Hockey Fest 2009: Part I - Breaking Misconceptions

This weekend the Los Angeles Kings held the first annual Hockey Fest at LA Live, which is another shindig in order to help build excitement for the 09-10 season. I must admit I held some skepticism about what the event would end up accomplishing, and I guess we won't really know the success of it until the Kings hit the ice and actually start winning some games. It's hard to build hype around a team that consistently gives so little in return.

I wasn't planning on attending Hockey Fest was was pleasantly surprised and flattered to have been offered media access for this event. I graciously accepted and entered into uncharted territory. All-in-all it was a very relaxed Blue Room with no real stress present at any point. I will admit my heart was pumping a bit of adrenaline when I lobbed my first question at Teddy Purcell asking him what he's done this summer to ensure his spot on the roster. His answer? Just what you'd expect a professional athlete to say; hard work, get stronger, stay focused.

Even though it was very cool to be a part of the ask-and-answer sessions, no one reinvented the wheel today. That being said, there was some very good insight by all the alumni in attendance with a few statements here and there that caught my attention.

Ray Ferraro put it best by saying the fans in the event tent are "cautiously optimistic." The fans have been burned by their beloved team for the past 41 years and now is really not the time to state with confidence that they're going to make the playoffs. I don't know anyone who is currently that confident with this young roster. Of course, the fans shouldn't be chastising the team before they can prove cohesiveness as a roster with consistent chemistry, especially with the new players in the room. There are realistic expectations for all the players that everyone has to be aware of with the best stated expectation by Ferraro (and one that I wholly agreed with) that fans shouldn't be expecting Ryan Smyth to be a 40-goal scorer. Instead he should be a lock for 27 goals next season. I think that's a very reasonable number and can stand behind that, but that doesn't mean I think he's worth his $6.25 million cap hit.

The most notable:
  • Ray Ferraro stated that all of the Kings teams since its inception have never lost their commitment to win, but it was the ability to win has been absent. Cold hard truth.
  • Marcel Dionne said during the Triple Crown Line session that back in his time the players controlled the game whereas today the game is controlled by the coaches. This idea was so matter-of-factly stated that I was very impressed by the simplicity and reality of that insight. Having a system placed upon players is now so normalized that no one gives it another thought, but having it verbalized for the audience today was something I really appreciated.
  • I asked Ferraro about what his thoughts were concerning the hype machine that is college-stud Jack Johnson. His response was that Jack is still trying to find himself as an NHL player and that Drew Doughty's presence shouldn't be considered a threat. Bottom line: Jack needs to make that jump this season.
There were a lot of great things to see on the second day of Hockey Fest. The first was seeing the Kids Press Conference in the morning with Anze Kopitar, Matt Greene, Wayne Simmonds, and Teddy Purcell. The kids were asking some solid questions while the players cracked each other up.
  • Ego buster: "In April where did you play golf?"
  • The question that brought the house down: "Anze, do you still live with your parents?

Stay tuned for another recap from Sunday's event tomorrow night.

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