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The Other Side of the (Judges’) Table

by Deborah Lew / Los Angeles Kings

After three years of auditioning for the LA Kings Ice Crew, I was certain that the most difficult role in the audition process was that of the candidate. After working the 2011-12 Auditions from a staffing standpoint, I’m pretty certain my previous conviction was false.

Approximately 75 ladies and 25 men gathered at Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo and Gold’s Gym Downtown throughout the two-day tryout process (which consists of improv, physical fitness and panel interviews, plus skating for the ladies) in hopes of earning a spot on one of the NHL’s premiere promotional teams. By the time the team is chosen at the end of the month, 80% of those hopefuls will have been disappointed, as the team will consist of only 20-24 members. 

Aside from shoveling snow, shooting t-shirts, looking good in spandex and the other obvious roles that fans see at Kings games, the Ice Crew also serves a functional purpose in the Kings community.

“We do over 300 appearances a year in the community and they’re very active with raising funds for our Kings Care Foundation. They’re also very much involved with our sales and marketing initiatives, so they’re out with our grass-roots marketing vehicle, helping collect data, and helping promote the brand in the community,” said Brooklyn Boyars, Manager of Game Presentation and Events, who directly oversees the Ice Crew.

The fact that the Ice Crew is so multi-faceted means the judges have it that much harder when deciding who to keep and who to cut during auditions.

“When you're building any kind of team, you need all different kinds of members, because everyone has a different strength. We need people who can talk hockey, people who can get the fans excited, and people who can connect with kids - all with a high level of class and professionalism,” said Sarah Marren,  a member of the judging panel, and a former Kings employee who happens to have experience both nationally and internationally judging cheer and dance competitions.

Just as the judges are looking for many different kinds of people to fill the team, the candidates themselves have very different reasons for wanting to be a part of it.

Tiffany, who recently moved to Marina del Rey from Minnesota, played hockey for seven years and is looking for a way to stay connected with hockey in her new city, as well as a way to contribute to the community.

“I came to my first Kings game, fell in love, admired the Ice Crew, and was so excited to try out, and summertime came and here I am,” said Tiffany, who is auditioning for the first time.

I know they do a lot of work with community service, and that’s something that I’m passionate about. I actually did pageants for a while and that was my outlet for community service, and now that that’s over I wanted a new way to get involved.”

Ryan, a Philadelphia native, moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career and saw the posting for the auditions on the LA Casting website.

“I came to a lot of Kings games and saw them out there and thought it would be a lot of fun,” said Ryan.

Even the returning team members are required to audition again every year to preserve their spot on the team, which presents another dimension within the candidate pool.

“This year it’s a lot different because I know what to expect going into it and it’s going to be a lot tougher to let go if I don’t make the team this year because I know how great of a job it is and how much fun it is to work for the Kings,” said Tim, auditioning for his second season with the Ice Crew.

This year is a lot tougher because going in I had the expectation of myself that I need to do this, I need to be funny, I need to impress everybody and make them laugh so that I can keep my job here.”

Gabby, the cover girl for this year’s Ice Crew swimsuit calendar, and a veteran of one year, was also in agreement:

“I think this year’s audition was harder because I felt like there’s more pressure on me. I want to come back because it’s an awesome organization, and I love my team members, the fans, and I love helping out with the charities and the different events.”

Throughout both days of auditions I had the primary task of updating the Ice Crew’s official Twitter stream with live photos and commentary. One of the questions that came through the Twitter feed asked how the judges could possibly keep track of all the candidates even though they were numbered. Considering I was there both days, overheard judging deliberations and comments, and watched with my own eyes, I’m still unsure of the answer to this question. As a matter of fact, I’m now baffled at how I managed to come through the filter three seasons in a row.

I do, however, know this. When I was auditioning, all I had to worry about was myself – my hair, my makeup, my skating, my sense of humor, my fitness regimen, and my intentions. The judges, on the other hand, have to take all these things into consideration, but for each candidate with a number pinned to their hip. That’s one job I won’t be auditioning for anytime soon.

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