*This is the ninth feature of a special multi-part LAKings.com content series featuring various members of the Kings organization as the Stanley Cup makes its way around the world throughout the summer.*
As the brilliant architect of a team that has won the Stanley Cup twice in three seasons, Los Angeles Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi, knew exactly who he needed to entrust with planning his time with the Stanley Cup: his wife, Wandamae.
The Lombardis decided to spend their second tour with the Cup in northern California, where they have owned property in Sonoma, which borders Napa Valley, since 2001. They were scheduled to have a public event at the Westin in Napa on August 30 where they also had 17 hotel rooms reserved for family and friends coming in from out of town.
An earthquake measuring 6.0 on the moment magnitude scale hit just south of the city of Napa on August 24, however, and severely damaged the hotel, forcing the property to shut its doors immediately, with an unknown reopen date. The hotel’s general manager, who happens to be a Canadian hockey fan, insisted that their goal was to open in time for the Cup event.
“They finally got clearance on Friday at Noon to open up just 20 rooms,” recounted Wandamae, who was assured she wouldn’t need an alternate plan.
The public event turned out to be a success, as it was turned in to a fundraiser for victims of the earthquake. The amount raised, which has yet to be reported, will be matched by the Kings.
Near the end of the night, a group was celebrating a wedding on one of the hotel patios, and a representative from the party came in and told the Lombardis that they would write a check for 500 dollars if they could bring the Cup to take some photos with their guests. Dean and Wandamae were happy to oblige.
The next day, the Cup began the day at 8:30 a.m. with family photos – horses included – at the Lombardi home, before making its way to the Redwood Empire Ice Arena, also known as Snoopy’s Home Ice.
Located in Santa Rosa the rink was once owned by the famed cartoonist, Charles Schulz, creator of the ‘Peanuts’ comic strip. Schulz himself was a huge hockey fan.
For more than three hours people were given the opportunity to have their photos taken with Lord Stanley’s trophy, starting with the rink’s junior teams and youth patrons. Approximately 2,000 people were in attendance, including quite a few Kings fans, and many San Jose Sharks fans.
“It was fun to be able to share that up there with [the Schulz family] because they knew that their father was such a big hockey fan, and that’s the first time the Cup has ever been there,” Wandamae commented.
The next stop was Ram’s Gate Winery, where a private fundraising event was held for the Sonoma Mentoring Alliance. It was the Cup’s first trip to Wine Country.
From the winery, Dean and Wandamae made their way down the road to the local fire station.
“We took some great pictures with the firefighters – a lot of them are volunteers – and they brought some family members and they were very cute,” told Wandamae.
They then stopped to take some photos at a picturesque vineyard owned by a friend of theirs, before arriving back home to host a small private party for about 40 guests. Among others, the guest list included Rob Blake, Jim Fox; John Ondrasik of ‘Five for Fighting;’ former Kings player and coach, Bob Pulford, who is also Wandamae’s foster father; and a group of gentlemen Dean grew up playing hockey with.
“It was a very special night and the Cup was sitting right in our living room,” Wandamae shared. “We made speeches, we watched the loop of us winning the Cup, and everyone was standing and cheering. And Dean made a big speech.”
Being married to a man whose job is arguably the most pressure-filled role in a professional sports organization, Wandamae certainly has a very unique perspective on things – a perspective that has become much more clear after winning two championships.
“[The biggest thing I’ve learned is] how hard it is to win that Cup and how important it is for you to create a family atmosphere where you trust each other – everybody from the players to the staff to the spouses, to anybody who works to support that team, making sure everybody really believes the same thing and that they can do it,” Wandamae expressed.
“To watch Dean and his staff build that trust and love in one another, it’s a lot of hard work, and it’s amazing how he was able to do that and you can just tell by these guys,” she continued. “He has not quit – he is now on more of a mission to win a back-to-back.”
For anyone who believes that a winning culture emanates from the top down, Wandamae’s testament is proof that the LA Kings are in pretty good hands.
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