Five for Fighting’s John Ondrasik talks Kings, favorite L.A. sports memories
LOS ANGELES — You might have recognized him from his performance at January’s NHL Stadium Series game at Dodger Stadium and you’ve definitely heard his song "Stand Up" at Kings games. John Ondrasik, the singer-songwriter behind Five for Fighting has merged his two passions, music and sports, in his role with the Los Angeles Kings.
But it’s more than just the Kings — the San Fernando Valley native has a love of all things L.A. sports (except the Trojans, he’s an 8-clap kind of guy). From the Fabulous Forum to the Rose Bowl and the Super Bowl, Ondrasik recenly opened up about his best sports memories.
The beginnings at the Fabulous Forum
Born and raised in L.A., Ondrasik’s earliest sports memories came from watching games in the Senate Seats at the Forum. It’s also some of his earliest music memories.
"If you were lucky enough to have parents that could afford Senate Seats you would get not only the Lakers and the Kings but you would also get every concert that came through the Forum," he said. "We were big Laker fans and we were Kings fans long before (Wayne) Gretzky came. The ugly purple and gold uniforms with the triple crown. Marcel Dionne, we remember Luc Robitaille as a rookie, Jim Fox and Bernie Nichols — our family fell in love with hockey and we’ve been going ever since."
When Edney went the length of the floor
Ondrasik stayed in town in college going to UCLA where he took his love of basketball from Inglewood to Westwood. It’s now been 19 years but Tyus Edney’s game-winning coast-to-coast drive in the 1995 NCAA tournament still plays on highlight shows and ‘One Shining Moment’ montages.
It’s still a play that brings Ondrasik right back to being a broke college kid. After Edney made the famous play and the Bruins advanced all the way to championship game, he spent every penny he had on a ticket.
"I was in Seattle, I was at the top (of the Kingdome), I had no money and I scalped tickets," he said. "But I was there for the championship."
Ondrasik still frequents the Rose Bowl and Pauley Pavilion. He has yet to perform at either venue but would not turn it down should the invitation ever be extended. Excited about the direction that football coach Jim Mora has the program going in and optimistic about basketball coach Steve Alford.
Broken-hearted over UCLA’s loss to Florida in the Sweet 16 this season, he likened it to another postseason rivalry in town.
"It’s the same thing the Blues are going to say this year when they face the Kings in the playoffs and get eliminated: Not again!"
The relationship with the Kings
When Robitaille retired, he hired ‘Five for Fighting’ to play his retirement party. With legends like Kurri, Dionne and Fox in attendance, it was one of the most exciting parties Ondrasik had ever attended.
Robitaille and Ondrasik forged a friendship.
— John Ondrasik (@johnondrasik) March 28, 2014
"He wasn’t really aware of my kind of Los Angeles Kings connection and he didn’t even recognize Five for Fighting was a hockey term," Ondrasik said. "That tells you how many fights Luc got into."
The friendship then turned into a working relationship a few years later when Ondrasik was brought on to blog for the team.
"My first article in 2012 was called ‘Why not this year?’" he said. "Turns out, it was the year."
The performance of a lifetime
The Super Bowl, the Heritage Classic and a few other high-profile sporting events were all highlights in Ondrasik’s career but all of the ties he had to the Stadium Series game at Dodger Stadium made his January performance a little more meaningful than many others.
"The thing about Dodger Stadium, I’ve been going to Dodger Stadium since I was fiv- years-old with my dad. We would sit in the bleachers and I remember him catching a batting practice home run," he said. "So to kind of go to Dodger Stadium and have that relationship and then have the Kings relationship and have my parents there and have my children there, it was very unique and very special because I’m so close to L.A."
It was also the first time he changed the lyrics to his song "100 Years" as he played the song while images of Kings and Ducks greats that wore those numbers appeared on screen."
"It was the first time in my life I’ve ever changed those numbers," Ondrasik said. "I’ve been asked a lot of times to change the lyrics to that song for various events and causes but for this one we actually did. We changed 15 to 16 for Marcel Dionne, we changed 22 to 23 for Dustin Brown, 33 to 32 to Jonathan Quick."
Worth the changes?
"It was one of the highlights of my career."