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Kings' Robitaille honored to have statue unveiled

by Curtis Zupke

LOS ANGELES -- Luc Robitaille heard it through good authority that the 19-foot, 2,500-pound bronze statue of him was sculpted well. He knew because he had one condition when he was approached about it a while back.

"I said, 'I don’t want to see it,'" Robitaille said. "I don't want to know. You guys do it and I'll see when it comes out. Just do me one favor: Show it to my wife [Stacia]. If my wife agrees with it I know it's all good."

The verdict?

"They showed it to her a couple of times, and at one point she told me, 'Yeah, it's pretty cool,'" he said. "She's happy. I figured it's all good."

Luc Robitaille honored with statue outside Staples Center

(Click to enlarge) Photo: Andrew D. Bernstein/NHLI

Robitaille is so humbled and grateful that he would have been glad no matter how it turned out. His journey has taken him from a kid with big dreams growing up in Montreal to the public face of the Los Angeles Kings, first as a player and currently as their president of business operations. That's why the Kings saw fit to unveil a statue of him outside Staples Center on Saturday before they played the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Robitaille is the second Kings player to have the honor, after former teammate Wayne Gretzky, whose statue is not far from where Robitaille's will stand. Dan Beckerman, president and chief executive officer of AEG, which owns the Kings, approached Robitaille about the idea of a statue last year, but it didn't really hit Robitaille until people recently began asking him about it.

"It was truly one of the first times I really thought about it," he said. "I don't know. I think it's special. Someone asked me [Thursday]. I was 13 years old; I remember 1979 I had a picture of Wayne Gretzky in my room. Every time I could see him I had to watch Gretzky. Now there's a Gretzky statue and it's Gretzky and me. It's kind of weird. But it's certainly humbling and very special."

Robitaille's 668 goals and 1,394 points are the most among left wings in NHL history. The Kings retired his jersey in 2007, but the statue puts him alongside Gretzky, former Los Angeles Lakers Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jerry West, former Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn, and former boxer Oscar De La Hoya among those immortalized in the plaza outside Staples Center that faces Chick Hearn Court.

"They're worldwide-known athletes and they're very, very special people," Robitaille said. "What they meant to this city is truly incredible. To be there amongst that group, it's kind of hard to describe the feeling."

Gretzky, Johnson, Abdul-Jabbar, West and De La Hoya either never competed at Staples Center or have little history there. But each is an important part of the city's sports history, and Robitaille deserves his place for helping grow hockey in Los Angeles.

Robitaille helped the Kings land the 2010 NHL Draft and the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game at Dodger Stadium, the first outdoor regular-season NHL game played in California. He is the Kings' ambassador for public events and is active in charity work.

"If you think of how far hockey in California has come for the last two decades, a lot has been built around Luc," Kings assistant general manager Rob Blake said.

Blake, a former teammate and longtime friend, said Robitaille's transition off the ice seemed like a natural fit given his affability. Blake has witnessed it first-hand walking next to Robitaille in Montreal, where he's treated like a rock star, and has seen him interact with fans.

"If you walk around the concourse here in L.A. it's the same thing," Blake said. "He'll stop and talk to everyone.

"I always thought he was a good hockey mind, but I think his excitement toward hockey, if he stayed in the game, it would transpire that way. He's always been good with people."

Robitaille had to leave Los Angeles to win the Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings in 2002. But he said his experiences as a player helped him learn how to build a winning organization. He's equally proud of having his name on the Cup twice as an executive (2012, 2014).

He's reminded of it every time he greets fans, especially after the success of the past three seasons.

"I love the feeling that people, when they talk about the Kings, the passion [they have]," Robitaille said. "And now players want to play here … it's an amazing feeling right now, and it's something we're going to keep pushing for many more years."

Robitaille will have his family in attendance for the ceremony. Also expected to attend are Gretzky, Blake, West, and Pittsburgh Penguins co-owner and fellow Hockey Hall of Fame member Mario Lemieux.

The emotion that Robitaille will have when the statue is unveiled will be simple yet poignant.

"I'm just a kid playing a game," Robitaille said. "I loved it. I gave everything I had every day. Everything that's happened to me since, I just feel blessed."

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