A LOOK BACK AT LUC'S CAREER WITH THE KINGS
For anyone who saw Robitaille break the record, watching Thursday night's game was like being dipped in magical waters. It could have easily been 1986 again. Or 1990. Or '98.
He is known in L.A. by only his first name, a status normally reserved for icons within the world of entertainment. He has been a huge part of the hockey explosion in L.A., playing well into his third decade.
Luc has played with Dionne and Gretzky. With Kurri and Deadmarsh. He has worn the crown with pride, whether it be the Stanley Cup Finals or the division cellar.
It was his time. This is Luc's record.
Reading down a list of the members of the 1984 Kings draft class is like looking through a college yearbook. Some names may trigger a memory or two, others may sound familiar but most you didn't even know. Craig Redmond. Brian Wilks. John English. Tom Glavine (yes, that Tom Glavine for baseball fans).
Yet sitting there, down where GM's usually are just throwing out names, where team presidents sometimes draft their neighbor's nephew or a high school buddy's son just to give them a thrill, is a player. Not just a player but a testament to the fact that miracles can happen; that there are nuggets of gold within the endless caves of names-we-will-never-know.
The name sits there screaming to be noticed. Round 9. Luc Robitaille (171st selection)
And look what happened. Look at last night. Oh,how far we have come.
Step one towards the record came in game one. His first Kings goal came in his first Kings game, October 9, 1986 against St. Louis.
It didn't take long for the whispers to start in NHL circles. Who is this Robitaille Kid? Did you see what he did last night? In his first season, he led all rookies with 45 goals and 85 points. He won the Calder Cup as the NHL's Rookie of the Year and was named an NHL Second Team All-Star. Ironically, it would be the only season he would play with the man he would eventually surpass, the great Marcel Dionne.
Any talk of Beginner's Luck or One-Hit Wonders vanished over his second and third seasons, when he was named NHL First Team All-Star both times. Like a young lion assuming his duties as lord of the jungle, Robitaille began to rule the league using his youthful enthusiasm and unbounded energy.
He was the league's highest scoring left wing for four consecutive years. He became a name people talked about, even on the road.
Even during the teams down years, Robitaille gave people in L.A. a reason to watch hockey. In 1989-90, the Kings finished fourth in their division, five games below .500. Robitaille was elected an NHL First Team All-Star for the third straight year, netting an eye-popping 52 goals and 101 points.
Two seasons later, Robitaille set NHL records for goals (63) and points (125) in a season by a left wing. That same season, the Kings would make their only appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals.
There has always been a certain magnetism between Luc and the Kings.
In this day in age, almost no player stays with one team forever. Yet even after being traded to Pittsburgh and then New York in 1994 through 1997, like the prodigal son Robitaille would come back and eventually reign over his kingdom once more.
As the years began to pass, so did the milestones. The All-Star games became less of an event and more an annual ritual. He picked up his 500th goal versus Buffalo in 1999. Played in his 1,000th NHL game in in St. Louis in 2000.
He slumped a little bit in 1997-98, scoring only 16 goals, but came back the next year with 39.
Again, Robitaille would take a respite away from L.A., signing with Detroit for the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons. It was there that he would win his only Stanley Cup. But just like before, Robitaille would return to Los Angeles in 2003. As if there was any doubt.
His name is now mentioned with the greatest left-wingers the game has ever seen. Bobby Hull. Johnny Bucyk. He has more points than any left wing that has ever put on an NHL sweater.
More importantly to L.A. fans, he is a King. And always will be.
It couldn't happen any other way. Fate wouldn't let it happen any other way.
The team had lost four out of five. His teammates were banged up in more ways than one. The team needed him Thursday night.
This season has not been the easiest of Luc Robitaille's career. The numbers are not where they once were and the work stoppage took away another year from a career that is close to playing it's end credits. But Thursday night had to happen. It just had to.
Like any true showman, Luc broke the franchise's goals scored record in style, putting up a hat trick in front of the home folks; the same folks that had watched him since his rookie season. And yet, it wasn't just for show. The Kings needed every one of his goals Thursday night. They needed a win and Luc got them one.
All hail the King of Kings