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Stories from the Hope Chest: Part II

by Deborah Lew / Los Angeles Kings

Mike Hope was the LA Kings Public Relations Director for several seasons in the mid-1970s, a period that turned out to be a pioneering one for the Kings in many ways.

Coming to the Kings from the Portland Trailblazers, Hope brought a wealth of PR experience to the table, which he used to help build the Kings an excellent public relations structure, much of which is still thriving today – not only with the Kings, but with other teams and other sports as well.

Hope recently took the time to share some of his most outstanding stories from a job centered in the entertainment capital of the world. The following is the second part of a summary of those stories, Part I debuted on LAKings.com last Friday and can be read here: http://kings.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=742681.

ON THE CELEBRITY APPEAL OF LOS ANGELES

The NHL at that time was putting together a League-wide insert into the club magazine called ‘Goal Magazine.’ It was eight pages and it was going to go into every team’s program. They called me up – again, we had won the award two years in a row for being the best PR department in the NHL – and they wanted me to be the West Coast Editor for Goal Magazine. They wanted me to do celebrity interviews for Goal Magazine so that when they would do a national insert, they would have a Hollywood celebrity featured. The National Hockey League is trying to establish itself in the 1970s, and this gave them prestige because if you’re sitting in Detroit, Toronto or Philadephia, you are going to read about some Hollywood celebrity and of course it gives favor.

So I make a deal with Alan Thicke, and I say ‘OK, you want to expose your name in Hollywood, and I need Hollywood celebrities. You go get Hollywood celebrities, bring them to the Forum for the Kings games, I’ll give you prestige seats, but the deal is that the celebrity, during the first intermission, has to do a TV interview with either the Kings or the visiting team, and during the second intermission, has to do a Home Box Office interview, and at the same time, has to sit for an interview with Goal Magazine. Some of the celebrities we got at that time were Jane Fonda, Jimmy Connors and Steve Garvey.

The visiting teams went crazy, and they would get excited about what star they were going to get. So Alan Thicke was able to ingratiate his name into the Hollywood community because he became the go-to guy to get people to come to the hockey games. At the same time the reward for coming to the hockey game, these actors and actresses could get exposure in Los Angeles.

To build the exposure for the Kings and to build the crowd, we had the local effort.  Then we had the national effort.

ON PR STUNTS

Miss Cyndi was the streaker at the Kings game. She came out, we had her in a fur coat right before the game started, we had her on skates – we found someone that could skate after all – we gave her a Kings pendant, and before the game we alerted all the TV stations. It was a big game, I think it was Philly. So all of a sudden, Miss Cyndi comes out from where the Kings came in, she takes off her fur coat, she’s naked except for her skates and a Kings pendant, she skates right down the ice right by the penalty boxes where all the TV reporters are, the crowd goes crazy, and the people were filming it, and this roar goes through the crowd. Somebody threw her fur coat on her and whisked her out of the Forum.

ON ANTHEM VARIETY

At that time we had Frank Mahoney to sing the anthems. He really was our superstar. He wouldn’t do every game, but when he would come it would always be the big games. I started a tradition, a rotation – I would do ‘Star Spangled Banner’ one game, the next game I would do ‘God Bless America,’ and the next game I would do ‘America the Beautiful,’ and I would rotate that every game, and it just broke up the monotony. We would energize the crowd by using Frank Mahoney and using different national anthems to get the crowd ready for when the Kings came onto the ice.

ON BOB MILLER

Bob Miller had started a month before I did – we started together in 1973 and have been best friends ever since. One of the things I asked him that first year was ‘What is your philosophy on broadcasting?’ And one of the things he said that I’ll never forget was he said ‘Mike, all I really want to do other than paint the picture for the listener of the action in the game, my goal is I want to say ‘he shoots, he scores’ before the roar of the crowd. To put the listener in the position of being at the arena so that he hears the action of the game before the roar of the crowd and the listener doesn’t know what happened.’ He has maintained that philosophy for 43 years, and that’s why he’s in the Hall of Fame. It is a very simple statement to make, but if you think about it from the context of listening to a hockey game, that’s why Bob is so great. He puts himself in the position of the listener. His whole philosophy is to make sure the listener of the game, or in this case the viewer, hears what happened before the roar of the crowd drowns it out. It’s a fascinating insight into why he’s so good.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Today, people would die to get a Kings ticket. In the old days, we would die to give them away. So it’s how we built the Kings exposure in the 70s – obviously we didn’t have Wayne Gretzky, we didn’t have a Stanley Cup, we didn’t have STAPLES Center. We had to go out and create an interest in this thing called hockey.

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