There’s nothing like jumping right back into hockey mode. This year, the Kings combined Hockey Fest with the start of their Rookie Camp, which worked out perfectly. Though I didn’t see as much of rookie camp as I did last year when I watched every practice the whole day I was there, it was great to be able to go back and forth between the Olympic and covered NHL rink. There was always something to do at the Toyota Sports Center yesterday – from 8am (when they started to let in the fans) until after the pep rally at the end of Hockey Fest.
Hockey Fest started out with the GM State of the Franchise. Normally, the GM Breakfasts are for season ticket holders only, so having one to start Hockey Fest was a nice treat. Of course, the fans asked about the goaltending situation. They also asked if the Kovalchuk deal means the Kings can sign Doughty for 20 years now. That was definitely one of GM Dean Lombardi’s favorite questions. As always, Lombardi was very honest with the fans and interacted with them a lot. Some of the questions asked at this (and the other sessions) came from the LA Kings Facebook page, which they were definitely consciously advertising. I didn’t think to ask if they’re competing with another team to see who can get more Facebook fans.
Since Bob Miller was unable to attend this year’s Hockey Fest, my favorite part of the 2010 Hockey Fest was the Kids Press Conference. The kids get to ask the players questions and though it wasn’t quite as amusing as last year’s session, the kids asked some great questions. Matt Greene, Jack Johnson, Brad Richardson, & Wayne Simmonds entertained the audience as they answered the questions posed.
The other sessions offered for fans were The Life of a King (with Jay Wells, Marty McSorley, and Luc Robitaille answering questions hosted by Jim Fox) and Winning Ways (Ryan Smyth, Justin Wiliams,, Jarret Stoll, & Rob Scuderi answering questions hosted by Nick Nickson). They also had a family skate with Bailey on the Olympic ice rink during a rookie camp break, autograph sessions with the players, and Wayne Simmonds and Drew Doughty playing winning fans at the EA Sports Gaming Area.
It was nice to see the players again and in between the sessions, the players were available for interviews with the media. The most interesting thing I learned during the interviews is that when Willie Mitchell met Drew Doughty for the first time, Drew told Willie he could take his number (Mitchell wore 8 in Vancouver). Mitchell said “I think that speaks volumes of him as a kid.” I couldn’t agree more. Naturally, Mitchell didn’t take Doughty up on his offer. He told Doughty that he had too good of a year last year. When asked about offering Mitchell his number, Doughty said, “Yeah, well, he’s a veteran guy in the league.” He went on to explain that he also likes the number 19, so it wouldn’t have been a big deal to change. Doughty’s gesture wasn’t necessary, but it says a lot about his character. I’d be surprised if Doughty didn’t end up being a team captain (probably of the Kings, since I can’t see them letting him go) in the future. He continues to show his maturity on and off the ice, which explains why one of the questions to Dean Lombardi during the GM breakfast was about signing Doughty to an extremely long contract. Fans definitely want Lombardi to hold on to Doughty. They know he’s special and want to see him on their team for years to come.
Rookie camp is always interesting and it was nice to watch the drills in between Hockey Fest sessions and interviews.
After a full day at Toyota Sports Center with the Kings in El Segundo, I headed to Anaheim Ice (where the Ducks had held their rookie camp earlier in the day) for a friend’s adult league game. (My friend’s team, Five for Fighting, won the game and now has a record of 2-1, 2-0 when I’ve been there.) That game concluded my over twelve hour day of hockey. What a way to kick start hockey season. I hope the Kings continue to hold Hockey Fest at Toyota Sports Center overlapping with Rookie Camp. It was a wonderful day of hockey enjoyed by the many fans in attendance.
Rookie camp continues this week and Training camp starts Saturday, September 18th. Pre-season is just around the corner and the regular season is only a little over 3 weeks away.
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