"They still like us, Tim!" - Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
The Kings make a number of announcements for patient fans, and perspectives on repeating and a short season from Darryl Sutter, Dean Lombardi, Luc Robitaille, and Tim Leiweke.
At 4:00 PM, Bob Miller began the Kings' first official press conference of the 2013 NHL season. Joining him onstage were Tim Leiweke, the Kings' Governor; Dean Lombardi, the General Manager and President; Darryl Sutter, the Head Coach; and Luc Robitaille, the President of Business Operations. Jarret Stoll, Jonathan Quick, and Matt Greene were in the front row. Here's what happened!
Bob started off by welcoming everyone and introducing a three-minute KingsVision video recap of the last season. When you're trying to win people back, I guess it never hurts to remind them how good you were/are, right? There was (of course) a big focus on fans, as well as snippets of the decent media coverage of run and a nod to the Kings' new mainstream relevance. Bob's Game 6 commentary served as a voiceover for the end of the video.
Next up: Tim Leiweke. He wisely began by thanking the fans for their patience. "We were as frustrated as you. When you wait 45 years... the last thing you want to do is wait another three months for the banner." While emphasizing that the entire CBA mess was "not a great process," he stated his opinion that the Kings' organization, "owners and players," was in "lockstep." He quickly moved on to how the Kings wanted to show their appreciation and their support for the local community. This led into the big announcement: a $1 million donation to charity in cooperation with McDonald's. The charities benefiting would be the Ronald McDonald House, Children's Hospital of Los Angeles, Boys and Girls Clubs, and City Year.
Leiweke closed by saying that the most important thing now was to "Win it again." He professed his joy that the Kings would be able to take advantage of their RIGHT to defend the Cup, and affirmed that the Kings would have full support from AEG. The exact words: "A green light." Sounds pretty good.
This led nicely into Dean Lombardi. Dean kept it relatively short (by his standards), reminding us that "Great athletes are never satisfied." To him, the Cup was show of character and mental toughness for the Kings to build on, and Lombardi stated his tremendous confidence in Darryl Sutter. Some levity followed as Bob asked follow-up, but Dean admitted he wasn't paying attention; guess his mind was already on the upcoming season. Once the laughter subsided, Dean was able to deliver the money quote: "It's not about recapturing the feeling; it's about writing a new story."
Darryl Sutter then took over, starting by jovially reminding the assembled media that he was officially the only coach remaining from the 1995 lockout-shortened season. Sutter (like the others) admitted to frustration, but optimistically pointed out that "48 games fits our team right now." To contrast the governor, Sutter said that this season really has nothing to do with repeating; it's about making the playoffs, then drawing on the experience from 2012. "We'll be ready."
Bob's follow-up for Sutter asked about the team's preparations for the abbreviated season, and the coach put a major focus on preparation. In his words, "It's not a training camp... it's 5-6 days of practice." In his usual descriptive manner, he then credited Lombardi and Ron Hextall on their job of keeping the team together, describing it as "pretty cool."
Luc Robitaille then took the microphone and used a number of variations on the word "excited." On behalf of the team he announced the Kings' intention to do "a lot" for the fans, but put winning as the foremost priority. Yes, I know neither of these statements really count as news. He followed up by stating what the next couple weeks will hold:
- The players will donate time to sign autographs on Saturday night for seat holders.
- On Monday night, there will be a free and open practice/scrimmage at Staples Center. From Coach Sutter's face, I couldn't be totally sure whether the team knew about this plan...
- Regarding Saturday, January 19: That is gameday, but there remains no official start time. They've apparently gone through a ton of rehearsals for banner raising; the banner is going into the rafters, and not up on the wall.
Bob Miller closed the scripted portion by sharing his happiness at seeing the Stanley Cup make over 500 appearances, including a stop with every pro team, college, ice rink, in the area.
A brief Q&A followed. Some notable moments:
- In response to a question from CBS's Jim Hill about whether the Kings felt any pressure to restore hockey's popularity as the current champs, Leiweke confirmed where his priorities were. While they'll "accept the challenge" if necessary, he said that repeating was enough pressure, and that was the only focus.
- Stephen Herbert of City News Service followed up with a baffling question about using the million dollars (for charity, remember) to instead lower prices and appease the fans. Fortunately, Leiweke avoided punching the reporter and outlined the Kings' plans to make the fan experience better in other ways. Also, Replica Banners (on Opening Day), Replica Rings (TBA), and a re-opening of the LA Live skating rink are in the plans.
- The Fourth Period's Dennis Bernstein asked if Leiweke's "green light" quote meant spending all the way to the cap. Lombardi's one-word response: "Yes," followed by a pat on the back from Leiweke.
- Sutter responded to separate questions about avoiding injuries and whether the pace of this new season would be different in the same way: "We're shooting in the dark." Gotta love honesty.
The conference closed with Jarret Stoll speaking as Greene and Quick flanked him on either side. Again, no outright apology (which I'm okay with), but Stoll professed that the none of the players wanted this and they were ready to win again. As he stated: "It was so much fun, we HAVE to try and do it again." Both he and Bob Miller thanked the fans for their support "through thick and thin," and the press conference was finished.
The Los Angeles Kings are back; let's see how it goes!