and people were enamored with it – they just wanted to be close to it and take pictures of it. Clearly in Vegas in mid-late June it’s not the first thing on everybody’s mind, ice hockey, but it was a pretty amazing thing to see and be a part of.”

Continues Westgarth: “To be able the bring the Cup to LA, an organization that had been there for 45 years and had had a couple close calls with winning the trophy, but with spotty success, to finally be able to bring that to LA was a pretty amazing feeling.”

Westgarth was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes following the lockout of 2012, but to this day, still keeps in contact with guys like Matt Greene, Rob Scuderi, Davis Drewiske, and Quick to name a few, and he knows that the bond he shares with the guys whose names surround his on the Stanley Cup will remain.

For now, Westgarth is enjoying new and exciting chapters in his life: living in New York City, working as the NHL’s vice president of business development and international affairs, and his eight-week old son, Finn.

“My wife and I basically figured we’d get all the big life stressors right out of the way – new job, new city, new baby – but it’s been fantastic,” says Westgarth, who acknowledges that Meagan does all the heavy lifting with the baby while he takes some of the credit.

Having held his League title since late-January, Westgarth has been afforded flexibility and autonomy to find his way, as he leads the charge to expand the game of hockey overseas, what he bills as his ‘first foray into the ‘real world.’

“I look at my hockey career as basically a fairy tale. It took a lot of hard work, and was difficult at times and was absolutely incredible, but most times it’s pretty exciting for us to move on to something else. Being able to have all those memories and take everything that I’ve learned and apply it to something new has been very exciting.”

He may not have gone into medicine, but figuring out a way to combine his passion, experience, and knowledge will undoubtedly lead Westgarth to accolades in the future – which, perhaps he can put on display next to his Kings Championship ring.
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