Luc Robitaille spent 19 years in the NHL and left with a pretty impressive resume. He won the Calder Trophy in 1987, a Stanley Cup with Detroit in 2002 and was an eight-time All-Star. He finished as the NHL's all-time leading goal scorer among left wings and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.
Now working in the Los Angeles Kings' organization, Robitaille has been the team's president of business operation since 2007, a job he took a year after retiring from the NHL.
Beginning Monday, Robitaille has partnered with sports memorabilia auction house Classic Auctions (they of Paul Henderson Summit Series jersey fame) and put up 62 lots for bid with proceeds benefiting Echoes of Hope, a charity he and his wife founded to help needy children. The auctions end on June 21.
"Lucky Luc" decided to auction off items from his personal collection after he was introduced to Classic Auctions by former Kings goaltender Rogie Vachon, who'd worked with the auction house in the past.
"I think it was last summer, Rogie asked me to meet with some friends, people that he deals with," said Robitaille. "They showed up in L.A. and they had done a deal with Rogie and they came to me and asked if I had any extra stuff. I told them I had a garage full that I hadn't looked at in about 10 years. He said he'd love to get whatever I didn't want."The Luc Robitaille Collection" features everything from gameworn jerseys and sticks, like ones used during the 1993 Stanley Cup Finals, to commemorative goal pucks to vintage hockey cards. The centerpiece of the auction is his 500th goal puck from the 1998-99 season when he became the 27th player in NHL history to achieve the feat.
Do you have some extra space in your house that needs filling? Then bid on the actual goal from Joe Louis Arena that Robitaille scored his record-breaking 611th goal into back in 2002.
We spoke with Robitaille on Friday about the auction, his thoughts on the Stanley Cup Playoffs and what the future looks like for the Kings.
Your 500th goal came against Dwayne Roloson back in 1999. Do you marvel at his ability to play at such a high level at the age of 41?
Yeah, he's been really special. He's so stable mentally, that's what makes him great.
Was there one item from your career that you wish you would have kept?
No, I've kept everything I want. I've kept most of my All-Star jerseys which mean a lot to me. I've kept my stuff from the Stanley Cup which means everything to me. The one thing I wish I had that I never got and I'll probably try and acquire at some point would be my rookie jersey. In those days we didn't get jerseys after the season, so that would be cool for my kids.
With the recent news about the Thrashers potentially moving to Winnipeg, tell me what your experience was like playing there as a visitor?
It was a good place to play. They used to be in our division with the Kings, so some years we had a good rivalry. I've got good memories there.
Give me your thoughts on the San Jose/Vancouver series so far. (Ed. note: this interview took place on Friday before Game 3)
Those are two pretty even up teams. Our league now is so close, the parity's there. You make a mistake and it seems to end up in your net. That's what we've seen this year and last year when a team is up 3-0 in a series, next thing you know it's 3-3. I was telling a friend last night, if you had no sound and you didn't really see the score and you just watched the game, you'd finish and you couldn't say who played real bad. Every game would look about the same and next thing you know it's like wow, it's amazing how close everyone is.
I feel the same about the Sharks and the Canucks. The one thing the Canucks have done is they set a tone where they're saying they've gotta go for the Cup and they set that tone since the beginning of the season and you can clearly tell they're playing that way. Whether they win or lose a game, they always seem to talk that language and sometimes those teams they accomplish that goal because they set that tone right from the get go.
Having faced San Jose in the first round, what's your scouting report on them now compared to then?
They've seem to gotten better every round as a team. I've been very impressed with the play of Logan Couture and [Ryane] Clowe, but the play of Joe Thornton, he's really carrying the team as a leader. The reason they're where they're at is Joe Thornton's work ethic and what he's bringing character-wise to the team. I think this series could end up being a long series against the Canucks. Even though [they] won the first two games, I don't think they're out. They got a lot of character in that locker room and it wouldn't surprise me if these guys make a comeback.
The Vancouver Green Men. You're in the penalty box, Luc. Would you find them humorous or annoying?
I actually find them humorous. I think things like that are great for the game. It makes everyone talk. I was at an event in San Francisco last Sunday, the Bay to Breaker, and people were in costume and I saw a couple of those green men walking around. I got a chuckle out of it because that's what we want out of our sports. They don't do anything harmful, they're behind a glass. I think it's great. I love to see them on TV. I get a kick out of it every time and yeah, sometimes if you're a player and you're there and in a bad mood, they might bother you, but they're on the other side of the glass. I don't think it does any harm to anyone. It's game entertainment.
This season was a big step forward for the Kings franchise. Having been in Los Angeles during the Gretzky years, do you get that sense of excitement around the team beginning to return in the city?
Yes. We're starting to see a turnaround. We're doing it in a different than it was in the '80s. In the late '80s, we were coming on and there was Jimmy Carson, Steve Duchene and myself, like the three young guys. Then the next thing you know we got Wayne Gretzky, so that kind of slingshot everything.
I think right now we're doing it in a different way, which is a better, long-term approach where we have the young guys and we're hanging on to those young guys. We going to keep them and we're showing improvement every year. We all know we need to get to that next level, where we can compete with teams like the Sharks and Canucks, but we know we're on our way. But the funny thing is our fans know we're on our way, too. We're sensing the vibe. We're going from 22, 25 sellouts a couple of years ago and we're at 35 this year and we expect to sell out all of our games next year. Things are really turning. But at the end of the day in LA, you got to show that you're winning, too.
He's put himself in a position where he's a very important player, a premier defensemen. He's a key player on our team and he's very valuable. The kid is a special player and he's going to have a long career in the NHL. For him, I know his goal is to take it to the next level to make us a contender and get us to the Stanley Cup and that's what I love about this kid the most is his competitive nature.
Everyone is waiting to see Brayden Schenn take his game to the NHL. Tell me what a player like Brayden can bring to the Kings next season.
Well, he's a great player, first of all. He's got a great vision. He can play both sides of the ice. He makes plays when there are no plays available and that's what special players do. He can be a gamebreaker and he seems to elevate his game in big games like he did at the World Junior Championships.
For us, having [Anze] Kopitar and Dustin Brown and Justin Williams and having these good playmakers, we've been looking for that secondary scoring that can help our team. Hopefully, he can bring that to our team.
Before I let you go, who's your Cup pick out of the final four?
That's a tough one. I tend to think that the West is going to win it all. If I go with one team it'd be Vancouver. We played them near the end of the season and they beat us 3-0 and at the time that was the best team I had seen this year. They got that secondary scoring with [Ryan] Kesler going and when you have that going in the playoffs you're very dangerous.
For more information on the Luc Robitaille auction, visit Classic Auctions.
- Luc Robitaille