Good evening from #Bako. It was a cold night for the Alumni & Celebrity Game, but not cold enough to not find the press box for some notes and quotes…
First to take the ice for this outdoor weekend in Bakersfield were the Oilers and Kings alumni, captained and coached by Wayne Gretzky and Luc Robitaille.
Friday night’s final score — for those wondering — from Bakersfield College’s Memorial Stadium read 9-8 in favor of Robitaille’s squad.
“Listen, nobody probably ever thought that we’d play an outdoor game in Bakersfield in January 40 years ago, so this is a bonus,” Gretzky said. “The people in the city have really rallied around minor league hockey here and the Kings and Luc Robitaille, of course the Ducks and Bob Murray and their organization have done a nice job of really pushing and promoting our sport. So tonight was just a fun night for all these guys. We were laughing on the bench, having a good time but at the end of the day it’s all about promoting our sport and making the game even bigger that it has been and tonight was just a nice night.”
Both Gretzky and Robitaille didn’t play, due to injury of all things.
“I wanted to play this one because it’s fun just to get to play with all my buddies, too,” said Robitaille, who gave off a genuine feeling that he missed out.
SAVE SOME OF THAT GOOD ICE FOR LATER
The biggest story heading into the weekend has been the weather and possible shift of the start time of Saturday’s Outdoor Classic between the Reign and Condors. Despite chances of rain, puck drop is staying at 6 p.m., but as a precaution, no morning skates will take place at Bakersfield College.
The ice conditions and atmosphere got some rave reviews from the Kings alumni. So now the hope is it’ll hold up for the AHLers.
“The ice is unbelievable,” said Nelson Emerson, Kings Director of Player Development. “It’s fast. It’s hard. It’s really quick. I think the guys tomorrow night are going to have a great experience. This is going to be awesome. Great environment. Not too big. It’s a college atmosphere I think tomorrow night. Old school building, football.
“I think the guys — we were talking to them all week because we were there [in Ontario] — they are so excited. Talking to [Brett] Sutter and [Vincent] LoVerde and some of the older guys, they are so looking forward to tomorrow night. It’s going to be a pleasure for them. And for us, being over there and looking over and seeing [Glenn] Anderson and Dave [Semenko]. Oh boy, it’s a lot of memories.”
Robitaille noticed the same from the bench.
“Sometimes it’s hard to come up with the ice but it’s better than inside some of the buildings so I think fans are going to be really happy with this game tomorrow,” he said. “I walked around a little bit earlier and there’s great seating from everywhere so it’s going to be a fun event.”
Added Gretzky: “I’m sure tomorrow night the kids are going to get to play in the real game are going to be so excited and I think the people of Bakersfield are going to have a fun night.”
— Lindsay Czarnecki (@ReignInsider) January 7, 2017
KINGS STAFF REUNION
Among those playing on the Kings side were development staffers Mike Donnelly, Emerson along with Reign GM Rob Blake and Reign Director of Hockey Operations, Hubie McDonough.
“It’s awesome. Any time I can skate with Mike [Donnelly] and Rob [Blake] and guys that we’re working with every day it’s an honor and a pleasure. It’s so awesome,” said Emerson.
“Mike and I have worked together for 11 years and we always say, ‘man, I wish we would have played together,’ because I think I would have had so much fun with a guy like this.”
Added Donnelly during their double-interview: “Played against the Oilers and we had a big rivalry when we were with the Kings. It was great to see a lot of old faces and to play with our guys that we work with. Like Nelly said, it really is something we’ll cherish and appreciate that we were able to do this. It was awesome, a great opportunity for us.
“It’s a lot of laughing a lot of fun. Really just enjoy the moment and suck it all in. It’s great.”
One of the busier guys in hockey, Daryl Evans seems to be everywhere, whether it’s doing his radio gig, or on TV on FOX Sports West, but he was never going to miss this one, even if the Kings play tomorrow afternoon against the Wild.
“I remember when they first talked about it and I’m going, ‘this would be cool,’ and of course I jumped up and said, ‘yeah.’ After I learned that we had an afternoon game tomorrow I’m going, ‘oh, gee, maybe I bit off more than I could chew,’ but now having come here and done this I wouldn’t have missed it. It’s great,” he said.
“Makes for a little bit of a late night going back, prepping for tomorrow’s game. It was great. Mostly you take a look at the place or the venue, the stands. The fans, where they’re sitting the proximity of where they are toward the ice. So many good seats in the building and having the turnout that they had, it was great.”
One of the better quotes of the night came from Evans, when asked what it was like to again play against some Oilers he face in his playing days.
“Faced or feared?” he quipped.
But tonight of course was all in good fun.
“They always get competitive,” Gretzky said. “NHL players want to do well, but this is all in fun, c’mon. This is really a fun night and everyone’s just enjoying themselves.”
Added Evans: “When we played against Edmonton back in the 80s when I was playing, they were so much fun to watch. A dynasty in the making. Guys like Glenn Anderson who were playing, Dave Semenko and that. Then you see Kevin Lowe and Wayne that were on the bench. It was a lot of fun. Especially for a young kid. I was only 21 years old the first time we played against Edmonton so it was real cool.
“To come back and get to talk to Glenn Anderson and that it was really neat thing. Just another example of how tight the hockey world is. Even though you battle against each other so many years I think when you come to events like this there’s that camaraderie out there. It was really nice to see these guys.
“I know all the players on the benches, both benches on the ice, talking to the guys, they were thrilled with the turnout they had and I think at the end of the night everybody was entertained by some fun stuff.”
TY SUBS IN TO WEAR 99
Gretzky’s son Ty donned the iconic 99. It had been a long haul for his dad, who’s been traveling around for NHL outdoor games.
“Well, it was a long week. We were in St. Louis, then Toronto, then back to St. Louis and then here. But you know it’s all about the game and everything I’ve had in my life was because of hockey,” he said.
“My son was so excited this morning when I picked him up to come and be part of this event. I have three boys and two have never skated and one who really loves the game and plays a little bit and skates so, to be here today and be with him, it was just a nice day. The Oiler organization and the Kings organizations are both really two respectful organizations in professional sports and they treat people properly, they treat people well and so to have a night like this is really something really special.”
The last time he coached him?
“Probably when he was six,” Gretzky said. “I was yelling at him on the bench. It’s OK. I told him the last time somebody said Gretzky and Semenko was about 1985.”
Advice on playing with an enforcer like Semenko was in his hay day?
“Yeah. Get out of his way. Whatever he says goes.”
Ty Gretzky wearing dad's 99 tonight. pic.twitter.com/EyNhD6PZan
— Lindsay Czarnecki (@ReignInsider) January 7, 2017
Robitaille, on hockey in California:
I think the growth of hockey has been tremendous here, all over California. People are loving it and the fact that we have five AHL teams in California in the last two years it’s been amazing. The Ducks, the Kings and the Sharks are all doing well and we have more and more kids playing every day and it is a great game. The one thing about hockey for people who are learning about the game is you can’t have success without being a good teammate. So you’ve got to be a good person. You’ve got to be a real teammate. That’s the one thing that we really try to teach and you can see it’s starting to translate with kids playing on the ice.