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Stars on Display at Faceoff For Hope

by Andrew Howard / Los Angeles Kings
Cuba Gooding Jr. participated in Saturday's Celebrity game.

Cuba Gooding Jr. knew the answer to the question right away.

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The Academy Award-winning actor of such movies as Jerry Maguire and Boyz N' the Hood was asked the question over the loud-speaker at STAPLES Center what was more special: winning an Academy Award or scoring a goal at STAPLES?

His response?

"Scoring a goal at STAPLES Center is the best thing that's happened to me," Gooding Jr. said.

Celebrating his 42nd birthday, Gooding Jr. notched a hat-trick as his team won 7-5 in the first annual Face-Off for Hope game on Saturday following the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 victory over the Washington Capitals.

The game benefited the City of Hope hospital and a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales were donated to help further cancer research at the hospital. The event also kicked off the Kings Month of Hope in which the organization will support the City of Hope throughout the month of January.

For Gooding Jr., who has played in a pick-up league for the past 16 years, it was an amazing opportunity to play in front of his hometown fans.

"I played at the old Forum, I've played in arenas all around, the Joe Louis Arena, but just playing at the STAPLES Center in my hometown, its just great," Gooding Jr. said.

Gooding Jr. drew some praise for his play from some of the former NHL players who also participated.

"Cuba's unbelievable," former King Jeremy Roenick said. "He was definitely the MVP of the game. He worked the hardest. He was the difference in the game. He was the reason why they won."

Former King forward and recent Hall of Fame inductee, Luc Robitaille, also had great things to say about Gooding Jr. on the ice.

"He had a great game," Robitaille said. "This was his career game. He was flying out there."

In addition to Gooding Jr., other celebrities took part in the event included actor David Boreanaz from the television show Bones, E! Entertainment's Ken Baker, director Jason Reitman, and actress Shenae Grimes from the television show 90210 were just a few of the entertainment celebrities in attendance.

Reitman played in the game along with his wife, Michele, and said that his hockey influence was his wife's doing.

"My wife taught me to play hockey," Reitman said. "She wouldn't really date me until I started following and playing hockey. She said I wasn't a legitimate Canadian until I did."

Reitman, born in Montreal, said that it was quite an eye-opener to be on the ice along with so many former professional players.

"While it's an honor to play amongst former professional hockey players it also is a reminder how un-athletic I am," Reitman said. "But most importantly it feels great to get out there on the ice and do something for a good cause."

Grimes co-coached one of the teams along with current Kings captain Dustin Brown. A native of Canada, Grimes said that she loves to attend Kings game whenever she has the time, and that while she had a great time at the event, she would have liked to see a different outcome on the scoreboard.

"I thought my team didn't exactly do as well as I hoped but I'm all about team spirit and I still love everybody," Grimes said.

The list of former NHL players included current Kings assistant coaches Mark Hardy and Jamie Kompon, current commentators Jim Fox and Daryl Evans, and former Kings Ian Turnbull, Jamie Storr, Brad Norton, and Marty McSorley, among others.

McSorley, who coached the winning team, said it was great to see a great number of former professional hockey players come back to play for a great cause.

"I think what it all comes back to is the root of why we're doing it," McSorley said. "We love to play, it's who we are. One great thing about hockey players is that long after they retire, they continue to play and I think that's pretty much across the board for the guys."

More so than the actual hockey part of the event, all who participated talked about the importance of raising money for the City of Hope hospital in its cancer research.

"It's so important to the community and for us to be able to support it, to make some money for it, to help further raise the awareness that they do such a great job of, is really a pleasure and an honor," McSorley said.

When asked by Robitaille to participate in the event, it was an easy decision for Reitman.

"I've known Luc for a few years now and every time he asks me to do something it's the easiest yes on Earth because one, it's the most enjoyable charity work one ever gets to do," Reitman said. "But on top of that, Luc is just one of the good ones. He's a good egg and he does so much and I know anything he does is legit and something I can believe in."

After a tremendous game in which the Kings defeated Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals, 2-1, the fans that stuck around to watch the Face-Off for Hope we treated to a special event. Not only did the fans get something out of it, but so did the players, as McSorley noted.

"It gets to the root of who we are as people."

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