Ever wonder who’s playing “GO KINGS GO!” on the organ? Or who the DJ is that’s playing the music before the puck drops? Curious about who triggers the goal horn when the Kings score? It’s all done by Dieter Ruehle. LAKings.com recently caught up with Dieter, a veteran of 22 seasons of professional hockey.
Q: Can you explain what you felt as a long-time Kings fan as you watched the last seconds tick down in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final?
A: I felt so much joy and happiness, a sense of wow, this is really happening! I also had to stay focused since the game was still in progress. I wanted to be sure to hit our goal horn for just the right amount of time. I didn’t want to hold down the horn switch too long. However, this once in a lifetime moment of the Kings winning our first Stanley Cup deserved more than just a typical end-of-game horn blast. Looking back at it, I think I did alright.
Q: Where does that experience rank among all of the other cool experiences you’ve had over the years working sports and other major events, including the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver?
A: First and foremost, I’ve been a big hockey fan since I was a kid. And to finally be a part of the Stanley Cup Final was an amazing experience. It was especially sweet for me since I’ve been involved in working NHL games for so many years (last season was my 16th with the Kings, and 22nd overall NHL season).
Q: How did your association with the Kings first start? What brought you to the Kings in the first place?
A: I was hired in the summer of 1989 (my first season was ’89-’90). In those days there was NO recorded music played at games. In fact we didn’t even have a video board until the 1991-92 season. I played live music during every whistle break during games and every intermission too.
My story with the Kings started like this: I got a taste of playing the organ at a Kings game when I was a kid. KABC-TV had a segment on their local newscast called “Sports Fantasy.” I wrote Channel 7 a letter, asking if I could play the organ at a Kings game. They said yes! It just so happened that the game they selected for me to play at, was the day after my 12th birthday (Kings vs. Winnipeg Jets on 11/19/80). After that, I was hooked on playing the organ at hockey games. I wrote letters to the Kings every summer expressing my interest in being their organist if they ever had an opening. I also wrote to the other teams at The Forum -the Lakers and Lazers (Major Indoor Soccer League). The Lazers hired me at the age of 15 to be their organist for the 1984-85 season at The Forum. I ended up working Lazers games for five seasons until the MISL folded.
Q: You’ve held the title of Kings Music Director for 16 seasons. What type of preparation do you go through as you ready yourself for a typical Kings game at STAPLES Center during the course of the season? Do you have your own mini-training camp?
A: I’ve found that my own version of “training camp” really takes place throughout the entire summer (as I’m sure the players do too). I try to practice as much as I can, and stay current with popular music. In regards to prep for a typical Kings game at STAPLES Center, here’s how it works. I arrive in the afternoon, power up all the gear, then start to arrange playlists for the night (for walk-in music and in-game music). I also warm-up on the organ by playing scales. After that I attend a production meeting, where we go over all of the entertainment elements we have planned for the night. Usually after that, our crew rehearses between 5 and 6 p.m. We run through video, lighting and music cues and also our national anthem singer rehearses. Then, at 6 p.m. when doors open, it’s time for me to begin playing music.
Q: Like the players, does the game change for you in the playoffs?
A: Yes. I think everything becomes more intense during the playoffs. And there’s also so much more energy in the building. I especially love being able to play GO KINGS GO! before playoff games (just before and after warm-ups, etc.).
Q: Music seems to be a very polarizing subject for Kings’ fans. How hard is it to find a balance with the music so as to satisfy the diverse Kings’ fan base?
A: Music is so very subjective. First off, music for pre-game warm-ups is 100 percent selected by the players. Music for the rest of the night is a blend of songs that are hopefully recognizable to the vast majority of our fans. I don’t think it’s possible to play everyone’s favorite song all the time. But hopefully the mix of music is enjoyable for all.
Q: Do you go into a game with a ‘gameplan’ as to what to play and when, or do you let the game and the crowd dictate what’s played and when?
A: It’s kind of a combination of both. I write up a song list (prior to each game). However, it’s not set in concrete. The feeling and flow of the game, and the feel of the crowd influence what’s played and when it’s played.
Q: What’s the hardest part of the job?
A: Losing! It’s one thing when the Kings are trailing in a close game. But if we’re losing 6-0, that’s the toughest part. Fortunately that rarely happens!
Q: What’s the most rewarding part?
A: I don’t mean to sound too cheesy, but the best part of my job is putting smiles on people’s faces and watching fans participate.
Q: Is the organ your favorite instrument to play?
A: I love playing any keyboard instrument (organ, piano, etc).
Q: Thanks to your unique role with the Kings and AEG, you’ve been able to visit a lot of places over the years. Can you talk about some of the favorite places you’ve been to and performed at?
A: Yes, thanks to my role with the Kings and STAPLES Center, I’ve worked all around the world. I must say that being a part of four Olympics ranks right up there with my favorite events to perform at. Working the 2006 Winter Olympics ice hockey competition in Italy was very memorable. And of course working the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver was very exciting too. The men’s gold medal game between Canada and the USA was one for the ages. And I also really enjoy my time in New York City every summer (while working the U.S. Open tennis tournament). The Big Apple is for sure a fun place to visit.
Q: What are your hobbies away from work? Do you consider yourself a sports fan and do you enjoy going to events as a fan?
A: I’m definitely a sports fan. It’s nice going to events as a fan, to be able to sit back, relax and take it all in. Sometimes I find myself thinking that I’d do or play something differently than what I’m hearing. But there are also times when I hear something that I might end up “borrowing.”
Listen to Dieter's In-Game Music Playlist HERE