NASHVILLE — The Los Angeles Kings will be the host team for the 2017 NHL All-Star Weekend, Commissioner Gary Bettman announced Saturday during a press conference at the Music City Center during his annual address at the All-Star Game.
The League’s midseason showcase will take place Jan. 28 and Jan. 29 and will include the NHL All-Star Skills Competition and the NHL All-Star Game.
Commissioner Bettman said the game was awarded to Los Angeles in part because the Kings will be celebrating their 50th anniversary, but also, in part, because of the impact their home arena, Staples Center, has had on the transformation of downtown Los Angeles.
Staples Center opened in 1999 and is the centerpiece of a huge development that has changed the way people view the downtown core. The Kings have won the Stanley Cup twice (2012 and 2014) in the building and hosted the 2010 NHL Draft. It will be the second NHL All-Star Game in Staples Center (2002) and the third hosted by the Kings. The 1981 All-Star Game was played at The Forum, the former home of the Kings.
Luc Robitaille played for the Kings during three separate stints, including a decade when the Kings were playing at The Forum. Robitaille, now the team’s president of business operations, says the transformation of downtown is stunning.
“I lived in LA for 15 years and I went downtown once,” he said. “It’s amazing when you think about it. Then, we built Staples Center, people started coming downtown for the games, but now the way it is with LA Live, now you go downtown to go to dinner or you go downtown to see a movie. It’s completely changed the way people live in Los Angeles.”
Robitaille saw the opportunity to host the 2017 All-Star Game as a way to pay back the fans that have supported the team throughout its first 50 years.
“We feel the 50th is important to our fans,” he said. “We have had tremendous support for the Kings for a long time now. We’ve always had support from our fans, they have never given up. You look at other teams that when they have lost for a few years in a row, they never average the same gate as us. We felt it was important to give our fans a big event and no better way to thank them to give them the best players in the world.
“We kept pressing the League about how important this was to us and I think they understand that everything that we try to do is to grow the game.”
Defenseman Drew Doughty, who was in town to take part in the 2016 game, knows the All-Star Game will be important to the Kings’ supporters.
“I think this is a way to give back to the fans,” Doughty said. “They have been with the Kings for however many years. They are great fans. Now that we are a better team, we sell out almost every game and they deserve something like that.
“I’m really happy for them and I’m really happy for our organization. I don’t think there is a better organization in the League. They take incredible care of us as players. I think LA is one of the best places you can have it. For both the players and the fans, it’s the best place to have it to have fun.”
After seeing how much fun the players for the Nashville Predators involved in the 2016 Honda NHL All-Star Game are having, Doughty is already thinking about taking part in the game next year.
“Now that it is going to be at home at our rink, you want to make it more than ever,” Doughty said. “Playing in front of our home fans would be so much fun. If you make the team, you are able to show the other guys what to do or some guys have parties and stuff like that. Not having to leave the city would be really nice. I really hope I am on that team next year and be able to enjoy with a few of my teammates if possible.”