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New Is Now

by Deborah Lew / Los Angeles Kings

The beginning of every new NHL season brings with it the hope of unparalleled heights, greater achievements, fresh energy, and, for 29 teams, the desperate desire to start all over again.

This particular season, the Kings find themselves in even more uncharted territory than they’re accustomed to, with a slew of significant off-season additions, higher expectations, a redesigned wardrobe, and, after a summer riddled with hockey-related tragedies, more reason than ever to get back to business as usual.

It was a busy summer for Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi, most notably with the acquisitions of center Mike Richards through trade and left wingers Simon Gagne and Ethan Moreau via free agency. All are seasoned veterans with a significant amount of playoff experience, and are expected to make an immediate impact on the ice.

“If I go back to last year, the first round of the playoffs, it kind of felt really bitter after we got out and we kind of said to ourselves, not knowing who’s going to come and who’s going to go, ‘we have to take the next step,’” said Anze Kopitar, who is back on the ice with his teammates after undergoing surgery last spring. “With Mike, Gagne, Ethan and Colin (Fraser), the team got better so the expectations are higher.”

Expectation is one thing that is certainly growing exponentially for a team that went eight seasons without seeing post-season play, only to make it to the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs each of the last two campaigns.

“We’re pretty hungry from the last couple seasons where we made the first round and had some expectations, but didn’t do as good as we wanted to, so I think there’s a little bit of a buzz around our team this year,” said Brad Richardson, who signed a two-year contract during the summer.

Dustin Penner, who still owns a home in Orange County, recently settled into a place in Hermosa Beach to improve the commute to and from work, and is equally as happy with the personnel improvements the Kings made in the last few months.

“On paper we look like a great team and it’s up to us now to put the pieces together,” said Penner.

Faces aren’t the only thing new to the Kings this season, as the team debuted brand new white road jerseys during the recent Hockey Fest event, an interactive fan festival that unofficially kicked off the beginning of the season on September 11th at STAPLES Center.

For the past three seasons, the Kings have used the black and white ‘shield’ logo jersey as an alternate, yielding to the purple ‘crown’ jersey, which they used as their primary uniform for home games. This year the Kings have omitted the color purple from the crown and will use that as their third jersey and use the black and white jerseys as their home uniform. As a result, a new white road jersey was created.

“I love them, I think it’s great to go back to the black and silver. When I grew up watching those teams back then, Gretzky was wearing black and silver, so I think it’s pretty cool and I think they look great,” said Kevin Westgarth.

When the Kings announced the jersey change, they cited an overwhelming sentiment from the fans as well as the players themselves, as having led to this decision, and it is evident in the players’ reactions.

“I always liked the black one last year and the white one I think is now my new favorite. I wasn’t a huge fan, to be honest, of the purple, they were ok, but I really like the black and silver, kind of back in the old days a bit,” said Richardson.

Dustin Brown on the passing of former Kings teammate Pavol Demitra this month:

“He was one of those guys where he would be very intense on the ice and he’d get mad at you if you didn’t give him the puck, but the second the game was over it was like nothing had ever happened. ‘Do you want to go for a beer? Let’s go do something.’  He was a happy go lucky guy, he was always having fun, and at the same time he loved the game of hockey.”

Justin Williams won his Stanley Cup in Carolina in 2006 with Josef Vasicek, who was also aboard the plane as a member of the Lokomotiv team.

“It sure hits home because you know of them, you play against them and the separation isn’t that big. We’re supposed to be one big family and its tough hearing players having troubles, especially tragedies like this.  It’s certainly good to be back and it’s certainly good to get hockey at the forefront rather than talking about all the bad things that happened in the off-season.”

Brad Richardson, who played several years in Colorado with Lokomotiv’s Karlis Skrastins, echoed similar sentiments:

“It’s pretty tough and really makes you think and kind of puts things in perspective. It was a really tough summer in general for a lot of guys, so it’s going to be nice to get back and start playing again.”

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