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Past, Present and Future on Display at Hockey Fest

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Anze Kopitar signs an autograph for a young fan at Hockey Fest.

The symmetry, even if accidental, seemed fitting.

On one rink, the Kings’ stars of yesterday swapped NHL war stories. On another rink, the current Kings signed autographs and greeted fans. On a third rink, the future of the organization, some of the top prospects, skated and practiced.

Three generations of players, and a total of 1,930 fans came together for the Kings’ second-annual ``Hockey Fest’’ on Saturday in El Segundo, an event that served as a kick-off to training camp (Sept. 18) and the Oct. 9 season opener at Vancouver.

This year’s event included nine hours of events and activities, many of them interactive with former and current Kings players, executives and broadcasters.

The hub of activity was the NHL rink on which the Kings usually practiced. Covered over, it served as a makeshift convention floor for four of the day’s big activities.

Kings general manager Dean Lombardi, along with assistant GM Ron Hextall and vice president of hockey operations Jeff Solomon, started off the day with a 90-minute question-and-answer session with fans, an open, wide-ranging exchange that covered everything from the draft to the collective-bargaining agreement to free agency.

As that session wound down, the future of the Kings skated on the Olympic rink as the Kings’ rookie camp kicked off. Under the direction of Manchester Monarchs coach Mark Morris, two dozen prospects went through drills, allowing fans to track their development at the start of the three-day camp.

Later, a quartet of some of the most popular Kings ever took the stage, as Jim Fox hosted a panel with Jay Wells, Marty McSorley and Luc Robitaille. The trio, dressed in replicas of their former Kings jerseys, swapped stories and took questions.

The current Kings were also a big part of the day. Throughout the day, on the roller-hockey rink, players signed autographs and greeted fans, who could also play the latest video games, visit sponsor booths and eat at tents in the parking lot. Some food proceeds went to benefit a firefighters widows and orphans fund.

The two newest Kings, defenseman Willie Mitchell and winger Alexei Ponikarovsky, were on hand to meet fans for the first time.

In the afternoon, four current Kings with Stanley Cup Finals experience -- Rob Scuderi, Ryan Smyth, Jarret Stoll and Justin Williams -- participated in a panel called ``Winning Ways,’’ in which they shared stories and insights about how to build a winning team.

Finally, the day concluded with a pep rally, in which players, coaches and staff were introduced, serving as an unofficial kickoff to training camp, which will open on Sept. 18 at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo.
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