Robert Lang’s 16-season NHL career began in 1990 when he was drafted by the Kings.
Lang played his first NHL game as a member of the team during the 1992-93 season and went on to play three more seasons with the organization.
He played in 989 games during his two decades in the league in cities like Boston, Pittsburgh, Washington, Detroit, Chicago, Montreal and Phoenix. In 1998, he won a gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Nagano as a member of the Czech Republic National Team.
Some three years after playing his final season in Phoenix, Lang – who now resides in San Diego with his wife and their two children – answered these questions from LAKings.com:
Q: Talk about what it felt like being drafted by the Kings.
Lang: That was great, even though in that era, it wasn’t as fast and glamorous as it is now but your agent usually calls you. It was awesome. I was back in Czechoslovakia and news like that—it was great, it was just completely life changing. It was a great time and you just don’t forget stuff like that when it happens.
Q: How did you feel the first time you stepped on the ice as a King?
Lang: It was the same thing because back then the players on LA were phenomenal—obviously Wayne, Luc, and Kurri and Marty—all the guys from Edmonton. Growing up, you’re hearing and watching some of these guys as the superstars and then you get to play with them in their time, so it was spectacular.
Q: What was it like adjusting to LA?
Lang: It was definitely an adjustment because I didn’t really speak the language when I came. The city and culture and everything was so different compared to what I was coming from. It was basically 180 degrees different from what I grew up with or used to. It was definitely fun but it was hard at times because when you don’t speak the language, it takes a little time to figure things out and just fit in.
Q: What some of your favorite memories from when you played with the Kings.
Lang: I think definitely one of my favorites was my first goal because I think anybody who plays in the NHL, you remember the first goal vividly. It’s something that sticks with you. I think the second one was when Wayne broke the record.
Q: Most memorable moment from your career?
Lang: I didn’t get to win the Stanley Cup or come that close to it so I think one of them would be playing five overtimes when I was in Pittsburgh. That was a lot of fun in the playoffs and when we won the gold medal in Nagano.
What was it like winning an Olympic gold medal?
Lang: It was great. I think it was a little bit more special at that time because it was the first time they let NHL players come and compete for their country. Every team was the best team you could put on which I think was the biggest difference from the hockey tournaments in the past. The NHL didn’t allow players to compete and participate for their country so this one was even more prestigious just because they let us come and every country was loaded with the best talented players they could have.
Q: What brought you to San Diego?
Lang: I always liked California because I started in LA. With Southern California, I always liked the lifestyle, people, climate, the ocean—all of the stuff that draws people here. I’ve always been drawn to it. After I was finished playing and all that, even a little bit before, we traveled around. My wife is from the Bay Area but we didn’t really want to go up to the Bay Area, because her family left so there wasn’t really a reason to go back there and with two little boys I didn’t really want to go back to LA just for traffic and all that stuff, we just looked around and we ended up really liking the San Diego area and we just settled down here.
Q: Do you see yourself staying here in the United States or do you have plans to move back to Europe?
Lang: I definitely plan on staying here. My wife is American so that was always sort of the plan, to stay here. My boys were born here—one of my sons surf, one plays baseball—so they are as American as you can be. It was just always the plan, stay here and raise our family down here. LA is great too—San Diego is just a little bit more mellow so for the family life I think it’s a little bit better.
Q: What do you do now?
Lang: My boys are 11 and 9 so I didn’t get to spend that much time with them as far as sports and their activities when I was still playing, so I’m making up for that and just participating in their sports, coaching a little bit here or there and just basically being there and supporting them. Besides that, there’s not that much time left in a day so I would say right now the kids are number one and obviously family. I think for the next few years, just spend time with them and then we’ll sort of see what happens.
Q: Do you still play hockey for fun?
Lang: No I haven’t laced them up since I hung them up, so they are pretty dusty somewhere in the storage room. I did go on the ice a little bit when my younger one played hockey but that was just to help.