On the Eve of Training Camp, Kings Looking Forward To Bonding Experience In Australia

In case you didn’t know, Australia is a long way from Los Angeles.

And, if you didn’t know, just about every player on the Kings laughed when saying it in their season-opening media availability.

While it’s the obvious part of the trip abroad – right around a 16-hour flight by the way, from start to finish – the focus quickly shifted to what most guys believe is the most important element to this trip. That would be team bonding.

Back when Luc Robitaille played in the NHL, training camp typically had a different component to it. Teams would regularly go off site for a few days at the start of camp, holding workouts and practices at a destination. That experience was two-fold. It brought the NHL into new markets, sure, but it also provided players with a team experience early in the season, free of distractions and home lives, to help gel together.

“In our game now, even though we’ll go sometimes on a 10-day or 12-day road trip, you still travel and there’s a game every two days,” Robitaille detailed. “Now is the first time that you could go for five days and the team is together and it doesn’t happen [anymore]. We used to have camp in Lake Arrowhead back in the day, we used to be in Victoria for three, four, five days. That doesn’t happen much in our game anymore, so [the Australia trip] really gives our team a chance to bond together.”

Speaking as the leader of today’s LA Kings, Anze Kopitar was quick to agree.

“Sometimes, it is nice just to get away from the everyday life,” he said. “When we do camp here, everybody scatters and goes home to their families, spending time with kids. When you’re on the road like that, you get to spend time together and it’s certainly a positive for the group. I think it’s good for us and especially for the new guys, to get to know everybody and see how they fit into the group.”

For Kopitar, it’s not his first experience going overseas during the preseason.

Kopitar was obviously on the Kings team in 2017 that opened its season in China, playing in a pair of exhibition games against the Vancouver Canucks. He’s also played regular-season games in Europe, here the Kings have gone twice thus far in his career. Each of those trips bring differences and similarities. The China trip, for example, saw the Kings two cities, meaning more travel, as opposed to just being in Melbourne this time around. While Kopitar admitted it would be hard to truly know how the two trips compare until after all is said and done, another member of the Kings who was in China, defenseman Drew Doughty, believes the bonding element will likely remain the same.

“The bonding thing is probably the best part about it, we get to spend a lot of time together,” Doughty said. “It’s really good for the team to do that, we’ve got some new guys too and it’ll be huge for that.”

It’s not just the guys who were in China who are looking forward to an early-season opportunity for team bonding, though forward Trevor Lewis brought up similar excitement in his first interview since returning to the Kings.

The two new veterans added in the offseason – Pierre-Luc Dubois and Cam Talbot – expressed a similar excitement to get this trip right off the bat with their new teammates.

For Talbot, he’s experienced a trip overseas before, in 2018 with the Edmonton Oilers. This trip is a bit different, though.

First things first, that was a regular-season game, so there was more of a competitive nature naturally than in exhibition contests. A loss was two points dropped in the standings and Edmonton did lose that game. The Oilers were also there for less time, via Talbot’s recollection, visiting Germany and Sweden in a span of four days, with less time spent in Europe on the frontend of the games.

Now a member of the LA Kings, Talbot expressed a ton of excitement about a chance to integrate with his new teammates right off the bat.

“That’s huge, whenever you come to a new group you want to acclimate yourself and immerse yourself in the group as quickly as possible,” Talbot said. “To have this trip to start training camps is going to be huge for myself to get to know everybody and for them to get to know me.”

Dubois doesn’t necessarily have the experience to compare to, but that’s not to say he isn’t looking forward to an opportunity to get away with the guys.

First and foremost, Dubois’ focus is on the ice. He admitted he’s pretty much through with the summer skates and informal scrimmages and is raring to go with some real training camp and game action. With that being said, he’s still a new guy here in LA and despite getting to know his teammates over the last few weeks, he knows this will be a great chance to do so in Australia.

“I think will be really fun, but message is clear, we’re not going there for vacation, we’re going to prepare for the season, so that’s the most important thing,” Dubois said. “At the same time, everything away from the arena, once we get that work done, we get to bond and begin to get to know everybody. It’s great that we get to this early and not closer to the season.”

As the Kings look ahead to training camp, those opportunities have already begun today. Nothing brings a group together faster than a 16-hour flight, right?

That’s not to say they aren’t looking forward to more than just team-bonding though.

Kevin Fiala is a tennis fan, who is excited to hit the ice at Rod Laver Arena, a venue he’s seen several times when watching the Australian Open. He’s also looking forward to possibly seeing some animals who call Australia home. Phillip Danault answered with one word – spiders. Not sure if he’s looking forward to them or perhaps looking to avoid them. For Jordan Spence, it’s about experiencing the country he was born in, with his parents making the trip to take in some of it alongside him. For everybody, though, what will make it that much better is to do it together with teammates. An experience that will be remembered for years to come.

The Kings have an off-ice workout this afternoon in Melbourne, getting the bodies going after the lengthy day of travel, the first of several activities to come here over the next eight days. They’ll hit the ice tomorrow morning, local time, for their first practice of training camp, and away we go! Training Camp Primer & Day 1 recap to come tomorrow, along with full coverage of the Kings’ final game at the 2023 Rookie Faceoff, as they’ll take on the Anaheim Ducks tomorrow at 12:30 PM.

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