Last week, Kings fans emailed in questions for Kings Royal Ambassador Rogie Vachon. The following is what fans wanted to know and what Vachon's responses were in this month's Ask A King.
What do you think of the goalie situation that the Kings have presently? - Art from Santa Ana, CA I'm pretty happy with the goaltending right now. We just got another goalie, Dan Cloutier, who was in Vancouver. He has a lot of experience and he played very well during the last few years in Vancouver. Last year he got hurt and missed most of the year, but he'll be back healthy with Garon and LaBarbera. I think we'll be in pretty good shape.
Why do you think the Kings struggled at the end of the last two seasons? I really thought we had a skilled club going into 2005-06. – Fred from Los Angeles, CA Well, I wish I had an answer on that. It was pretty amazing that for a while we were playing extremely well and then when we had the break to go to the Olympics. During that time we lost two good scorers who ended up being out for a while and we never recovered. Also, I think the team might have put a lot of pressure on themselves – the Ducks started to win, Edmonton started to win, and all of a sudden there was a lot of pressure on our players to perform and they did not do a very good job.
Who had the hardest slapshot that you ever faced? - Juli in Porter Ranch, CA I would say Bobby Orr. In those days he had a big, curved stick. Right now the maximum is a half inch, but in those days it could go an inch or even an inch and a quarter, so his blade was like a boomerang. Bobby Orr could really shoot the puck.
What skills should young goaltenders today work on off the ice that will help them succeed on the ice? - Paul from Montreal, Que. Well, it's really a mental game. I think physically most of the goalies and the players all have a good base. They all know how to skate and the goalies all know how to stop the puck. It's a long season though, and if you go in a small slump and lose two or three games in a row, you have to find a way to get back on top of your game. Sometimes, some goalies they go deeper and deeper in the hole and in the meantime the team is losing points. Mentally, you have to be extremely tough, and if you give up a bad goal, you have to forget about it and go on and stop all the other shots.
What is it like looking up in the rafters and seeing your name and number next to some of the greatest to play the game, including The Great One himself? - Mike from Boston, MA It's a great feeling. Every time I go to STAPLES Center, I look at those names up top and I'm very proud of that. Especially being the first player to have his jersey retired – I'm very proud of that.
During your playing days in Los Angeles, what is your greatest memory either on or off the ice? - Phillip from Manhattan Beach, CA I think we turned the team around back in the 70's. I came in during 1971 and our team was pretty bad. For about two or three years, we were out of the playoffs by Christmas. Back in '73, '74, and '75 we had tremendous years, turned the team around, and started to win. Actually, we still have the team record with 105 points back in 1974-75. The fans were starting to come in and we really were turning things around at that time.
What would you say is the biggest difference between being a goalie, when you played, and goalies in the current NHL? - Rudy from Walnut, CA The game itself has really changed. When I played, the game was coming toward the goalie more straightforward – the centers would patrol the center, the left wing would stay on the left side, and the right wing would stay on the right – so you had a lot of angle shots. In those days we used to stay up a lot more than the kids now. Everyone flops now and is on their knees because that's the new way to play, but in my days we stood up more. Now the game has changed and everything comes crossed from all over the place, so you know you have to come out and read the play to see what's going to happen next. That's why the guys are going back into the net. When I played, we used to do it the other way around – stay in the net and read the play to see what's going to happen, then move out and move on top of player who was going to shoot. The whole game has changed.
What is your opinion of the new hockey rules? - Doug from Pasadena, CA I really liked what I saw last season. The game was getting very boring before that because everything was defense with not many scoring chances. Most of the game was played in the corners and you could neutralize the top stars in the league by putting your stick in the stomach and doing all kinds of things like that. Now they've eliminated all of the interference and now it's more free and wide open so that the top players can perform and you see better hockey.
Which goaltender today most reflects your style of play? - Lorne from Geneva, Switzerland Well, I don't think there are any young goalies playing our style, because the style that we used to play probably wouldn't work very well today the way the game is set up. Over the years, a lot of younger goalies had to re-adjust their game and play to the style that the game is today now.
Is there anyone you looked up to and tried to emulate when you were an aspiring NHLer? – Jonathan from Long Beach, CA My role model was Terry Sawchuk. In those days I was raised on a farm, so we listened to the radio, and it was usually the Montreal Canadiens against the Detroit Red Wings. I guess I just liked the way he played.