The 2010 NHL Entry Draft, which will be held at Staples Center on June 25-26, 2010, provides an excellent opportunity for the Los Angeles Kings
to showcase not only their organization, but also hockey's growth in California.
For Hall of Famer Luc Robitaille
, this week's announcement that the draft will be coming to L.A. for the first time was a long time coming -- considering the fact that the Kings entered the NHL in 1967.
"We'd asked the League for the last couple of years, and I think the hockey fans of Los Angeles have a passion for the game," said Robitaille, now the Kings' President of Business Operations and Hall of Famer, who saw his likeness emblazoned on a bobblehead doll which was distributed to fans Saturday when the Kings met the St. Louis Blues
. "We're really happy to get the draft."
Robitaille is delighted to present Southern California hockey fans with one of the NHL's crown jewel event.
"(It's an) opportunity to see a real draft and what a great event it is," Robitaille told NHL.com.
"We've had draft parties where we've drawn 2,500 and above, so we're really looking forward to a great event. It'll be really good for the game of hockey."
Robitaille is quick to reject the notion that Southern California is a "non-traditional" hockey market.
"It's because we don't have snow outside, but that doesn't mean that we don't have a lot of fans who love our team," Robitaille said of critics who say the area doesn't fit into the "traditional" mold of a hockey city.
Hockey continues to grow at the grassroots level in California. Since 2001, only five states in the U.S. -- Minnesota, Massachusetts, New York, Michigan and Illinois -- have had more players taken in the NHL Entry Draft.
Robitaille feels there will be more on the way.
"Right now, you go look at junior hockey in Canada and at what's going on in college hockey," Robitaille said. "There are so many kids coming out of California and Southern California, I hope a lot of those kids will be at the draft and get a chance to see what it looks like."
Things at Staples Center are looking good these days, with an energized fan base responding to a young team that off to a good start in an effort to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
"Just look at our crowds night in, night out," Robitaille said. "We always have great crowds no matter what."
Kings fans Saturday received their bobblehead dolls, many happy that the figurine features a uniform from the Kings' purple-and-gold days.
"The head is really big," laughed Robitaille. "A little too close to reality."
Robitaille sported his Hall of Fame ring, which he received at the November induction ceremony in Toronto.
"I don't wear it too frequently," Robitaille said, admitting to a moment of clumsiness of late. "I wore it the first week and banged it. I'm not sure that I'm going to wear it every day."
For Robitaille, the opportunity to give the fans a gift and address them with remarks before Saturday afternoon's game was special.
"It's great to do it one more time here in L.A., with all the fans who have supported me," he said. "Even when I left (to Pittsburgh, New York and Detroit), the fans supported me."