Hockey Fest '11: New is the Theme
New jerseys, new players and new format to shake things up at this year's Hockey Fest presented by Pizza Hut
The third-annual fan-fest event will take place Sunday, Sept. 11, at STAPLES Center, and will serve as a kick-off to the 2011-12 NHL season as well as an opportunity for fans to meet new players, see new jerseys and, perhaps, get on the ice for a spin.
Tickets, available for $20, are good for a day-long event that includes Q&A events with general manager Dean Lombardi and new players Simon Gagne and Mike Richards, a "pep rally" with player introductions, autograph sessions and a family skate.
"We've spent some time brainstorming about what kind of things you can do when you have your fans with you for a day," Kings chief operating officer Chris McGowan said, "about what's going to keep them entertained and what's going to get our players interacting with them."
Full details on the event are available at www.lakings.com/hockeyfest, but the day will also have a bit of a poignant feel. As part of the event, the Kings will recognize the lives of former scouting staff members Ace Bailey and Mark Bavis.
On Sept. 11., 2001, Bailey and Bavis were above the terrorist-hijacked United Flight 175 when it crashed into the World Trade Center. Their memories have stayed with the Kings throughout the past decade, with helmet stickers, a banner inside the training facility and large pictures hung prominently in the hallway of team headquarters.
Specific plans for Hockey Fest tributes to Bavis and Bailey are still being finalized, team officials said, but the Kings will continue their partnership with the Widows, Orphans and Disabled Firefighters Fund and will raise money through an autographed-jersey auction.
"You have to be sensitive, because that day was such a tragic day in the history of our country and the history of the world," McGowan said. "It also touched our organization in a big way, because of the loss of Ace and Mark. Ever since it has happened, we've always done things to help support their causes, with Bailey, our mascot, raising money.
"Hosting it on that day, we're going to remember their lives and also do a little bit of work, in terms of raising some funds and awareness. You just have to be really sensitive to it, but as an organization we've been doing stuff related to their passing since it happened."
The basics of Hockey Fest have remained the same, through the inaugural event at L.A. Live in 2009 and last year’s event at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, but the specifics events, staging and setup of the event has been altered to keep it fresh.
The first year was primarily a sit-and-watch event, with much of the program taking place in Nokia Theatre. Last year, booths and activities filled the parking lot in El Segundo, and fans were able to watch Kings prospects practice on the ice.
This year, the doors to Staples Center will be opened to Kings fans for the first time since late April, and the focus will be on the ice. Popular sessions such as the kids’ Q&A, the ``state of the franchise’’ Q&A and autograph sessions will remain.
"We haven't really made a plan of that, to keep changing places every year," said Heather Bardocz, manager of marketing and events for the Kings. "If it works great at Staples Center this year, we might keep it at Staples Center. For us, it's always the challenge of, 'What's going on at L.A. Live? What's happening at TSC? What's happening at Staples Center? Is the ice going to be down?' as to where we're going to have the event, but I think it will always be an AEG or Kings location, because that works best for us and our fans are most familiar."
It’s a one-day event with months of back work, and much of that work is done by Bardocz, who coordinates a handful of departments within the organization -- from hockey operations to corporate sponsors -- in order to pull off the event.
"At the end of the day, it's just about bringing all those things together, to make sure everything goes smoothly," Bardocz said.
"Having it at Staples Center is definitely an advantage, because we're more used to doing events there. There are just different quirks every time you do it, but I'm excited about it. I think our fans will have some really unexpected, fun stuff happening."
During the "pep rally," players will be introduced wearing the white (road) version of the Kings’ new jersey, which features the "shield" logo that was previously a part of the alternate jersey. The Kings, this season, will be returning to the predominant color scheme of black, white and silver that they used during the Wayne Gretzky era.
The Kings will wear their purple-themed former home jerseys as alternate jerseys this season and will also wear the vintage purple-and-gold jerseys during three home games.
"Organizationally, we feel really good about the black, white and silver direction that we're going," McGowan said. "It's tough, too, with jerseys. You want them to be classic and elegant. You want them to be retro but they need to have a modern feel as well. We definitely feel that we've accomplished that with the jerseys that we have now."