In the sport of ice hockey, the best players have trophies to their credit, and their names engraved on the Stanley Cup. They’re inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, and they have their jerseys retired by teams they’ve played for.
For former NHL left-winger and current LA Kings President of Business Operations, Luc Robitaille, the aforementioned achievements all have check marks beside them. But apparently, “long after” isn’t quite over yet.
Last Saturday, March 7, the Kings unveiled a seventh statue in Star Plaza outside STAPLES Center, and the honoree was none other than Luc himself.
Arguably the most popular King ever, Luc, who played three separate stints in Los Angeles before retiring in 2006, remains the highest-scoring left-wing in NHL history, and holds numerous Kings regular season and playoff records. Luc also won the NHL’s Calder Memorial Trophy, given annually to the top rookie, and a Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings in 2002.
All of this came after Luc was drafted in the ninth round of the 1984 NHL Entry Draft, and told he was too slow to really ‘make it.’
If by some miraculous chance it hadn’t happened before Saturday, the words of those critics were squashed by 2,500 pounds of bronze and granite in the form of a 19-foot tall statue of Luc, stick raised in post-goal celebration, which of course includes that famous smile.
The statue, commissioned by AEG and STAPLES Center, was created by Omri Amrany, Julie Rotblatt-Amrany, and Itamar Amrany of the Fine Art Studio of Rotblatt Amrany. The group also contributed the statues of Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Magic Johnson, and Chick Hearn, all in Star Plaza, as well as other national icons such as Michael Jordan, Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, Vince Lombardi, Pat Tillman, Bobby Hull, and Stan Mikita, among many others. The group has also created various memorials and fine arts pieces throughout the United States.
Julie and Omri, who met in Italy, began their studio in Chicago, Illinois in 1992, and soon after won a competition that rewarded them with the opportunity to create a statue of Jordan for the Chicago Bulls and United Center. Headquartered in Illinois, they have taught or worked with over 300 artists in the Chicago area.
When the Kings were looking for artists to create the statue of Luc, The Amranys were an easy choice.
“We had a sense of familiarity with the Amrany family, they had done previous statues out at LA Live Plaza,” explains Mike Altieri, vice president of communications and broadcasting for the Kings. “Not only had they done the statues there, but if you check their body of work, they’ve done sports statues across the country and around the world – they’re doing incredible work.”
The entire process began in May of 2014, when concepts and ideas were tossed around. Luc had insisted he didn’t want anything to do with the project, so Altieri and Kelly Cheeseman, the chief operating officer of AEG Sports, spearheaded the effort from the Kings side.
“We went over various photographs, different positions and ideas for how they wanted to capture Luc permanently for a timeless effect,” remembers Itamar, the son of Julie and Omri.
The Kings went into the process with an idea of what they wanted the statue to portray.
“Luc was known for his goal scoring and his passion and love for scoring goals, so we wanted to find an image that was him enjoying the game of hockey and scoring a goal,” Altieri shared.
“We ended up taking a couple different photos and juxtaposing them together,” admits Julie. “One was the gesture of him raising his hands, another was the uplifting portrait of his face.”
By Summer, the actual structure started to take shape. First a steel structure needed to be built, around which the clay would be sculpted. The bronze structure is hollow, which is necessary to prevent cracking and distortion of the bronze during its casting process. The granite base the statue sits on is also hollow and is bolted to the ground.
Using white, black and gold for the color of Luc’s jersey was a suggestion by the Amranys, and was achieved by integrating different patinas throughout the process and using more opaque pigments.
“They presented us with a multitude of options on what we could do and we felt like that was a really nice unique touch that we could add to it that would really make it stand out,” says Altieri about the decision to incorporate color.
Although Luc remained entirely detached during the artists’ process, the Kings did involve Luc’s wife, Stacia, who was integral in the completion of the facial portion of the statue.
“We got to a point of finality with the statue and we really felt good about it, but we didn’t feel right about it, and it was primarily his face,” admits Altieri. “We engaged Stacia on helping us with that. We got her on the phone with the artists, she talked directly to them, gave her personal feelings about what she had seen so far and also what she felt really represented Luc’s features. I thought they ended up nailing it and it looks so much like him.”
Omri drove the statue to Los Angeles, and during installation, the piece was kept covered as much as possible to avoid any sneak previews. Both Luc and Stacia saw the final product only at the point of unveil.
“It’s a very humbling experience,” says Luc of the statue honor. “It’s something you don’t expect.”
Luc wore a number of different Kings jerseys during his time in Los Angeles, but the jersey choice on the statue is personally special to him.
“I love that era, I broke records there and Mike Altieri picked that era, they didn’t ask me, they just did,” says Luc, who also concedes that the current uniforms are reminiscent of that time period.
The reaction to the statue has been favorable, which is proof the Amranys have served their reputation well.
“Many times people feel that our artwork is the most uplifting, in its elimination of gravity. That is what athletes reflect – when you see a skater on ice or a basketball player flying up to the basket, you almost don’t know when he’s going to come down. Conveying this in a piece of bronze, it takes lots of research, dedication, experiment and experience, to try to create the spirit of a second and immortalize it for forever,” Omri articulates.
“We hope that Los Angeles fans will appreciate our effort as artists,” Omri continues. “We hope that people will come again and again to see how some of us started from almost nothing and live for our dreams.”
The realization of dreams following an arduous journey is somewhat of a theme within Luc, the statue, and maybe even its artists. It is definitely a theme that is relatable to many people, so perhaps it’s fitting that the uplifting spirit of Luc in the midst of a goal celebration is now a permanent fixture outside one of the nation’s most iconic entertainment venues.
Itamar sums it up best when describing what the statue represents to him:
“At the end of Luc’s speech when he was talking about a kid with a dream, and seeing those dreams become a reality, that’s what I think of. Everybody has their goals and visions and ideas of what they want to pursue in life, and if you know anything about Luc and his background, and you see that, I think [the statue] could really inspire people in that sense to pursue their goals and follow their dreams.”
Who knows? If there’s any trend in Lucky Luc’s history, “long after” probably won’t be over for a very long time.
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