After 16 seasons in the National Hockey league, Ian Laperrière officially retired as a player from hockey the day after the Stanley Cup was presented to the Los Angeles Kings, a team with whom he spent eight and a half seasons. By the end of June, 2012 he had been named the Philadelphia Flyers’ Director of Player Development, a position he currently holds. On Saturday afternoon, he’ll be honored at the first Legends Night of the 2012-13 season in a pre-game ceremony prior to the game against the Colorado Avalanche, a team with whom he spent four seasons. Earlier Friday, he sat down with LA Kings Insider to discuss his tenure with the Kings, the team’s 2001 playoff run, and how he was able to land a role in Judd Apatow’s This Is 40.
LA Kings Insider: How much of an honor is to be selected for a Legends Night?
Ian Laperrière: It’s very humbling for me, because I wasn’t a star by any means. I just was a guy who did his job and took pride of doing his job for his teammates. To be recognized like I’ll be tomorrow is very surreal for me and very humbling for me and my family.
LAKI: Is it a special perk that it was arranged around a home game versus Colorado?
IL: Yeah, I played there for four years, too. I have a lot of ties, too. I still have teammates on both benches. In Colorado, there are a couple guys I played with, and in L.A., there are a couple of teammates of mine when I played in Philly, and a couple guys when I played in Colorado. Dustin Brown’s still there from my days in LA. It’s great. Like, it’s very surreal. I’m a little bit nervous about going there and saying a few words to everybody, but I think I’ll be all right.
LAKI: Dustin Brown has mentioned you were instrumental in his maturation as a professional. What did you say or do to encourage him when he was breaking into the league?
IL: I’ve always been Mr. Positive. We had tough times when he broke in. We had struggle years even before he broke in. But I was always a guy who put the bright side of things. When you lose, it’s no fun for anybody. I didn’t enjoy losing. But I knew the sun was going to come up the next day, and I tried to put that mentality on those guys. It’s a long season. It’s a marathon, and you will have ups and downs. The thing is that you need more ups than downs. And Brownie was getting – not bullied. Because he was so young, some guys took advantage of that, and I kind of put a stop to that. I think he appreciated when I did that.
LAKI: The trade that brought you to Los Angeles was a major change to the constitution of the Kings. What was your initial reaction to the trade, and what do you remember about joining that locker room?
IL: I was very happy, I’ll be honest. I was with the Rangers, and my roommate was Lucky Luc Robitaille with the Rangers. I remember like it was yesterday – and I’ll say it tomorrow on the ice that story he told me – when I got traded, he goes, “go to L.A. Be yourself on and off the ice and people are going to love you.” And you know what? I felt the love for eight and a half years. He was right on. I was very happy, because I was with the Rangers [and] I wasn’t playing much. I was dressed every night but I was sitting on the bench, and they had an older team. They played with older guys. When we got traded to L.A., we knew that they were going to rebuild in L.A. and I’d be part of that, and I was very excited. And also, you’re 22 years old and you’re moving to Los Angeles. That’s not a bad thing, either. And I knew friends because with the Gretzky trade, they went to get Patrice Tardif, Roman Vopat…and I played with them [with] the Blues, and we kind of all met with the same team. That’s where my career took off. L.A. gave me a chance to establish myself in the NHL, and I will never forget that.
LAKI: How were you able as a young player to quickly endear yourself to the LA fans?
IL: I took the advice from Luc at heart, and I was myself, and I always took pride of playing for my teammates and doing the right thing. If I needed to block a shot or fight for my teammates, I would do it. I really think people saw that in my play and they appreciated that, because I wasn’t a talented guy by any means. I just did my job and I took pride in it. I think people in the regular world, they don’t get appreciated for that. They do their work. They work hard, but sometimes they don’t get appreciated. And I think they could relate to what I was doing on the ice. Maybe not the most skilled, but I took pride in being the hardest worker out there.
LAKI: What came together for the 2000-01 Kings team that resulted in an upset series victory over Detroit?
IL: I don’t know. You always have that buzz. We knew we were down by [two] games, but we knew we weren’t playing that bad to be that down. We knew we had a chance then. That swagger that you hear about – we felt like we should have had better results for a couple of those games. We believed in ourselves, and I think Andy Murray did a great job making sure that everybody was believing in everybody. We had a hell of a run with a lot of talented players on that team – Deadmarsh, Palffy…it was something that I’ll never forget. It was something like my best playoff memories as a King, that’s for sure.
LAKI: How would you describe the experience of playing against Rob Blake in the second round that year?
IL: That was weird, because when the team made that trade, there was barely any chance that we’d meet them in the playoffs, and obviously we started winning. They started winning. And all of a sudden it looked like nobody thought we were going to beat Detroit. All of a sudden we beat Detroit, and we go play Blakey. It was nerve-wracking for him, for sure. For us it was Blakey, but it was the playoffs. As much as I’ve got respect for Blakey – I had it at the time, and I’m always going to have so much for the guy as a human being on and off the ice – everybody has a job to do, and go after him, because he’s one of the best players in the world. But it was weird. I’m sure it’s nothing compared to how he felt, for sure.
LAKI: I’m not necessarily sure how I feel one way or another about this, but had Ray Bourque not swatted Glen Murray’s goal-bound shot out of mid-air in Game 2 in that Colorado series, would we be sitting here, talking about the Kings’ 2001 Stanley Cup team?
IL: Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve. You know what, we gave our best. We didn’t win. It was a good run, but I don’t want to look back. I’m the kind of guy who was like, “That’s the past. We’ve got to look forward.” It was very disappointing. I was very disappointed. Everybody was. I really believed that we had that team. I was talking about the swagger. I really believed that that was our year. We struggled so much for so many years and everything seems to go together…I don’t want to look in the past. It was a great experience and great memories.
LAKI: Watching the Stanley Cup last spring, did you find yourself rooting for the Kings even as a member of the Philadelphia organization?
IL: Yeah, you know, I was happy for the guys, for the guys I played with and I was especially happy for the fans. Even when I left, I left in 2004. It’s nine years. I still have ties in this town and I still care about those fans because they’re the ones who pretty much gave me a chance to become an NHLer. I was happy for them. I was happy for the guys I played with. But I had a question asked, “Did you feel part of it?” I didn’t feel part of it at all. That was their moment. That’s their team. Even if I played there for eight-plus years, I had nothing to do with that Cup. I’m happy for them that they won it. It’s a great honor and they should enjoy it because it’s a tough thing to do in hockey today. There are 30 teams, and the parity in and around the league, you just never know the next time you’ll have a chance to win it.
LAKI: You’ve performed on camera several times, most notably in This is 40. Had you ever taken acting classes?
IL: I’m just a gifted individual. I’m that guy that likes to try everything, and I don’t care if I embarrass myself. I’ve done it before and I will do it again. This is 40 and Judd Apatow – they were looking for a hockey player without teeth. Before I got my implants, I got that connection. I just put my name out there. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Sure enough, a month later we’re here in L.A. filming for a day. It was a great experience. I don’t want to be an actor, but I’m all in. I need Rob Zombie to call me for that Flyers movie he’s doing. Call me, Rob. My kids won’t see [This is 40] any time soon, but maybe in the future when they see that on the big screen, it’ll be pretty cool.
LAKI: How big of a Judd Apatow fan are you?
IL: Huge fan. And I became a huge fan of him as a person, and his wife, Leslie Mann. They’re very nice people. Unbelievable. Really down to earth people. You hear those horror stories in Hollywood and everything, but he’s very down to earth. He was great to us.
LAKI: Are you excited to address the crowd tomorrow?
IL: Yeah, a little bit nervous. I don’t prepare speeches. I’ve always been like that. I want it to come from the heart. I’m an emotional guy, and hopefully emotion won’t take part of me. I’m just excited. I’m excited for my crew there, my kids to see that daddy’s not such a loser, you know he did something good in this town. They know. I’m just kidding. Like I said, it’s a humbling experience this weekend, and it’s going to be tomorrow. Great memories when I’m going to walk in that building and see everybody and all the fans, the Zamboni driver, the valet guys. It’s going to be a great day. I’m looking forward to it.