Another edition of Los Angeles Kings Development Camp is in the books – while most of the attention last week was focused on the ice, a part of this experience that interested me was how the Kings staff teaches the players off the ice and what was important to ingrain into these young prospects.
Most of these players have not played the game professionally and none have played in the NHL to date. While the experience levels of the attendees varied, with participants ranging from 17 to 23 years old, the common medium was that each of these players are rookies in the professional sense.
With a vast amount of experience at this camp in various capacities amongst the staff, I asked four members of the staff about what they looked to do with developing these younger athletes in an off-ice capacity.
Mike O’Connell – Senior Advisor to the General Manager / Development
Mike O’Connell skated in over 900 games in the NHL between the regular season and the Stanley Cup Playoffs. O’Connell then spent four years as a coach in the AHL and NHL before he moved into the front office, where he spent 12 seasons with the Boston Bruins as the Assistant General Manager and then General Manager. The Chicago native has now been with the Kings since 2006, first as the Director of Player Development and now as a Senior Advisor to the General Manager.
“The biggest focus on developing anyone is establishing that relationship, having the trust. We know them, we know their strengths and their weaknesses and they know that we know. That trust, chatting with them as they go forward in their careers about where they need to go, they believe us. That’s the emphasis that we have here, get to know them and meet with them, whatever it takes.”
Mike Stothers – Ontario Reign Head Coach / Development
“First of all, as a pro, that’s what you have to learn, it’s not all just on the ice stuff that you’re working on. Becoming a good pro, it’s how you look after yourself off the ice, what do you do to keep yourself in top shape, how do you get bigger, how do you get stronger, how do you get faster, how do you get quicker. You can’t do everything on the ice, so a lot of the stuff that goes into it, whether its video, meetings, nutrition, workout regimens and then you take it another step further and you have guys on the ice. We’ve got a great development staff, we have a great support system that allows these guys to maximize their potential and give them a little bit of a taste of what it’s like to be a pro.”
Mike Donnelly – Player Development
“It’s getting to know the players, developing a relationship with them and teaching them, there’s a lot of stuff that we have to teach. We want to know them not just as hockey players and I think that’s important when you’re doing development. I’m not their coach, [Nelson Emerson]’s not their coach, [Glen Murray]’s not their coach, Mike O’Connell, we’re not their coaches, we’re more like teachers. It’s awesome for us and I think it’s great for them. We see them in the morning and they’re excited to see us, ‘what are we going to do, what are we going to work on’ it’s a really, really good environment.”
Glen Murray – Director of Player Development
Glen Murray has over 1,000 NHL games to his name across a 16-season career at the NHL level. Murray scored 337 career NHL goals, including a career-high 44 during the 2002-03 season and was named as an NHL All-Star during the 2003-04 season. The former winger also skated in 91 career playoff games and won a gold medal at the World Championships in 2004. Murray moved into management with the Kings beginning in 2012, first as a Team Consultant for four seasons, then as a development coach for two and now in his current position as the Director of Player Development.
“I think it’s about the way you carry yourself, there’s lots of different things. You have to take care of yourself, you have to get your rest, make sure you get into the gym, you’re a good teammate. Consistency and maturity is a big thing, some of these guys are 17, 18, 19 years old and that’s what our job is, to help them in the quickest way possible. If it does take time, that’s alright, some guys take a little longer than others and we enjoy this part of the job.”