Q&A: Five for Fighting’s John Ondrasik
Ondrasik, a UCLA graduate who has been a season ticket holder for the Kings and Lakers the past 35 years, has become good friends with Luc Robitaille, president of business operations for the Kings. Ondrasik is so passionate about hockey the Kings asked him to do a new blog on their website. The blog debuted earlier this month.
In his Oct. 6 entry, he penned: " ... for the first time in a long time we are buyers not sellers. On paper, this roster is the best bunch since our Stanley Cup was impaled on an illegal stick (and winking goalie). Happily, patience has evaporated into expectation. This team shouldn't need a miracle."
How many people realize the name Five for Fighting is a hockey term and how did you come up with that name?
I've been a Kings fan since pre-Gretzky days. It depends on who you ask. In Canada, they don't even need to hear the music. They know. In the South, people are asking if it's a fifth guy. Over the year, folks have figured out that Five for Fighting is a hockey term. It was inspired by Marty McSorley. Back in the '90s, the label said, `the male singer-songwriter is dead. You need a band name.' I'd just come from a Kings game, and I thought, "Five for Fighting." The label loved it. I thought, `You're crazy.' It might sound like a heavy-metal band, but 10 years later I'm still kicking.
Does McSorley know he helped inspire the name?
He was playing in a game in Chicago or Detroit. It was probably '98 or '99. I don't remember that far back, but Marty was very happy to hear that. I met him a few times. I played at Luc's retirement ceremony. One of the reasons I'm doing the Kings blog is we've become good friends and that's how I met Marty. Those were the glory days.
How would you describe what it's like to be a lifelong Kings fan?
In one sense, it's been frustrating. The Kings play hard. I think whether they're winning or losing, I enjoy going to games. The last few years, it's been encouraging for Kings fans. We have expectations. I've been hearing from ownership and Luc and the Kings' hierarchy to be patient, and we've been patient and we're being rewarded. We need to become a contender. For the first time this year, we can contend for a Stanley Cup. We expect to win a playoff series and anything less will be disappointing.
What is your first hockey memory?
There's lots, but I remember Rogie Vachon and the ugly purple and gold and the Kings scoring goals. And Marcel Dionne and Charlie Simmer. My favorite player of all time is Dave Taylor. I formed my love of hockey with those guys and went to games with my buddies. I fell in love with hockey, and I still believe it's the best spectator sport.
Do you schedule your tours and appearances around Kings games?
If we do have a night off and a game is in town, whether the Kings are playing or not, I usually end up there. We made a big mistake this year scheduling shows in Hawaii during the playoffs.
How did this gig writing for the Kings blog come about?
I've done some writing for SI.com. I did a hockey column for them. I've interviewed Luc. We see each other at games and talk a lot of hockey. We've become friends. If I was him, I'd probably want to get away from it sometimes, but he breathes hockey. He asked if I'd do a blog and take the fan's perspective. For me, it was an easy answer. I like all sports. I'm a fan, and I think I know more than I actually do. I love the Kings. I love sports. I love Los Angeles. It's an opportunity I'll enjoy. I hope the fans will appreciate it.
You're obviously a songwriter. How will that help you, or will it, in writing about hockey?
There's a certain amount of information that, how do you take it and turn it into something creative and compelling? A lot of my songs are very simple sentiments, like "100 Years." It's about living in the moment. How do you take that and say it in a way that's never been said? It's a little different ballgame, columns and songs. I still think it's the same part of the brain.
How did you become friends with Luc Robitaille?
That's funny. I don't want to embarrass him, but the first time I met him was at his retirement ceremony. "Five for Fighting" is a term where he never got the connection that it was about hockey. When he won the Cup with Detroit, my song "Superman" was one of his favorites. They'd drive around Detroit listening to it. He didn't get into very many fights, so I understand. Since then we've become friends and our families have become friends. He's a decent guy like most hockey players. That's why I spend a lot of time doing stuff in the NHL. Most hockey players are decent people and hard-working folks.
Will you give praise when due and criticism when warranted in your blog?
I hope so. Again, because I'm someone who's programmed to understand being critiqued. I understand cheap shots. Hopefully, I'll be sensitive enough to not do that to players. They asked me to call it as I see it. That's my job, not to be a cheerleader. But, obviously I'm a fan.
Story by Jill Painter; re-printed with permission from the Los Angeles Daily News.