Luck has Little To Do With Luc Robitaille's Success - LA Times
By Helene Elliott, Los Angeles Times
Robitaille was never the fastest skater or most purely gifted player on
the ice at any level he played. For a while, he wasn't even the most
"It's funny he got 600 and some-odd goals in the NHL. It surprises me because he used to be a passer," said his father, Claude.
would say, 'You could score once in a while.' He'd say, 'Yeah, but it
was the better play. We have more chance of winning. The other guy is a
better scorer than I am.' "
Somewhere along the way he learned how to score like few before or since.
whose 668 goals and 1,394 points are NHL records for left wings, today
will take his rightful place in the Hockey Hall of Fame with fellow
inductees Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Brian Leetch and New Jersey Devils
executive Lou Lamoriello.
It will be the highlight of a journey he began with modest expectations but great heart.
his first game with Hull of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League --
and again before his Kings debut at the Forum in 1986 -- he told
himself, "I've got to make this place mine. When I leave here, I want
to leave a mark."
He continues to make an indelible impression
on the Kings, whose uniform he wore for 14 of his 19 seasons. Now, they
look to him for leadership as their president of business operations.
is the epitome, I think, of what we want this organization to become,"
said Tim Leiweke, the Kings' governor. "He's iconic and you've got a
guy that still feels he has something to give to this organization,
somebody that wakes up every day wanting this organization to achieve
Robitaille got the nickname "Lucky" from the French
"Lucky Luke" cartoons he watched as a child. The name followed him to
Los Angeles, where fans fell in love with the kid who was drafted 171st
in 1984 but played like a prime pick and was voted rookie of the year
Luck had less to do with his success than the example
set by his father, an auto mechanic who built a scrap-yard business
from scratch into a thriving enterprise before passing it to his oldest
Claude set up shop in a milk truck, later moving
into a trailer that was frigid in the winter. He sold cars and auto
parts and took no vacations for a decade, stealing time to watch his
middle child play in youth leagues around Montreal.
on that ethic everything he did -- his goals, four 100-point-plus
seasons, eight All-Star game appearances and eight postseason all-star
selections. Now 43, he's still driven to excel as an executive, husband
of singer-songwriter Stacia and father to sons Steven, 21, and Jesse,
"The one thing I learned is always giving more than you
think you can," he said. "I wasn't good every day but I know I gave
everything I could every day, and that's something I saw my dad doing."
the four-minute speech he will deliver tonight -- part of it in French,
his native tongue -- he will mention Claude and Madeleine, retired to
the serene Quebec countryside. He plans to mention Claude Therrien too,
because if not for his midget triple-A coach, he might not be here
It was Therrien who diverted his dream of playing center
like his idol, Wayne Gretzky, and steered him onto a path that led him
to team with Gretzky in Los Angeles.
"This coach takes me and
says, 'Luc, you had a great camp, but I have these three centers that
are going to play. I can keep you on the left wing,' " Robitaille said.
"I'm like, 'I'd play goalie if you want, sir.'
"Then you look back, and that day changed my career."
started on the fourth line. He gave up nights out with friends so he
could work on his skating or lift weights. He soon gave up passing and
learned to shoot, putting his size and soft hands to good use.
didn't set out any goals. It was all about the next game, the next
game," he said. "My big goal, and one of the reasons I'm still here,
was really to win a championship. Because I know when you win a
championship, you mark something special."
The heartbreak for Kings fans is that he had to leave to get his name etched on the Stanley Cup.
came close with the Kings in 1992-93, carrying them while Gretzky
nursed an aching back. He set NHL single-season records for left wings
with 62 goals -- since surpassed by Alexander Ovechkin -- and 125
points, which stands.
"I really thought in '93 we could be
right back in the finals," he said. "Then you realize how hard it is.
Everything has to be right."
He was traded to Pittsburgh in 1994
and to the New York Rangers, but the Kings traded Kevin Stevens to
reacquire him in 1997. When then-General Manager Dave Taylor proposed
to cut his salary in 2001, he left as a free agent for Detroit, where
he played on the Red Wings' triumphant 2002 team. He came back as a
free agent in 2003.
"I'm glad he got a chance to win the Cup,
but we should have never let him go that last time," Leiweke said. "I'm
glad he came back and finished in a Kings uniform. That was the right
way to end his playing career."
Robitaille retired in April 2006
and spent a year observing the club's business dealings before becoming
active in wooing sponsors, enhancing game-night presentation and
finding new revenue. Leiweke said Robitaille, whose business interests
include owning a stake in a USHL team, is no figurehead.
"He's a lot more than a pretty face, although I don't think he's that cute. People tell me he is," Leiweke said.
devotion to his new job is no surprise to Claude Robitaille. "Sometimes
he calls me at 6 in the morning in L.A., and I'll ask what he's doing
so early. He says, 'It's time to go to work. I don't have to be there
early, but I like to be there early,' " Claude said.
always been like that for hockey. Anything around hockey. Even now,
he's working for the Kings and he takes it very seriously. When they
lose, he doesn't like that at all. But that's part of the game."
A game he continues to honor with his presence.