Nelson Emerson, a member of the Kings Development Department, knows what it takes to play hockey.
The former NHL forward has excelled in all levels – college, the minors and the NHL – and as a veteran of the sport, Emerson has suited up for 771 NHL games, including 124 contests in his two-plus seasons with the Kings.
Today, Emerson continues to work for the Kings as travels across North America for his job. LAKings.com recently spoke to Emerson about his day-to-day life, why he’ll never forget the day he got drafted (or what he ate!) and what it’s like working for the Kings organization.
Q: Can you describe a typical day on the job here?
Emerson: I travel a lot with my job in player development with the Kings so I’m on the road about 11 days a month, so I don’t really have any typical days. When I’m on the road, my day would be to visit with the players—the draft picks—to maybe go to one of their practices—to definitely watch some of their games and to basically communicate with the players that we have, develop a relationship and try and help them along.
Q: What’s it like watching the Kings play as a retired player?
Emerson: As a retired player, it’s really interesting because you feel a part of something, part of the fact that you did play in the NHL. There’s only a small number of players that actually get to do that and as a retired player, you see some of the things the guys might be going through, whether it’s a slump or a travel experience or intensity in a game and we can relate to that because we had to go through it ourselves, so there’s a familiarity.
Q: Can you describe your role with the Kings today?
Emerson: My job now is to not so much deal with the Kings players, but with the guys in Manchester, guys that are playing in juniors or guys that are playing in college. My role is to follow them, develop a relationship with them and to help them through their experiences right now as an amateur player so that when they become a professional, they are a little bit more comfortable and a little bit more aware of what the Kings are all about.
Q: You played hockey at Bowling Green State University before getting drafted by the St. Louis Blues. How was the transition for you from college to pro?
Emerson: The fact that there were some guys there helped me out and kind of knew what I was going through made it easier, but it was very difficult. As a college kid trying to become a pro, I was small, naïve—it was quite a challenge, you really had to have thick skin. You had to be tough and you had to get through it that way. I know how difficult it was trying to become a pro from college, so I think those experiences can definitely help me in what I’m doing in my role at player development. It was tough, I had to go to the minors and play in over a hundred games. It’s just different, you had to be very mature, you had to be able to handle it, deal with different things, and it’s definitely helped me in my role now.
Q: What was it like being drafted by the Blues in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft?
Emerson: That was crazy. I got drafted in the third round, which was higher than I even thought I was going to go. I was St. Louis’ second pick and I wasn’t even prepared—I was outside in the courtyard having a hot dog because I didn’t think I was going to go at that time. They gave me a jersey and I remember I wore it for hours at the draft and they had to come and take it back from me because they wanted to give it to someone else. It was awesome—never would I have thought I was going to get drafted and I never thought I was going to get drafted in that round, so I was a very happy person.
Q: Do you still like to play hockey?
Emerson: I have four kids and I travel a lot with my job so it’s hard to find the time to get there and to get going with it. Once I’m playing, I love it. If you can play with your buddies or your friends or a group of guys you like then its good but if you play with a bunch of guys that are maybe trying to prove something and they get a little edgy, then it’s no fun to play.
Q: Besides the Kings, do you follow any other team in LA?
Emerson: I follow them all but I’d say the Dodgers I follow the most, because the general manager I really like, Ned Colletti. He’s been really nice to me. I love baseball. I follow them all, but Dodgers for sure.
Q: What’s your favorite part about being part of the LA Kings Alumni Association Presented by Toyota?
Emerson: Well, we are all so busy now in everything we do, it’s fun to be with the guys -- that’s probably the favorite part -- just when we can all get together and story-tell and have a few laughs.
-- By Sarah Sotoodeh