Three years since last suiting up for the Kings, Sean O’Donnell is back with the team in a new role, as manager of Fan Development and Alumni Relations. After spending 17 seasons as a defenseman in the NHL, O’Donnell is ready to begin a new chapter in his hockey career.
His history with the Kings spans eight years, spending his first six seasons with LA, from 1994 to 2000, as well as two additional years, from 2008 to 2010.
“I played with the league a long time but to have eight years in one place, I consider it my home team. I have a soft spot for the Kings and have a lot of friends in the organization, a lot of friends in the LA area, so to be able to come back here and work for the Kings, the team I played so long for is very exciting,” O’Donnell said.
For O’Donnell, the transition from player to front office has been smooth, which he credits from having a lengthy NHL career and a recent retirement, following the 2011-12 season, as part of the Chicago Blackhawks.
“It hasn’t been difficult because I think some people have a hard time with retirement whereas I was 41 when I retired and I played a long time. I had the lockout year, so I did a year of not doing a whole lot, so getting back in the game and being part of an organization at any level just felt good, but I think so far it’s been going well,” he said.
With the management position, O’Donnell’s focus is expanding the Kings brand, through appearances, clinics, camps and community events.
“The hockey fan is probably the most loyal, passionate fan, but there are so many different things to choose from in the LA area, with the different sports, colleges, surfing and volleyball, we’re reaching out now to kids at a young age, not just from the LA area, we’re going to Simi Valley, Palm Springs and as far away as Bakersfield and Vegas.”
O’Donnell will also serve as a TV commentator, after he was approached by Luc Robitaille, Kings President, Business Operations, and other staff members about the opportunity.
“Live TV can be a tricky thing sometimes, especially when you look at Jim Fox or Bob Miller or Patrick O’Neal or some of these people—there’s a skill to that,” he said. “To have the trust of the people at Fox and the people at the Kings, I’m very flattered.”
With the 2013-14 season just around the corner, O’Donnell is excited for his new role as a commentator.
“You’re on the go, you have a script of what you want to talk about but then after the pre-game show you have to go on the fly depending on what’s going on during the actual game. I’m confident, I think I’ll be comfortable doing it, being able to dissect what’s going on in the game and try and relate that to the fans from an insider point of view. I’m excited by it and I hope I’m received warmly,” he added.
O’Donnell is also involved with the Alumni, which includes functions and appearances throughout the year. He will also take part in the first ever Alumni Fantasy Camp in Las Vegas, as part of this year’s Frozen Fury. Fantasy Camp will take place over four days, beginning September 25th. Participants will have the chance to skate with Kings Alumni, including Jim Fox, Rob Blake, Charlie Simmer and many more, tickets to two Frozen Fury games and be a part of Robitaille’s poker tournament.
“I think it’s going to be a great time. The Kings Alumni that are going, they’re not just showing up to the games and leaving, everyone is doing dinners together, everyone is taking the bus together. They’ve really done a good job of integrating some of the former players with people that are signing up for the camp,” he said.
A seasoned vet, O’Donnell has played in over 1,200 regular season games in the NHL and 106 playoff games. In 2007, he became a Stanley Cup champion with the Anaheim Ducks.
Looking back, O’Donnell’s most memorable moment with the Kings was his first professional hockey game. His rookie year in the NHL came during the 1994-95 season—a lockout year—where teams played a condensed schedule with only 48 games.
“I was able to play 15 games that year. My first game was against Dallas and Marty McSorley was my partner. I grew up watching Marty and we had Gretzky and Kelly Hrudey, Jari Kurri, Tony Granato on that team. It was awesome to be able to play with those guys and to come back and play two more years and just see how the Kings had evolved from what we went through playing at the old Forum to playing at STAPLES Center—being able to be part of both of those eras was a neat thing,” he said.
Many of O’Donnell’s teammates from his second stretch with the Kings are still current players today, including Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Dustin Brown and more.
“They joke that I’ve gone to the other side, as far as now I’m working for the team and organization,” O’Donnell said with a laugh.