During the winters in Montreal, firemen would come to the local park and blast water so by morning, the ice would freeze, creating the perfect ice. Between the ages of five to 15 years old, Luc Robitaille would go there every night to play hockey. When the snow melted, he would play hockey on the street.
“We didn’t have a lot of money,” Robitaille said. “My dad had a scrap yard and he’d bring me the foam from car seats and we’d make goalie pads. Then we’d play with a tennis ball. We never used to lose a tennis ball—we would play and the tennis ball would lose all of its hair on it.”
“That would take like two years literally for a ball to lose—it’s amazing how much we played with that same ball,” he said, laughing.
Every Saturday night, which is traditionally Hockey Night in Canada, his family would watch NHL games on TV.
“The game would start at 8 p.m. and literally everybody would watch those games,” Robitaille said. “That was the one thing we did Saturday night at my house, we always watched those games.”
He followed the Montreal Canadiens throughout his childhood until he was 13. That year, Wayne Gretzky came to the Edmonton Oilers and Robitaille immediately became a huge fan.
“I just thought he was the greatest player I have ever seen and I did everything I could to catch their games,” he said.
During the summer, Robitaille played lacrosse and baseball, as either the pitcher or catcher, but hockey was always his favorite.
Today, Robitaille works as the LA Kings President of Business Operations. On a typical day, he starts his day at 6:30 a.m., works out and then heads to his El Segundo office. Once there, he spends his day at meetings, going over tickets and revenue, sponsorship, and tracking what the organization’s goals are for next year.
While sitting in his office, Robitaille talked about what it meant to be drafted in 1984.
“I got drafted in the ninth round, which was really far. It was a really long shot but I remember thinking, ‘OK I’m on the list so now I got to work really hard to make sure they see me,’” he said.
Robitaille still remembers when he heard his name being called:
“I was really nervous because I had to wait a long time to hear mine because I was in the ninth round—that takes a long time to go to the ninth round. But when I heard my name, I remember I just jumped out of my seat. I was in the arena—still I jumped out of my seat and ran down. It was a pretty good feeling.”
For the first two years, Robitaille went to the Kings training camp, which at that time was held in Victoria, B.C. Both years he was the first to get cut. At training camp, Kings forward Marcel Dionne asked Robitaille where he wanted to live if he made the team.
“I said, ‘Well, sir, if I make the team I would like to live in a boarding house. I would like to live with a family.’ He goes, ‘Why?’”
“I said, ‘Because I only want to think about hockey.’ I don’t know how to open a bank account. I didn’t speak much English. I said, ‘I don’t want to have to worry about anything and cooking. I just want to worry about hockey because I need to be the best I can be.’”
In his third year, he made the team.
Dionne liked his answer so much that when Robitaille made the team, he invited him to live at his home in Palos Verdes. He stayed with the Dionne’s until February of that season, when Robitaille realized it was time to settle down. He started looking for an apartment with Steve Duchesne, his Kings teammate.
Over his 19-season career in the NHL, Robitaille scored 668 goals and is the highest scoring left-winger in NHL history. He played 14 seasons with the Kings, and two with both the Detroit Red Wings and the New York Rangers, and one season with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He was inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.
In 2002, Robitaille won the Stanley Cup with the Red Wings. He spent his day with the Stanley Cup in LA and threw a huge party at his house. The next day, after getting a permit, he hiked to the Hollywood sign with the Cup.
“We took a picture with the Cup, and we did it at Universal Studios, too,” he said. “We did a Jurassic Park ride with the trophy, so it was fun.”
Growing up in Montreal, he was just a kid who loved playing hockey. His family told him stories of hockey legends like Maurice “Rocket” Richard and Guy Lafleur, both of whom scored over 500 goals in their careers.
Years later, Robitaille scored his 500th NHL goal. The Kings were playing the Buffalo Sabres at the Forum.
“Once you hit 500 goals, suddenly you’re in their group, you’re like, ‘huh?’ So it was humbling for me, I was like wait a minute, those are all the guys my uncle or my grandpa used to talk to me about, and I was just a kid that no one thought would make it into the NHL.”
“Next thing you know, I had as many goals as them.”
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