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December 5, 2012 12:42 pm

Hail to the President (Part 2-Fin!)

Part 2 deals with Luc’s induction into another Hall-of-Fame…this time the Quebec Sports Hall-of-Fame…and how it was a great opportunity to visit family and look back on hockey’s “role” in Quebec’s culture…

JF: Going to turn my attention towards the Quebec Sports Hall of Fame, another honor for you.  This may be difficult to explain but can you explain Quebec’s love affair with hockey?

Luc Robitaille: I don’t know if I can explain it but I’ll tell you how amazing it was that night.  I went there and I got that call and you get into the Hall of Fame Quebec and it’s an honor because it’s where you’re from and wow that’s cool then I realize it was with Olympians and older twin sisters that were skiers in the Olympics in the ‘40s and then Ronald Corey used to be the president of the Montreal Canadiens…

…that was a big deal to me and then a boxer that was very successful and then Jacques Villeneuve, his dad Gilles was my hero and so that was pretty cool…

Jacques Villeneuve

…and I get there and you’re sitting down and it was really neat for me because my mom and dad came with me, that was important to me, it almost gave me an excuse to go home, like anytime I have an excuse now to go home it’s pretty neat but as we were waiting, the gentlemen that was the host says I’m going to introduce everyone that’s here that’s been in the Hall of Fame and it was a full room and I’m sitting down and I’d seen some b-roll…I came in late and you have to do interviews and I just went and sat down and he starts going Henri Richard, Yvan Cournoyer and Dickie Moore, they’re going on and on about ex-Montreal Canadiens and I’m like in my mind, and he’s going 11 Stanley Cups, 10 Stanley Cups and you’re like, Oh my God there was so much…

Yvan Couroyer

Moore and Cournoyer

Dickie Moore

…and these guys are like royalty in Quebec and then you realize how big and how much these gentlemen mean to the province of Quebec and to the pride they brought to those people…it’s the winningest franchise in sports, it’s truly incredible what these guys have accomplished throughout their career…so it was a humbling moment where it was just so amazing to see all these guys, my Dad’s idol was Yvan Cournoyer, it was really cool to introduce Yvan Cournoyer to my dad and then before that, even when I was outside and to see the press everybody is talking about the lockout, what’s going on and it’s always about hockey in Montreal…it’s number one about the Canadiens then about hockey but it’s incredible, they’re starving for information…about anything that we’re doing in our lives and when you get there it’s so part of their every day, the daily life of everyone there, it’s just part of it, just part of their life, it’s pretty neat.

JF: I grew up in Ontario and I did play in Maple Leafs Garden in Junior before I played in the NHL but when I went to the NHL, the Montreal Forum was “the” building.  I looked at Maple Leafs Gardens as the headquarters of hockey, I looked at the Montreal Forum as a shrine, agree?

The “Old” Forum

Maple Leaf Gardens

Luc Robitaille: I would say exactly that.

JF: You worship…

Luc Robitaille: You worship…I agree with you, the headquarters of hockey is Toronto, the whole mecca of hockey—there’s nothing else there it’s just hockey, then you go to Montreal and it’s treated to an entire other level, it’s like the Montreal Canadiens, the red, white and blue, it’s a shrine, it’s very hard to explain until you go there and you realize they have their own museum outside, I mean for crying out loud I was talking to Kevin Gilmore—they’re building a condominium attached to the Bell Center—they’re sold out!  And people are buying them because they’re attached to the Bell Center, the building across the street, they’re not selling, it’s like crazy, I’ve never seen anything like it—people are just such fanatics and you look and they talk about Patrick Roy there who played years ago…now he’s a junior coach…whenever he speaks, it’s like the front page of the newspaper…

…whenever another ex-Canadien, even a player that was a 4th liner speaks, it’s in the paper…Donald Audette is a scout now but he’s become like royalty for them—it’s so weird!  It’s truly incredible.

I would say the way to describe it’s like a shrine for the game—I think that’s the right way.

JF: Rocket Richard, he’s your hero.  Yet he retired before you were even born.  Maybe in the United States it’s the same thing with Babe Ruth…you never saw him play but he is still so many people’s hero…how did it come to be with the Rocket and you?

Luc Robitaille: I’ll tell you how it happened.  When we used to get together for Christmas at my grandma’s…

…My grandma would cook with my uncle, a bunch of things and then downstairs all the men would go and some would play cards and pool and everybody would come up and I remember all my uncles and all my dad’s acquaintances were there—there would be like 50 people and all the men, that’s all they would talk about, they knew I liked hockey…by the time I was peewee, double A, they all would say…you should have seen the Rocket, the Rocket used to do this, the Rocket, I remember when the Rocket hit the referee, I remember he fought, I remember he had two players on his back…when you’re a kid hearing all this, keep in mind in those days the Montreal Canadiens were winning every year yet every one of those older gentlemen would speak about The Rocket and we would see highlights of him cutting to the net and pictures of him bloody and shaking the guys hand and it just always stayed with me.  It was just The Rocket and there’s nothing else.

JF: Well I only have one more question.  Can you compare winning the Cup as a player to winning the Cup as the president of Business Operations?

Luc Robitaille: I think if it was another organization, somewhere else, it might have been different but because it was the Kings it meant so much and to be part of that whole rebuild process and I think the thing that I understood more as a business guy especially what I do, business operations, deal with all the fans, sponsors, everything around it…when you’re a player, 20 guys in a room, your five or three trainers, your coaches, you don’t even see anybody else, when you win, it’s your group that won, you kiss your wife and your kids, you call your mom and dad but it’s that small, then you have a parade and you think this was great.  Then you go to a couple of parties and it was great but you don’t realize the impact it has on the community and all those people that lived and died for years…for example I never knew there was people spending four, five, six, seven thousand a year, as season seat holders, for twenty years straight hoping one day we’d win the Cup and when you realize that, you go ‘oh my God’…it’s so much bigger than what it really is because to spend that kind of money as a season seat holder, that’s a lot of hard earned money, it’s not like, the guy buying the ice seats he’s making two, three million a year it’s not as impactful, the guys paying $5,000 a year, he might be making $75,000 a year, that’s a lot of money for him and now I realize the impact we had on those people and how much it meant, I think that, to me, the greatest thing, I’m so glad I got to realize how impactful that was and then to realize the impact the LA Kings has on the core fans in LA has been amazing.

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