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READY TO PROTECT HIS TEAM

by Kim Mueller / Los Angeles Kings
Westgarth finished his first professional season with 12 points (six goals, six assists) and 191 Penalty Minutes.

The ability to throw your body in front of a 90 mile-an-hour slap shot takes a lot of guts but what about putting your body and face in the ring for an ultimate throw down night in and night out?

Having the role as the enforcer on a hockey team takes courage and fortitude knowing that your entire team expects you to stand up for them. A good fisticuffs can be the difference between a win and a loss as the enforcer’s role is not only to protect his teammates but also to energize his team when they are struggling.

The future enforcer role of the Los Angeles Kings lies in the hands of one man, Kevin Westgarth.

“I love my role as the enforcer due to the fact that you are looked to as 100% a team guy and cheer everyone up,” said Westgarth. “I’m there to help the other guys and to have their back to help them improve their game. The fans love it and it’s a great part of the game. It’s great to hear from the fans that they love to watch you.”

A 2007 graduate of Princeton University, the 6-foot-4, 235-pound native of Amherstburg, Ontario, spent his first full professional season (2007-08) with the Manchester Monarchs. Westgarth finished the season with 69 games under his belt, 12 points (six goals, six assists), 191 penalty minutes that were good for third place among rookies and 25 major penalties which finished second among rookie players.

“I took some great strides in my overall hockey game by improving my puck skills, my skating and my defense,” explained Westgarth. “I think the end of the season was disappointing to get knocked out of the playoffs as early as we did. It’s unacceptable to be happy with being bounced as early as we did. As a team with so many rookies, it was good to make the playoffs but we wanted to go farther.”

Since completing his rookie season with the Monarchs, Westgarth has been working out, hitting the ice and keeping his boxing skills sharp.

“I’ve been going hard at it for a little while now,” said Westgarth. “I’m going to try not to embarrass myself (at Development Camp). I’m in the gym doing some cardio and weight training four days a week and then in between those days, I do cardio twice a day mixing between biking, running and boxing. I’m also on the ice a couple times a week and I give myself one day off.”

Westgarth has spent time the last two summers in boxing gyms which has helped his technique and is a good cardio workout. Balance on the ice during a fight is critical for a good scrap.

“Obviously your balance improves as your skating improves,” explained Westgarth. “I work on keeping my balance with my brother after we are done with our on-ice workouts. He’s a big, strong guy so it’s a good match-up.”

Westgarth reminds people a lot of former King/Monarch George Parros due to his talent on the ice and his off-ice charisma.

While in Manchester, the 24-year-old made a name for himself and became an instant fan favorite. Not only were his on-ice heroics exciting to watch but he became a staple in the community with fans of all ages and he’s a natural at acting out skits for the video board and commercials. Westgarth also entertained listeners during their morning drives when he was a guest on morning radio shows.

Westgarth’s talent on the ice and his off-ice charisma remind many fans of a former Monarchs/Kings player, George Parros. Now with his name etched on the Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks, Parros has worked his way up the ranks and established himself in the National Hockey League. As a fellow Princeton graduate, Westgarth knows Parros and met up with him a couple of months ago.

“There was a Princeton reunion this summer and the hockey team had their own day where we played golf and hung out in the evening and George was there,” said Westgarth. “He’s a great guy and really nice. I can’t turn down a compliment of being compared to him because he’s where I want to be. He’s done a nice job carving out a position for himself in the NHL and he’s got a Stanley Cup ring.”

The real question, did Parros give Westgarth any advice on making the next step to the NHL?

“It was good to talk to him,” said Westgarth. “He told me to always stay positive and to remember it’s a team game. I’m not going to make it to the NHL by scoring goals and he reminded me that I always need to be there for my teammates and epitomize everything my team wants me to be.”

Taking advice from a Stanley Cup winner, Westgarth is looking forward to the 2008-09 season and to him that starts with the Kings Development Camp.

“This camp is a great opportunity to see where we are all at in this stage of the summer,” said Westgarth. “I’m working on my feet and staying strong and I look forward to showing those improvements in camp. Every post-season is a new pre-season. This is the start of the 2008-09 season. This is where you show (the Kings) why you belong in the NHL.”

Above all else, Westgarth’s No. 1 goal for the upcoming season is to play in the NHL. In his quest to reach his goal, he looks to improve in all areas of his game including his plus/minus, his defensive awareness and his work along the boards.

While he works diligently getting stronger, skating faster and boxing better, Kevin Westgarth is also enjoying his summer away from hockey.

“I spent some time in Europe with my girlfriend visiting Greece and Switzerland,” said Westgarth. “We spent some time on the beach and it was beautiful over there.”

Back home in Ontario, he’s spending his time relaxing and reading some good books. His recommendations and favorites include: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and Enders Game. As far as good movies, Westgarth enjoyed the independent film, In Bruges, starring Colin Farrell and one of his all-time favorites is Shawshank Redemption.

Following a nice decompression from the end of the 2007-08 season, Westgarth is working hard and preparing for what he hopes and plans to be a great 2008-09 season. He knows what his role is on the ice and embraces it. Whether he is suiting up for the Los Angeles Kings or the Manchester Monarchs in a couple of months, his teammates and coaches can be confident that he will do his job as the enforcer.

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